Currently viewing the tag: "medicine"

William Burke and William Hare lived in Edinburgh in 1828. Burke made his money hawking secondhand clothes to paupers, Hare made his by renting his rooms out to lodgers. When one of his tenants was found dead, the pair decided to compensate for the lost wages from the dead lodger by selling his body to the anatomists at Edinburgh University’s Surgeon’s Square. The esteemed Dr. Robert Knox, father of modern anatomy, paid them £7 for the body. The two resurrectionists were told the surgeons “would be glad to see them again when they had another to dispose of.”
Burke and Hare took Knox up on his offer. When a subsequent lodger showed symptoms of cholera, Hare and his wife agreed it would be unseemly to allow her to stay on the premises with other guests. He and Burke smothered the woman and brought her body to the Royal College of Surgeons. This time they were paid £10, and Dr. Knox commended them on the freshness of the body. –A Beginner’s Guide to Body Snatching by MOLLY MCBRIDE JACOBSON

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about body snatchers.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about autopsies and human dissection.

Art Prompt: Bod snatchers

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of body snatchers.

Porphyria has been suggested as an explanation for the origin of vampire and werewolf legends, based upon certain perceived similarities between the condition and the folklore.

In January 1964, L. Illis’s 1963 paper, “On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werwolves,” was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. Later, Nancy Garden argued for a connection between porphyria and the vampire belief in her 1973 book, Vampires. In 1985, biochemist David Dolphin’s paper for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Porphyria, Vampires, and Werewolves: The Aetiology of European Metamorphosis Legends,” gained widespread media coverage, popularizing the idea.

The theory has been rejected by a few folklorists and researchers as not accurately describing the characteristics of the original werewolf and vampire legends or the disease, and as potentially stigmatizing sufferers of porphyria.

A 1995 article from the Postgraduate Medical Journal (via NIH) explains:
As it was believed that the folkloric vampire could move about freely in daylight hours, as opposed to the 20th century variant, congenital erythropoietic porphyria cannot readily explain the folkloric vampire but may be an explanation of the vampire as we know it in the 20th century. In addition, the folkloric vampire, when unearthed, was always described as looking quite healthy (“as they were in life”), while due to disfiguring aspects of the disease, sufferers would not have passed the exhumation test. Individuals with congenital erythropoietic porphyria do not crave blood. The enzyme (hematin) necessary to alleviate symptoms is not absorbed intact on oral ingestion, and drinking blood would have no beneficial effect on the sufferer. Finally, and most important, the fact that vampire reports were literally rampant in the 18th century, and that congenital erythropoietic porphyria is an extremely rare manifestation of a rare disease, makes it an unlikely explanation of the folkloric vampire. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about someone with a medical condition who is shunned because the condition is misunderstood.

Journaling Prompt: What medical condition are you afraid of? How does that cause you to act around people with the condition?

Art Prompt: Vampires

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of medical investigation.

Photo Credit: Edvard Munch – Vampire (1895) on Wikimedia

“In the early 19th century, only men were admitted to the medical schools in Britain, and discovery of the sex of the young medical student would have ruined any chance of success,” writes du Preez.

In 1806, her uncle James Barry passed away and left his fortune to the family. In turn, Bulkley assumed Barry’s name and used the money to finance three years of medical studies at the University of Edinburgh beginning in December 1809.

The new James Barry was a diligent student. Barry pursued a diverse load of coursework, ranging from anatomy and surgery, botany, and midwifery. The number of subjects Barry studied was only exceeded by one Army medical officer and matched by one other student in his cohort of over 45 doctors, wrote du Preez.

In 1812, Barry was nearly exposed on the cusp of graduating. Edinburgh authorities tried to bar Barry from taking the four-stage final exams, claiming that the student looked underage but likely suspecting more. Yet at the time it was not unusual to see 16-year-olds at medical schools, and the ban was not enforced. After completing a thesis on the femoral hernia (primarily a female condition), Barry became the first woman to graduate from a medical school in Britain…

Barry joined the British Army’s medical unit in 1813. It’s unknown how the young doctor passed the mandatory physical exams, but scholars believe Lord Buchan, a nobleman who had been a friend and supporter of her late uncle, likely played a role. In 1815, Barry was appointed as colonial medical inspector in Cape Colony, South Africa, and was granted authority over all medical, surgical, and public health matters in the colony. –The First Female Doctor in Britain Spent 56 Years Disguised as a Man by Lauren Young

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of someone who has to use a disguise to pursue a dream.

Journaling Prompt: Would you be brave enough to do what this woman did in order to pursue a goal?

Art Prompt: Playing Doctor

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience a stranger than fiction story that is 100% true.

Photo Credit: James Barry (surgeon) on Wikimedia


Historically, plague doctors were traveling physicians who went from place to place, treating the epidemics that would infect entire towns and cities. They came to be associated with the eerie beak mask that many of them wore to keep themselves from catching the very sicknesses they were treating. The masks would be filled with aromatic items that, according to the belief of the time, kept the doctors from inhaling infectious vapors. –Atlas Obscura

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story that includes an epidemic and a plague doctor.

Journaling Prompt: What is the scariest medical experience you’ve had?

Art Prompt: Epidemic

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about medical practices during the plague.

Photo Credit: Plague doctor Wellcome L0025222.jpg on Wikimedia

monday pharmacy

A paradoxical reaction to a drug is the opposite of what one would expect, such as becoming agitated by a sedative or sedated by a stimulant. Some are common and are used regularly in medicine, such as the use of stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as ADHD or ADD,) while others are rare and can be dangerous as they are not expected, such as severe agitation from a benzodiazepine. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story where a paradoxical reaction to a drug drives the plot.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your paradoxical reaction to something, drug or not.

Art Prompt: Paradoxical reaction

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your readers about how paradoxical reactions and side effects are used by physicians to treat illnesses other than the one the drug was developed for.

Photo Credit: Arturo Yelmo on Flickr

doctor takes a young girl's temperature

Create whatever this visual prompt inspires in you!

Photo Credit: National Library of Medicine on Flickr

caduceus noun, plural caducei

  1. Classical Mythology. the staff carried by Mercury as messenger of the gods.
  2. a representation of this staff used as an emblem of the medical profession and as the insignia of the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Use the word of the week in whatever you write today.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your feelings surrounding your health.

Art Prompt: Caduceus

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt:Use the word of the week in your article or speech.

Photo Credit: takomabibelot on Flickr

Life Writer / Christa Sommerer, Laurent Mignonneau

There was once a writer who suffered an obscure insanity: so obscure that no one shared the prognosis, that no records of it existed in the annals of medical history, that physicians and psychiatrists were only able to diagnose the writer with suffering from himself. -Niko De Silva, The Man Who Became Words

Fiction Writing Prompt: Use the first line of the week as the starting point or inspiration for a scene, story, poem, or haiku.

Journaling Prompt: If you have ever had something that was difficult to diagnose, write about the experience of being a mystery.

Art Prompt: Medical mystery

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a humorous story about a medical condition you had.

Photo Credit: Ars Electronica on Flickr

Vitamin pills dispensed in a scientific drug trial context

In 1966, the phone rang at Hofling Hospital. A night nurse picked up the phone and heard a harried doctor ask her to administer 20 milligrams of astroten to Mr. Jones. The nurse checked for the medication, which was not on the official list of drugs approved for use in the hospital. The box containing the drug showed that 10 milligrams was the maximum dose. A little prodding from Dr. Smith, who knew the nurses weren’t allowed to take orders over the phone but said he would be in to fill out the order paperwork later, and 21 out of 22 nurses administered the drug.
The drug turned out to be a sugar pill, and the doctor on the phone was a researcher conducting a study to see whether hospital staff would break protocol so dramatically. The results were not encouraging. True, the nurses’ jobs were potentially on the line. And … the nurses had reason to believe withholding the dose would do as much damage as giving it out. Still, the idea that trained medical professionals would give a clear overdose to a patient on the word of some guy on the phone was shocking. –Esther Inglis-Arkel

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about a nurse who allows a doctor to talk her into doing something dangerous.

Journaling Prompt: Has anyone ever talked you into doing something that you knew you shouldn’t do? Write about it.

Art Prompt: Breaking protocol

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about what makes people do things that they know they shouldn’t do. Give your audience tips for resisting pressure.

Photo Credit: HealthGauge on Flickr

The Unicorn Tapestries Room:  The Unicorn is Attacked (detail).

alicorn: (now historical) The horn of a unicorn considered as a medical or pharmacological ingredient.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Use the word of the week in whatever you write today.

Journaling Prompt: What modern day food works like an alicorn for you?

Art Prompt: Alicorn

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Use the word of the week in your article or speech.

Photo Credit: peterjr1961 on Flickr