Wendy Moore

Top to Toe

Adventures in Human Being

By

Profile Books 256pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Not so long ago doctors rarely wrote anything longer than a prescription. Now, it seems, medics are queuing up to put pen to paper, apparently compelled to press upon us their memoirs, confessions and philosophical dilemmas. Normally, most of us ordinary mortals are lucky if we are given seven minutes in a doctor’s company. But these days doctors want to share with us their most visceral experiences, to divulge their darkest moments and draw us into their blood-soaked worlds in detail and at length.

Although those of us who try to make a living from writing might feel a trifle peeved at this muscling into our territory (after all, we generally steer clear of performing open-heart surgery), the trend in medical memoirs is plainly a positive development. By drawing back the green curtains of the operating theatre and throwing open the doors to their consulting rooms, doctors are breaking an age-old taboo on airing difficult questions about death and disease, ageing and disability, and urging us to consider who lives and who dies, who benefits from a life-saving drug or technique and who should be denied it. As writers, doctors let the mask of clinical detachment fall to reveal human impulses of regret, hubris, anger and despair, to display their human fallibilities as well as their heroism. As readers, we, the normally passive patients, are forced to share responsibility for the decisions doctors usually take on our behalf.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,