A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor

A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor

John Berger, Jean Mohr

Language: English

Pages: 168

ISBN: 067973726X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this quietly revolutionary work of social observation and medical philosophy, Booker Prize-winning writer John Berger and the photographer Jean Mohr train their gaze on an English country doctor and find a universal man--one who has taken it upon himself to recognize his patient's humanity when illness and the fear of death have made them unrecognizable to themselves. In the impoverished rural community in which he works, John Sassall tend the maimed, the dying, and the lonely. He is not only the dispenser of cures but the repository of memories. And as Berger and Mohr follow Sassall about his rounds, they produce a book whose careful detail broadens into a meditation on the value we assign a human life. First published thirty years ago, A Fortunate Man remains moving and deeply relevant--no other book has offered such a close and passionate investigation of the roles doctors play in their society.

"In contemporary letters John Berger seems to me peerless; not since Lawrence has there been a writer who offers such attentiveness to the sensual world with responsiveness to the imperatives of conscience."--Susan Sontag

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said the third. * You know Sleepy Joe?' asked the doctor. 'He was trapped under a tree for twelve hours before any help came.' He gave instructions on how to lift the wounded man on to the door and then into the back of the Land Rover. 'You'll be all right now Jack,' said one of them to the wounded man whose face was as damp and pallid as the mist. The third touched his shoulder. The ambulance was waiting at the bridge. When it had driven off, Harry turned to the doctor confidentially. 'He's lost

eighteenth century and earlier the doctor was often thought of as a cynic: a cynic is by definition a man who assumes a scientific 'objectivity* to which he has no claim.) The sheer number of their cases discourages self-identification with any individual patient. Yet, however true this may be, the suffering which certain doctors witness may be more of a strain than is generally admitted. This is so with Sassall. He is a man of extreme self-control. Nevertheless, when he was unaware of my

see the conclusion for certain, aware only of the alternatives. 9 160 There is another factor which makes it almost impossible to conclude this essay. It is hard to write about it without making sweeping generalizations about our society and then having to justify these generalizations so that finally one is led too far from the subject in hand. I must try to be simple. There are such things as national or social crises of such an order that they test all those who live through them. They are

overcoat across his knees. When the doctor had finished his explanations, there \ras a silence. Neither father nor daughter moved to show him out or ask when he would be coming again. They simply waited. The doctor said, 'The immediate danger is past - another half hour and she 28 might have died this morning, now she's got to pay the price of surviving the attack.' ' It sounds a funny mixture,' said the old man without looking up, 'heart trouble and then pneumonia. A funny mixture. She was

the same ingenuity in fitting many things into a small space, the same odd juxtaposition of domestic furniture and personal effects with instruments and appliances. All this makes the examining couch look like a bunk. It has two sheets on it and an electric blanket. Whenever patients are due, Sassall switches the blanket on a quarter of an hour beforehand, so that if a patient has to strip and be examined, it will not strike as cold. He has a fastidious sense for detail. He is a short man; the

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