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The production of medicoethical misconduct: medical ethics and vivisection in Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science
  1. Thomas G Cole II
  1. Languages and Literature, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas G Cole II, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Memphis, TN 38103, USA; thomcole2{at}


Even as Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science continues in the tradition of cautionary tales of medicine and science, it also integrates nineteenth-century discussions of medical ethics, vivisection and women, further building on earlier criticisms of scientific hubris. By indicting a fictional medical doctor and his methodology, Heart and Science depicts the extremes of good and bad, ethical and unethical medicine—whether the doctor can care, and not simply solve the medical enigma—in light of a changing medical field that prized objectivity and distance from the subject over the old holistic way of listening to a patient in order to understand her malady. In reading Collins within his historical context and against a changing environment within the medical sciences, literary critics discern a gendered doctor-patient relationship and observe a Victorian author’s attempts to combat the fears of scientific advancement by using or aligning himself with a proto-feminist perspective.

  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • Literature
  • literature and medicine
  • History

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Some references have been modified.

  • Contributors No contributors other than the sole author.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.