Rita Charon – Narrative Medicine

As part of the BBC’s celebration NHS at 70 in 2018, Rita Charon, doyenne of narrative medicine at Columbia University, New York, contributed five episodes for BBC Radio 3’s The Essay about how study of literature and fiction can help clinicians to engage more fruitfully with patients. The overall theme is that reading about people and their existential struggles can open the reader’s imagination to important issues in the lives of their patients. And in literature these issues are often described from completely different perspectives from the reader’s, resulting in an important process of reframing.

The literature used in these … Read more...

William Fiennes – The Bowel

What is it like to have a colostomy, and through it, consciously and manually to manage the – normally automatic – process of excretion? Author William Fiennes had a colostomy for two years in his early twenties, a by-product of Crohn’s disease. He has now described his experience in colourful and olfactory detail the process of caring for his stoma. (It has been published in a book of essays, and in the Guardian, but it was originally a talk for Radio 3’s The Essay.)

Fiennes tells of his fascination with variations in the live organ that is his … Read more...

William Fiennes – The Music Room

William Fiennes is no stranger to ways in which the human body can go wrong. He had severe Crohn’s disease in his early twenties, and has told of having a colostomy (in Beneath The Skin 2018). In The Music Room he tells how his brother’s epilepsy affected every part of his childhood. To this extent he tells a similar story to Colin Grant (in A Smell of Burning 2016).

The social backdrop could not be more contrasting. Whereas Colin Grant was the North London son of a Windrush migrant, William Fiennes is the son of a Lord, living in a … Read more...

Kathryn Mannix – With The End In Mind

It has nothing new to observe that in western society death and old age have been cleaned out of everyday view. Palliative care consultant Kathryn Mannix has seen enough death and dying to know that this is not a subject to shy away from. We will all face it at some point. She is doing her bit to help us prepare for dying, since the old acquaintance with death has disappeared. She does this with a series of fictionalised encounters with individuals and carers (and clinicians) she has met during her career, from when she was a medical student, through … Read more...