Alison Hunter Memorial Foundation, North Sydney, Australia:
In their Clinical Review for the British Medical Journal in 20021 titled "ABC of Psychological Medicine - chronic multiple functional somatic symptoms" authors Christopher Bass and Stephanie May relate how patients with such symptoms are regarded by their doctors as "difficult to help".
Bass and May highlight Charles Darwin as one such patient whose "symptoms began shortly after his voyage in the Beagle to South America. Despite many suggested medical explanations, these symptoms which disabled him for the rest of his life and largely confined him to his home remain medically unexplained.
Because such patients may evoke despair, anger and frustration in doctors, they may be referred to as "heart sink patients" "difficult patients" "fat folder patients" and "chronic complainers". In psychiatric diagnostic classifications these patients are often referred to as having a somatisation disorder". Or hypochondria.
Biographers also have "viewed Darwin's poor health as psychosomatic - an indication of his spiritual and intellectual turmoil. However there is growing support for the theory that Darwin was a victim of Chagas' disease, a parasitic infection passed on by the assassin bug and contracted in South America during his travels on the Beagle. The symptoms of Chagas' disease match closely those experienced by Darwin".2
Ignaz Semmelweis, one of the earliest pioneers of asepsis was ridiculed for cautioning doctors to handwash between dissections and confinements. It took the medical profession 50 years to "believe" in bacteria. Yet the lessons of history are never learned.
Charles Darwin's severely disabling illness resembles ... Read more>>