In recent weeks the neurologist Oliver Sacks announced that he has terminal cancer: multiple metastases in the liver from a rare ocular melanoma he had nine years ago. He is 81. I have admired Sacks as a neurologist and a humanist since I first started to read him thirty years ago. Twenty years ago I wrote an essay about his approach to neurology for the magazine, Island. I have recently revisited that essay, titled Oliver Sacks: Anthropologist of Mind, and I have now posted it in PUBLISHED ESSAYS, in an act of on-going appreciation of a great medical man.
In the twenty years since I wrote the essay, there have been significant and positive changes in the way neurologists approach their work, spear-headed in large part by Sacks himself. In this regard there are snippets of the essay that are – fortunately – out of date. Neurologists today are much kinder, creative and whole-patient focussed than their colleagues of the last century. When it comes to Sacks himself, though, what I wrote back then, and the admiration that prompted the essay, holds true today.