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Views & Reviews Review

How dementia tests Thatcher’s mettle

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 18 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e378
  1. Desmond O’Neill, consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine, Dublin
  1. doneill{at}

An ageing Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, tells her story through flashbacks tinged with dementia. Desmond O’Neill enjoyed this film biography of an ageing Iron Lady

Iron, as any metallurgist will tell you, is a fascinating metal. The popular notion of its elemental strength and hardness is in reality qualified by an intrinsic brittleness and a ready susceptibility to corrosion: paradoxically, the purer the iron the softer it becomes. As an epithet applied to people and politicians, whether Bismarck or Thatcher, we tend to get only one half of the picture.

A key role of the arts and artists is to tease out the complexity and ambiguity of such deceptively simple concepts and to detect the resultant instabilities and contradictions. In this, the makers of The Iron Lady have succeeded admirably. By refracting the extraordinary life of Margaret Thatcher through the lens of vulnerability—dementia and physical frailty—they have also leapfrogged the bitter polemic that would have accompanied a standard …

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