This year's Wakley Prize essays

December 18, 2003

For the first time in its eight-year history there are two winners in THE LANCET's Wakley Prize essay Competition. The two winners, chosen from 53 submissions, will each receive £1000 and publication of their account in this week's double issue.

'The disability I know best is deafness. The profession I know best is medicine. So I accept that I've no idea how life is for, say, an accountant with cerebral palsy. But I do at least know what not to do if I should meet such a person. I won't automatically assume that they can't do certain things-nor will I blithely reassure them that they can. I'll steer away from the all-or-nothing questions ("Can you do X? Can you do Y? Can you do Z?") and try to build up a picture of a more complex reality. Above all, I will let them tell me how it is. It's amazing what you can learn when you just ask the elephant.'

The concluding remarks of Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, reflecting on her experiences of medicine, deafness, and the tendency of others to avoid 'asking the elephant'-when people make assumptions about disabled people, rather than finding out for themselves.

In the second prize essay (TB and you and me . . . personal reflections), Dr Jaime Miranda recalls the struggle and desperation for patients and doctors trying to tackle tuberculosis in Peru: 'The commonest aspect of these stories is not the disease itself. It is the fact that money draws the line, sometimes, and maybe most of the time, between life and death.'
Lancet 2003; 362: 2038, 2079-82


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