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[Perspectives] Doctors in fiction: the medical profession through authors’ eyes

In 1697, when Thomas Brown wrote his play Physick Lies A-bleeding, or the Apothecary Turned Doctor, the British medical profession enjoyed a reputation something akin to that of journalists and estate agents today. The eye-watering fees charged by some practitioners, along with bitter infighting between the three tiers of the profession—physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries—fuelled accusations of putting money and status above the interests of patients. Brown’s cast of characters include Tom Gallypot, “an apothecary by trade, but who practises physic as a doctor near Covent Garden” and Jack Comprehensive, “an apothecary living in Fleet Street, who professes himself merely to be a doctor, surgeon, chemist, druggist, distiller, confectioner and (on occasion) corn-cutter”.

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