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Adventures in Human Being/ Gavin Francis

When I was a GP I was always amazed how little my patients understood their bodies. The odd heavy drinker had undue faith in the regenerative powers of his liver but to most you had to explain that the heart was a muscular pump. Thus Gavin Francis, a Scottish doctor, has done a service in his book Adventures in Human Being by providing a head to toe analysis of the key human organs. In fact he does more as under each he considers not just the anatomical functionality but provides  examples from his casebook together with a cultural and historical perspective. Thus he gives a fascinating case of a gardener who pricking her finger on a thorn contracted advanced life threatening septicaemia but the stout old liver beat it. In another he informs us that in primitive civilisations the placenta is eaten, previously in the UK it went into the hospital incinerator but now its utility is being  preserved. You learn that in Roman times oaths were made hands on the testes hence the origin of the word ‘testify’.

Although Dr Francis has led a rich medical career working in an Antarctic medical station, in third world hospitals as well as the casualty unit of UK ones but now practises as an Edinburgh GP. Other than this we learn little about his private life. I would have preferred to know bit more. The book with two descriptions of people dying is not a barrel of laughs. The best doctor includes humour in his bedside manner. I also did not care for the comment as to how egalitarian the A & E unit is where money means nothing.  A little more efficiency might mean something. The Brighton Coroner has questioned 5 deaths in the Royal Sussex.

These are minor criticisms and I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to know more about the body in which they are housed in a wider context.

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About Oliver Fortune

A doctor formerly specialising in sexual health, Oliver has written widely on matters relating to sex, relationships and counselling. He is divorced and has one daughter. He is a keen skier and mountain biker. More Posts