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 …

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...

Ouch – Disability talk

The BBC’s podcast covering all things related to ‘disability’ runs to over 200 episodes since 2007.

There are programmes covering athletes at the Paralympics and comedians with a disability, but there are also programmes on more day-to-day issues like the difficulties of finding shoes to fit, and difficulties with wheelchairs.

Particular programmes deal with specific conditions or experiences, like a cycling injury that leaves Hannah without any English language.

The page for hunting through previous episodes is here:


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You, Me, and the Big-C: Putting the Can in Cancer

This podcast series about living with Breast Cancer, is fronted by the trio of Rachael Bland, Deborah James and Lauren Mahon. Sadly, Rachael Bland, a popular and well-respected journalist and presenter on Radio 5 Live, (and mother and partner), died in September 2018.

The podcast covers, in a mix of seriousness and humour, the experience of cancer diagnosis, options for treatment and their side-effects, treatment for different kinds of pain, and other physical aspects of life with cancer. But there are also useful (and entertaining) episodes covering many spheres of life affected by cancer, from finance to family.

The podcast …

Frank Ormsby’s Parkinson’s

Belfast poet Frank Ormsby is interviewed about his experience of Parkinson’s Disease. Gentle, downbeat and precise in his speech, he describes the tremor in his hand, and how it varies during his moods or with stress. He is humorous too, telling jokes against himself and his Parkinson’s walk, and recalling Billy Connolly jokes about his PD.
The time to undo parcels or tie his laces is expanding. He can no longer drive. And this causes a separation between him and those people who are moved to offer help. He experiences visual hallucinations that people the corner of his field of … Read more...

Adrian Owen – How science found a way to help coma patients communicate

This article (or podcast) refers to one particular patient encountered by Adrian Owen in his investigations with people in coma. It is a short and very moving account of how clinicians used fMRI to enable a 38 year-old man in deep coma to communicate with the people caring for him. By imagining how to play tennis at particular moments Scott Routley was able to signal (either yes or no according to how the question was framed) by firing up his prefrontal cortex on the fMRI image, even though to neutral observers he seemed to be still deep in his … Read more...

What is empathy? – Guardian/ Observer podcast

A neuroscientist explains: the need for ‘empathetic citizens’ – podcast on Guardian website February 2017 – with Dr Daniel Glaser and Professor Francesca Happé (King’s College, London).

This is a very interesting introduction to the phenomenon of empathy and how empathy differs from sympathy or Theory of Mind. The presenters talk about several aspects: for example, how children can show emotional concern, bringing their teddy to comfort another child, but without having an ability to put themselves in the other’s position sufficiently to recognise what the other person might actually need, their own toy or teddy for example. In … Read more...