Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: June 2024

  • Rabies, still a deadly disease

    The man recovered of the bite,The dog it was that died!—Oliver Goldsmith Unfortunately, this is untrue! An estimated 60,000 people die each year from rabies and most cases are due to dog bites. Rabies affects largely the poor rural populations of Africa and Asia, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, in Sri Lanka and Thailand, the…

  • The Polish Medical School at Edinburgh University, 1941–1949

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “…an affirmation that science can be international…”– Surgeon Antoni Jurasz (1882–1961), dean of the Polish Medical School After the Nazi army invaded Poland, the remnants of the Polish military evacuated to France. When France was invaded in the summer of 1940, the Polish forces were sent to Scotland to participate in the…

  • Robert Pope’s painting, Mountain

    P. Ravi ShankarKuala Lumpur, Malaysia Robert Pope, a Canadian artist, left behind an important collection of work dealing with illness and healing. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1956, he died of Hodgkin’s disease in 1992. He has created a series of paintings and sketches about his experience as a cancer patient.1 His painting, Mountain,…

  • The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: But to what end?

    Hugh Tunstall-PedoeDundee, Scotland Different variants of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath swear to a virtuous life, honoring their patients and respecting their confidences, but not specifically promising to tell them the truth! Until recent decades it was not uncommon for doctors to avoid telling their patients specifically what was wrong, if serious, in order to avoid…

  • Wordsworth’s “The Idiot Boy”: Disability and maternal love

    Elizabeth Lovett ColledgeJacksonville, Florida, United States In William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (1798), the poem “The Idiot Boy” reveals a compassionate insight into the mental disabilities of young Johnny Foy, presenting him not as a horror to be confined to Bedlam or a similar institution, but as a child to be embraced, cared for, and loved.…

  • “Satturday” by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who helped introduce smallpox inoculation to England

    Cristóbal Berry-CabánFort Liberty, North Carolina, United States Lady Mary Wortley Montagu1 was born in 1689 to an aristocratic family. She was highly intelligent and self-educated by having access to her father’s library, studying the classics, and even learning Latin. In 1712 she rejected her father’s choice and eloped with Edward Wortley Montagu, a young Whig…

  • Fugu—Japanese delicacy or death?

    In Japan, fugu has been a “captain of these men of death” for generations, causing an exitus that is “rapid and violent.” There is at first numbness around the mouth, then paralysis, and, as with curare, consciousness persists until the very end. The poison interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles by…

  • Thalassemia

    David GreenGeorge HonigGeorge DuneaChicago, Illinois, United States The thalassemias comprise a large and diverse group of genetic disorders which share as a common feature a deficiency, or in the most severe forms a total absence, of one or more of the globin chains of hemoglobin. It was first recognized as a clinical entity distinct from…

  • Quaerens and the Dreamy States

    JMS PearceHull, England We are such stuffAs dreams are made on, and our little lifeIs rounded with a sleep.—Shakespeare, The Tempest IV.1 Dreamy states are well known as brief aberrations of awareness and of altered thought that are a commonplace, normal experience. As a manifestation of epilepsy, they have been recorded by famous literati as…

  • The self-destructive urge

    JMS PearceHull, England Preservation of life is often an unwritten axiom of medical practice. Sections on therapeutics in medical books and papers usually assume the obvious: aim to preserve or extend life. They rarely discuss the alternative harm or good that results from allowing nature to take its course unhampered. There are elements in humans…