Sick of hearing about real diseases? This doctor wrote a book about imaginary ones

Not all doctors are about just pure science – some have a pretty active imagination. For example: Vikram Paralkar is an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and when he’s not focused on patients and researching cancer of the blood, he writes fiction (though it’s still related to medicine). His first published book “The Afflictions” […]

Not all doctors are about just pure science – some have a pretty active imagination. For example: Vikram Paralkar is an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and when he’s not focused on patients and researching cancer of the blood, he writes fiction (though it’s still related to medicine).

His first published book “The Afflictions” is a compilation of 50 imaginary disease that come from a pretend 16th century, 375-volume Encyclopedia Medininae – housed in an medieval library in Portugal. It’s seriously all made up, even though it does sound kind of convincing.

As mentioned on WHYY’s The Pulse, some of the afflictions include a kind of amnesia wherein everybody forgets about you (Amnesia inversa). Or the disease that causes you to contract the infirmity of your neighbor, as your neighbor assumes yours (Renascentia). Or becoming so comfortable with the sensation of death that ultimately your spirits gently leave your body (Mors inevitabilis).

“One of the ideas this disease tries to explore is the arbitrariness by which diseases are given out to people,” said Paralkar. “If this were to happen, on a single day of the year, you were to get a completely new set of diseases, you would consider it an awfully unjust system. But is it any more unjust than what exists now? People are allotted their own random set of diseases.”

The reason why Paralkar decided to put the book in the context of that particular time period was because during that time there was a very close connection between the idea of diseases and theology.

“In the 16th century, any explanation you proposed, you had to grapple with ideas of god, heaven and hell,” said Paralkar. “I decided to utilize that to the fullest. Anytime a disease that veered into theological implications, I dived into that area.”

The whole idea of Paralkar’s book is fun departure from perhaps some of the drier real medical books – but still probably not an ideal read for the hypochondriacs out there.