Is there such a thing as informed consent?

A patient and a doctor lying hand in hand on the operating table. That was what came to my mind as I browsed ‘Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together’, the GMC’s new guidance. Consent, it rightly says, is a process, and obtaining it is a partnership. But ultimately the dialogue has to come to…
Read more

Climate change can seriously damage your health

Almost a third of those who responded to a recent BMJ poll thought that climate change is not a matter for doctors.  Had the doubters been at the Royal College of Physicians’ conference on climate change in January, they could not have escaped the impact it will have on health. Global warming is creating an…
Read more

The spirit catches you and you fall down

During its war in Vietnam, the USA fought a secret action against the communists in Laos. The CIA recruited the aid of the Hmong, one of Indochina’s hill tribes with little love for the Pathet Lao. Their participation cost the Hmong their lands and livelihoods, and many took advantage of American promises of reward in…
Read more

Reading for pleasure and profit

In 1989, Iona Heath, an inner city GP in London, applied for study leave to spend three months reading novels. The Department of Postgraduate Education turned her down, but she took the three months off anyway and says it changed her life.  The experiences of characters in fiction resonate with  our own experiences, and those…
Read more

Paradise Hospital, Vanuatu

I am on a one year placement with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) here in Vanuatu, in South Pacific, 2000 km east of Australia between the Solomon Islands and Fiji. The country consists of 80 islands, 68 of which are uninhabited. The population is less than 200,000, consisting of mainly Melanesians with a few Polynesians. The…
Read more