Recent Posts by Judith Harvey

Podcast – No es fácil: clinical electives in Cuba

Few things in Cuba are easy. Most countries faced with what Cuba has lived with for more than half a century would be failed states. Cuba keeps going, with hardship and sacrifice, but a shared vision. The reputation of Cuba’s health service – providing rich-country outcomes on a poor-country budget – attracts interest from politically…
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Podcast | Should GPs prescribe placebos?

Mrs Jones likes blue pills; they work better than those pink ones – even though they are the same drug. But she wouldn’t touch blue mashed potato. Wine buffs rate a wine higher if they believe it is expensive. Consumers are sure that a brand name product is superior to an identical generic, whether it…
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No risk, no reward: the NHS needs mavericks.

Judith Harvey examines the memoirs of some eminent hospital consultants, who are not just summing up their careers, but reflecting on the changes they have lived through. And when they are retired, they can say what they think. Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh set the trend with Do No Harm. Stephen Westaby, in Fragile Lives, tells how…
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I, Robot BM BCh (Oxon)

How long before machines are cleverer than us? The first robots were clockwork novelties. Now robots – named for the Russian word robotnic, meaning worker – can outperform humans at ever more tasks. But robots are specialists. They don’t have our versatility – yet. They can’t yet do what every child can do – transfer…
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The role of humanity in the consultation

There is a rift between science and humanity which GPs must try to bridge in every consultation. As a student I spent two weeks in a rural GP practice. I sat in on consultations and several of the GPs asked me, in my first week of clinical training, how their colleagues handled their consultations. I…
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Seeing in others when we can’t see ourselves

With prosopagnosia, some people can’t even recognise themselves. Yet, others never forget a face. In the cinema, I often nudge my husband and whisper “Is this chap the same one we saw in the last scene?” and he hisses back “No, of course not!”. And every time I have changed school or job, there have…
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On the scent of cancer

Ever since dogs found hunter-gatherers’ campsites a good place to scavenge and decided to adopt humans, we have created roles for them: hunting, protecting property, mountain rescue, companionship, and as ‘assistance dogs’. No doubt dogs have been helping people with poor vision for millennia, but it was a German doctor looking after soldiers blinded by…
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Have you had your 
four-a-day today?

Five-a-day is so old hat. 
Time for a new campaign. On YouTube Charlotte Diamond sings that “four hugs a day - that’s the minimum” is what we need (don't watch this straight after breakfast - Ed). And she tells us how to do it and whom to hug. Neuro-economist Paul Zac prescribes eight hugs. I…
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The art of diagnosis

Diagnosis, as we know, depends on history and examination. A work of art lacks the former, but it’s interesting to consider what artists notice. In the ancient civilizations of Greece and India the sculptor’s purpose was to portray human perfection. Representations of real, imperfect human beings are also rare in Egyptian art. There is a…
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Nobody’s ever called a ‘blind old fart’

A telling insight is attributed to Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf: "Blindness cuts you off from things but deafness cuts you off from people.” Yet visual problems attract much more research money than deafness. More than 10 million people in Britain have hearing loss. Given the aging population and the popularity of…
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