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01/03/2007

The art of healing

You know, I like art.  Hell, who doesn't?  So it was with interest that I read that several paintings were being removed from a Canadian hospital because they made patients tense:

Paintings at the Ottawa Heart Institute meant to brighten the lives of patients seem to have caused alarm rather than solace...Doctors and nurses noticed patients were more agitated while waiting to have their blood pressure tested.

I initially thought this was strange.  I mean, how harmful could a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I be, even one whose eyes seem to follow you accusingly around the room, calling imperiously for your imprisonment and beheading, all because you just happen to be there, minding your own business, not bothering a soul, simply being Mary, Queen of Scots?  And who doesn't like a nice peaceful painting of a gorilla?  So what if the animal in question looks like it would enjoy nothing more than to slink past the duty nurses and greedily feast on your vitals while you sleep off that emergency salpingectomy?  Look, a primate's gotta eat, right?

But then I thought about it a little more, and I've come around.  I now agree that certain works of art might be inappropriate for certain medical facilities.  After all, if you were consulting a plastic surgeon, no one could blame you for feeling a touch unnerved by the scrambled face and mangled paw of a Picasso. Visiting the urologist, you'd find it at the very least a little redundant if Andres Serrano's Piss Christ were hanging outside the lab.  And I don't imagine anyone facing abdominal surgery would be all that jazzed about the doctor using the martyrdom of St. Erasmus to illustrate an impending colostomy. 

In fact, I think I have some phone calls to make to my own care providers, because all of a sudden I can think of several disturbing paintings that should probably be moved right away.

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