Australian politics, society & culture


Karen Hitchcock

Karen Hitchcock is a doctor and writer. She is the author of a collection of short fiction, Little White Slips, and the Quarterly Essay ‘Dear Life: On Caring for the Elderly’.

Articles by this author

Our minds and bodies have a complicated relationship with what we eat
The war on food
One mid-winter ward round, in an overflowing, under-pressure hospital, I was given a dressing-down by one of my patients. She was in her 80s and in pretty good nick, apart from...
It was championed by women’s groups, but Addyi is not the “female Viagra”
Sex and pharmaceuticals
Towards the end of 2015, in a third-time-lucky bid by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the US Food and Drug Administration gave its tick of approval to a new drug called flibanserin. It...
How should doctors be assessed? And how should they assess themselves?
Performance check-up
Christmas Day, early morning, and I’m walking deserted streets to my PO box to collect a few weeks of mail. I was in my first year as a fully qualified specialist, working in a...
How do doctors manage when there are more patients and fewer resources?
Preparations for the storm
I’m not fond of the heat. I’ve toyed with the idea of moving overseas my entire life. Greenland was my country of choice as a kid. Then Alaska, Iceland, Hobart. For the past...
Why do we do so little of something so good?
Precious sleep
Legend has it that Margaret Thatcher needed only four hours sleep each night. It’s probably not true that that’s all she needed, though like some kind of sleep anorexic it may...
How do we decide who will make the best doctors?
The student lottery
A few years ago, at a friend’s barbecue, a worldly and usually quite articulate man I knew in the way you know a friend of a friend stopped telling me where to buy and how to cook...
Having a baby and having a medical career
The gentlemen’s club
Every hospital has a “residents’ room”. A place only the junior doctors can enter, where posture and politeness are discarded, naps are stolen, bosses are demolished, hook-ups are...
The ethical dilemmas of medicine
Doing the right thing
Nineteen years old, crawling through a BA, and I’m sitting in a crowded theatre listening to the hippest philosophy lecturer on campus. She looked like a sexy elf: tiny, with...
The effectiveness of plastic surgery is a matter of perception
A fine line
I once worked with a doctor who spent six months preparing for her high school reunion. She went on a diet, joined a gym, had her boobs done, got her face resurfaced, filled and...
Public health and personal responsibility
Germ welfare
In my first year of medical school we had a term of lab-based microbiology specifically designed to make us hyper-vigilant about germs. The teacher knew she had to make it...
Medical professionals can be hypochondriacs too
When the doctor needs a doctor
Early Friday morning, I got cancer. Bad cancer, the kind that can colonise your bones. Mine had spread to one bone in particular: a rib in the middle of my chest. To diagnose...
The argument against euthanasia
The right to die or the right to kill?
Celebrity is our religion. Celebrities are our gurus, teaching us what to wear, what to buy, how to look and, now, what to think. They front campaigns for human rights and animal...
In the gallery, human remains are preserved, refashioned and elevated
The art of the body
When I started medical school, the hospital library had a collection of jars and perspex boxes containing preserved fleshy anomalies: gigantic bulbous kidneys, a lung with a...
Why do we smoke and why do we quit?
A former smoker’s lament
I started smoking in high school and happily dedicated myself to the practice for ten years. Ex-smokers adore reminiscing – our favourite brands, when we started and stopped, the...
On lifestyle diseases and quick fixes
Too many pills
At a literary festival, during a discussion of how medicine reflects the values of the society in which it is practised, an interviewer asked me if I thought there would ever be a...
When social services are cut, hospitals are left to fill the holes
Society’s safety net
All my writer friends say, “You’re so lucky to have a real job, which has a real effect, in the real world.” They say it with an existential sigh. “You actually help people.” I...
What role does ego play in medicine?
Love, fear and hierarchy
The first teacher I fell in love with was the fill-in librarian. I was in Grade 4. I’d finally finished the moronic “class readers” and had thus earnt access to the library, a...
Obesity is a health issue, not an identity issue
‘Fat City’ revisited
There is a group of hip-hop dancers in Melbourne who regularly perform along Swanston Street. Most of them are wiry Asians who can bend their limbs like plasticine. But my...