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The Edinburgh Neurology Book Club recently read cartoonist David B’s Epileptic, a graphic novel and memoir about a childhood hijacked by his brother JC’s epilepsy and his parents’ search for an effective treatment. It is an odyssey through conventional and complementary medicine and a searing critique of both. The family repeatedly uproots as JC is subjected to a host of treatments, including novel drugs, macrobiotic communes and psychics. None provides more than brief relief from seizures. As the years pass he lapses into obesity, cognitive decline and scarring from his injuries, while David goes his own way.
This novel is deliberately provocative, and the club’s discussion was heated. David’s childhood draws sharp parallels between the ‘real’ doctors and the quacks, with their cult-like devotees exalting their ineffective treatments with religious fervour. We felt the patients’ best interests seemed an afterthought; the motivation of these ‘healers’ being a blend of power, influence and convenience. JC becomes a passive agent, while David …
Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. The phrase, 'David's childhood self draws sharp parallels between the 'real' doctors and the quacks,' has been amended in the second paragraph to accurately reflect the meaning from the book.
Contributors NW wrote the manuscript. RD and FM provided comments and revision suggestions.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; Internally peer reviewed.