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Metaphors for medicine: revealing reflections or just popular parodies?
  1. Deborah Kirklin
  1. Royal Free & University College Medical School, London
  1. Address for correspondence: Centre for Medical Humanities, Department of Primary Care & Population Sciences, Royal Free & University College Medical School, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW. Email: d.kirklin{at}

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“‘ . . .before you get spoilt by it all. Before you become a fully qualified doctor, just give me a helping hand as a human being.’ (Kostoglotov: cancer patient)”1

Are human beings irreversibly “spoilt” by medical training or merely disengaged from “normal” human interaction? If what is desired is a doctor who reaches out as a human being to his or her patients then it is important for educators to know why that sometimes fails to happen. Is the end product of medical training (sometimes) incapable of stretching out its hand or instead just disinclined to do so? If the latter, then presumably we should focus our energies on motivating practitioners to reach out by, for example, inspiring empathy. If, however, medical …

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  • Deborah Kirklin is Pfizer Lecturer in Medical Humanities and co-directs the Centre for Medical Humanities.