The portrayal of illness in fiction

I spent most of my working life as a doctor, so it is not surprising that medical topics often find their way into my fiction writing. Looking back at my completed novels I recognise the themes which have arisen, sometimes more than once: conflicts between mainstream and alternative medicine, overlap between “organic disease” and “functional symptoms”, how serious illness can bring about changes in mood, attitudes and relationships for better or worse, the scope for weakness and corruption in the healthcare professions.

Books, films and television dramas with a medical theme have a widespread appeal. In addition to their entertainment value, when well researched and sensitively presented they serve an educational function, and help to reduce the fear and stigma associated with certain diagnoses whether physical or mental.

There is a risk that fiction with a medical content will distress some readers, especially those who suffer from the conditions in question themselves. Information which was accurate at the time the book was written may have become out of date later on. The use of labels and stereotypes, black humour, or gratuitous sordid detail which promotes morbid fascination with sickness and disability, may cause offence. If the characters are based on real people, or even if they are not, medical authors may be accused of breaching patients’ confidentiality, or of libelling their colleagues.

I don’t know how far I have managed to avoid these pitfalls in my own novels. Most of the illnesses mentioned are ones which I felt entitled to write about because I have experienced them through family, friends or patients, or in myself.

One thought on “The portrayal of illness in fiction

  1. *Fiction and Placebo* *Positive thinking: Yes* *Democratic science: No* *Ideology (political & religious): Not in the physical world, but yes in the spiritual world.* *There are no “firewalls” between facts and fictions: facts and fiction are sometimes overlapping.*

    *Welcome back Jennifer* *Arny*


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