An English Doctor in Japan
This entertaining memoir takes the reader at pace through Dr Gabriel Symonds’s unusual career as an English doctor in Japan, but there is much to his story before he got there: hitch-hiking to India on leaving school, disturbing incidents in the dissecting room at medical school, the antics of an eccentric bisexual fellow student, trials of life as a junior hospital doctor, attack by a drunken Irish colleague, and work in ‘heartsink’ general practices in deprived areas of London.
Life in Japan is equally eventful, and includes encounters with incompetent physicians and a Japanese surgeon known as ‘the butcher’.This is contrasted with the ‘ideal’ practice he eventually set up, the Tokyo British Clinic, where we meet a host of colourful characters: minor royalty, a clutch of ambassadors, visiting pop singers, and a famous pianist—as well as many ordinary patients with extraordinary stories.
Of particular interest are Dr Symonds’s perhaps outspoken views on general check-ups, statins, animal experiments, psychiatry, and smoking.
Although it may raise a few hackles, he does not shy away from discussing controversial issues such as circumcision, female genital mutilation, and his critical observations on terminal care in Japanese hospitals.
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