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A Necessary Inhumanity?
  1. Ruth Richardson
  1. Historian, London


    It is argued that the phrase “Necessary Inhumanity” more accurately describes the alienation required of doctors in some circumstances, than do modern sanitised coinages such as ‘clinical detachment’. ‘Detachment’ and ‘objectivity’ imply separation, not engagement: creating distance not only from patients, but from the self: the process may well be required, but where it becomes too extreme or prolonged, it can damage everybody, including patients, family members, doctors themselves, and wider society. An awareness of the history of health care in the context of our society might assist self reflection–might help keep initiates in touch with the culture they have been induced to leave and might help them remain humane despite the bruising process of training.

    • Detachment
    • medical culture
    • remuneration
    • presumed consent
    • specimens
    • dissection

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    • Ruth Richardson, D.Phil, FRHist Soc is a Historian and author of Death, Dissection and the Destitute (Chicago UP, 2000. In press) and Monkton Copeman Lecturer at the Society of Apothecaries. She is the author of many articles for such journals as the British Medical Journal, and the Lancet and she is a broadcaster of documentary history programmes for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service.

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      BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and Institute of Medical Ethics