Wednesday, August 21, 2013

War medicine was from Mars, Social medicine from Venus ?

The very word "war" medicine seems to stir something vaguely Mars-like, deep within the soul of the chickenhawk doctor or scientist.

Successfully conceiving ,in an academic lab at the University of  Chicago, a way to reduce combat deaths from shock seems to transport one almost up to the frontline evacuation hospitals, directly under hostile fire.

Being there, doing it, roughing it , all sweaty and virile-like : medical science with the smell of the locker room and the men's shower stall about it.

By contrast, what can any doctor - any real doctor - actually do about those dying of subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE) ?

These hopeless cases shouldn't even be occupying an acute hospital bed - particularly in wartime.

They should be handled by women - nurses - in a secondary hospice or in a palliative care situation at home.

And arthritis 'care' - not really medicine is it ? Helping impoverished old ladies too frail to bend over properly to get dressed and to do their toiletry.

Again - women's work. A job for personal care assistants and social work case workers. Social medicine.

But (Martin) Henry Dawson persevered , hung on in there , all through the war, treating those chronically ill with arthritis and the very 4Fs of the 4Fs, those dying of SBE .

Perhaps because he was that rarity : an American medical researcher in 1940 who already had a stirling war record in the front lines (in the medical corp, infantry and artillery), with a medal for valour and two serious war wounds to back him up.

The Military Cross winner from Venus, as it were ......

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