My initial reaction as the second class progressed was to do with the idea of fulfilling doctors needs with the provision of research related materials.  The evolution of the Medical Subject Headings got me thinking about how society views not only the medical profession but illness itself:  painfully I began to think of writers who had challenged traditional notions of medicine. My first stop was Susan Sontag and her book  Illness as Metaphor, in a review, from the Literature ,Arts and Medicine Database,

“AIDS brings together two powerful metaphors about illness. First, AIDS develops further the theme (seen earlier in cancer) of disease as invader: the enemy invades and destroys you from within. Thus, AIDS strengthens the use of military metaphors in medicine. The war against cancer is reincarnated as a war against AIDS. Secondly, because AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, it also evokes the theme of plague-as-punishment.”

Sontag’s project in this essay is more focused than in the earlier book. She acknowledges that the medical and public health response to AIDS explicitly counters these myths. She concludes that “not all metaphors applied to illnesses and their treatment are equally unsavory and distorting” (p. 94). The metaphor she is most anxious to see eliminated is the military metaphor, both on an illness level (illness invades the person) and a societal level (social problems invade society).”

Next I thought of Helen Cixous and her view on the medical profession and its corporate mentality Cixous wrote a play called the Purged City these excerpts are taken from an iterveiw Cixous had with, Bernadette Fort in the New Literary History;(restricted access)

In 1988 the families of French hemophiliacs, three hundred of whom had already died of AIDS, brought charges against the director of the National Center for Blood Transfusion, Dr. Michel Garretta, for continuing knowingly to supply HIV-contaminated blood at a time (in 1985) when a heating procedure that inactivated the contaminating agent was available and already used in other countries.

In the meantime, nearly five thousand hemophiliacs and patients who had received contaminated blood transfusions became HIV-positive. Many of these victims have died and some are still dying.

As for the medical association featured in one scene of the play, this is not necessarily the “Ordre des médecins,” but any type of corporation, which always defends its vested interests. As in Greek tragedies, they were not able to atone for the sickness which is inside their “corporate” body, a sickness for which they are all responsible

In the 21st century, there does appear to be a militaristic and corporate world view emerging . I am keen to see how the health sciences engage with this – does this view affect the way we classify health information and the way we respond to health professionals.

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