The questions some doctors wouldn’t dream of asking

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.15.41In John Buchan’s Sick Heart River (1941), Dalrymple explains, Sir Edward Leithen has been given a year to live by the Harley Street specialist Acton Croke.

A gas attack in the First World War has awakened tuberculosis as a delayed effect, and it is galloping through his lungs.

Although occurring only a handful of years before the discovery of streptomycin,

Sir Edward’s tuberculosis is a death sentence.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.21.02Presumably, writes Dalrymple, Sir Edward’s tuberculosis is of the open variety, yet the appropriately named Croke

never mentions the danger of spreading it to others or shows any interest in that possibility. Was it that, in those days, certain people were so socially prominent that doctors dared not suggest to them so vulgar a matter as contagiousness?

Something similar is related in Reginald Pound’s 1967 survey Harley Street, though in this case the specialist takes a more robust approach than the general practitioner:

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.13.53


Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.26.04Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 18.25.03Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 08.46.57

94 Harley Street

94 Harley Street, where Sir James Purves-Stewart practised. Here a church dignitary consulted the neurologist about syphilis-related symptoms of paralysis affecting his palate. (94 Harley Street was once the home of Meredith Townsend, successively editor of the Friend of India, the Calcutta Times and the Spectator, and author notably of the 1901 work Asia and Europe.)

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