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Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Pathological collectors

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 24 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5037
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

In the wake of the Alder Hey affair, administrators in several hospitals known to me searched the desks of doctors for illicitly retained body parts or clandestine pathology collections. This shows, if such proof were necessary, that there is no event that a bureaucracy is incapable of misunderstanding or of using to extend its own powers.

Was the affair also the inspiration of the story The Museum of Dr Moses by Joyce Carol Oates? This prolific author is a master of American gothic, a true successor to Edgar Allan Poe. In this story, published in 2001—two years after the Alder Hey inquiry—the narrator tries to rescue her mother from the …

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