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 obsession with vitamins is getting out of hand
Crazy pills
Last summer I was swimming at my local pool. It was almost midday and I knew I should get out and under cover to protect my skin, but the cool water and warm sun felt good, and I...
Dying with dignity means different things to different people
Thinking again about palliative care
Before I started studying medicine, my grandmother was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. I had no idea what that was. “Scarring of the lungs,” she said. When I...
What is sickness, and how much of it is in our heads?
Medicine and the mind-body problem
I was recently asked to give a presentation about “what makes us sick”. Thinking about that question nearly made my head explode. It’s more like “What doesn’t make us sick?” My...
How doctors deal with drug companies
Big pharma
It was midnight and I was lying awake in bed, thinking that I should have been a surgeon. If something went wrong, I could cut it out. No nonsense, a clear cut. We physicians just...
Can antibiotics really cure back pain?
The trouble with miracle cures
Last year, when I read in the Guardian that antibiotics could cure chronic lower back pain, I thought it was some kind of joke. Might psychiatrists next declare that depression is...
Why doctors second-guess themselves
The biggest decisions
Researchers relate “decision fatigue” in executives to the degradation of sound judgement and to poor impulse control after hours. Nearing the end of a weekend of...
Transplants, out-of-body organs and limits to treatment
Medicine's mission to Mars
When I was a trainee doctor, I worked for a time with a physician who would conduct his limits-to-treatment discussions like this: he’d lean over the gravely ill person in...
Motivational slogans and pricey lungs in a US hospital
Health care, American style
It’s months before the world will hold its collective breath because a handful of congressmen don’t want the United States to provide health insurance for the 47...
How we look after the elderly
A visit to the nursing home
The first time I see Irena, we are two doctors down and have a full waiting room. I call her name, four times. Finally she stands up: 94 years old, 125 centimetres tall. The...
Ill communication
At my hospital we’re interviewing medical students for their first job and I feel sorry for them, all dressed up in their best suits, hair washed and shiny, fingers still aching...
How do you provide medical treatment for a non-medical problem?
In the body and in the mind
Among registrars, Mike’s clinical acumen was legendary: he’d touch his stethoscope to a patient’s skin and hear the heart murmuring secrets that none of us could yet hear. In the...
© Karen Kasmauski / National Geographic Stock
Fat City: What can stop obesity?
In the late 1980s I spent a year in the US as an exchange student. The exchange organisation allocated me a local support person named Emily. Emily was white and loud and the...
An elderly patient waits in the Emergency Department. © Jason South / Fairfax Sydnication
How the rebirth of general medicine will save lives
Last resort
June is 83, lives alone and still drives herself to the shops. When she doesn’t answer the telephone one morning, her daughter drops by to check on her and finds her lying naked...
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
The Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show
A Case of Rust
The Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show packed the Royal Exhibition Building and its gardens this autumn. If you tried to ride your bike along the shared walkway...
‘The Weight of a Human Heart’ by Ryan O’Neill, Black Inc; $27.95
‘The Weight of a Human Heart’ by Ryan O’Neill
The 21 stories in Ryan O’Neill’s new collection are tied together by a preoccupation with language. There are books, magazines, word games, phonetics, grammar lessons,...