Good morning! Does everyone still remember our book menage, where we discussed Sherwin Nuland's The Doctor's Plague and Joanna Kavenna's The Birth of Love? We raised a few questions for Ms. Kavenna, and after I emailed her with those, she was gracious enough to reply. I'll post the answer to one question today, and to the other tomorrow. And our thanks to Joanna Kavenna!
The answer: "I was very interested in good medicine and bad medicine, or rather the idea that there are medical procedures and then flawed individuals trying to decide when to apply them. Medicine is very interesting to me because a wrong theory or wrong action can be completely devastating and even lead to the deaths of patients. My own equivocations, and those of most people, are less significant in their effects. So in the Semmelweis, Brigid Hayes and future narratives I was looking at scientific conviction, and even at times dogmatism. The doctors in the Semmelweis narrative thought they were right, and that Semmelweis was wrong, and yet it turned out the whole thing was inverted, that he was right all along. When I was reading about the professional resistance to his theories, it amazed me that some of his colleagues refused even to contemplate the possibility that he might be right. As with the present day, there's a slender distinction between having convictions, being able to take decisions, and becoming rigid in your certainties, refusing to change.