VESS Newsletter Profile
What is it like being a doctor in Africa for ten months, with minimal sanitation, equipment, manpower, and sometimes little more than your wits and the will to do some good?
Dr Libby Wilson knows. Shortly after a friend had introduced her to VESS, she accepted a post in Sierra Leone, for which she was paid a pittance. In her subsequent book Unexpected Always Happen, she tells the tale of her adventure there. It took her back, in some ways, to 1946, when she was studying in a Kings College Hospital, London, when the five senses were used for diagnosis rather than sophisticated technology. "There were hardly any diseases we had treatment for that worked." It is in the last 50 years, leading to her retirement a few years ago, that she has seen the big changes. "In those days, we no longer 'tasted the urine', but apart from that medicine was just as it had been for 200 years." In those years end-of-life decisions just didn't happen: people either lived or died.
Her interest in v.e came into sharper focus when her husband died in 1977. He had been a professor of medicine and knew exactly what was happening when he was dying of stomach cancer. The heroic surgery failed. Before this, working as a part-time G.P. for 18 years, Libby rarely came into close contact with death. But human issues had always concerned her. She can feel justifiably proud of fighting the good fight on women's issues where she has worked in community care, providing support for prostitutes and rape victims and, in the area of her especial expertise, contraceptive advice. Controversy is no stranger to her and she hopes she lives to see v.e. reform. Since being coopted onto the VESS Committee in 1990, Libby's main contribution has been the Glasgow & West of Scotland Group and its newsletter Views & News. She feels the campaign for v.e. is going well but, from her background in community care, is especially concerned that the caring side is not neglected, and has helped to initiate support visits, for instance, for Glasgow VESS members who are alone in hospital.
Libby Wilson - writings on v.e. can be found in Views & News, the newsletter of the Glasgow & West of Scotland local group of VESS. See also Visiting the Netherlands in EXIT Newsletter April 1995.
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