Vol 1, Issue 1

Music Box

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: Meditations on Sinistrality

SinistralityPresented on April 7, 2008, by James L. Franklin, MD.

It all began on the coldest morning of the season in early December 2006. Painters were still in our apartment putting the finishing touches on what had proven to be an all too prolonged renovation project. However—the end was now in sight, and I was dearly anticipating a return to normalcy. Rushing home with packages in both hands including hot soup purchased for a lunch I hoped to share with my wife, I tripped and fell crossing the street at the corner of Rush (ominously named) and Bellevue on Chicago’s near North Side. More…


Medical History

Marcus Aurelius

Death in ancient times

Article written by George Dunea, MD, President and CEO of the Hektoen Institute of Medicine for the British Medical Journal.

“Many a physician has slain a king!” the emperor Hadrian shouted aloud as he lay on his deathbed. But Augustus when he was near death gathered his friends to ask if, in the manner of actors, he deserved applause for having played well his assigned role in the human comedy; and Vespasian, weak to the point of fainting during his last illness, refused to lie down, insisting that an emperor must die standing. Attila, the Scourge of God, terrified his bride by suffocating on his wedding night after vomiting an immense torrent of blood. Alaric, the Visigoth king who sacked Rome in AD 426, forever foiled the curiosity of posterity by ordering a river to be diverted to hide his bones at the bottom. The emperor Claudius was probably killed by his wife Agrippina with a dish of poisoned mushrooms. More…


Literary Essays

Passion, compassion, confusion and other emotions in stories of sickness and healers

John Last, MD. FRACP, FRCPC; University of Ottawa; Ottawa, Canada

Text based on a talk in a Symposium on “The role of the medical humanities in education and healing”, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, May 19, 1999.

A complete physician needs insight transcending the knowledge, skills and attitudes that professional training provides. How can this be achieved? Personal experience of illness and suffering, or that of a close family member or a loved one, can do it. It is painful, but it can be a good way to comprehend the complexities of life, and of human nature.
Another way is through the humanities — a rich source of insight into the human condition and the role of healers. The ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions of sickness and healing are eloquently displayed in the creative arts — in music, painting, sculpture, and most of all, in literature — drama, poetry, fiction. Here I can only skim over the surface, touching without penetrating into the immense variety and richness to be found in literary works. (I mean real literature, not what authors of journal articles commonly call “the medical literature” — a phrase that is almost always an oxymoron). More…


Reprints from The British Medical Journal, Soundings and Letter…from Chicago

If I ruled the world

Articles written by George Dunea, MD, President and CEO of the Hektoen Institute of Medicine.

In the first year of my dictatorship I will ban sugar coated doughnuts, atonal music, phenylbutazone, and hospital public relations departments. With the ruthlessness of irrational dictators I will outlaw multivitamin pills, ties with horizontal stripes, malpractice lawyers, useless expensive drugs, and hot and cold water taps that turn in opposite directions. More…

Many physicians have slain a king

Many physicians have slain a king Image - Wellcome Institute Library, London.Modern tourists know Hadrian mainly for his mausoleum in Rome or for the wall that he built in the north of England to keep out the barbarians. Historians think of him as an effective emperor and a capable administrator. But he was also a complex personality, full of contradictions during his reign as well as during a lengthy illness characterized by intractable anasarca. More…

Beastly handwritting

It has long been a widely accepted fact especially among patients, nurses, and pharmacists that doctors have far worse handwriting than most other so called learned professionals. Recent studies have largely confirmed this popular belief, one such study (1979) finding that 16% of doctors wrote quite illegibly and that another 17% were barely legible. More…