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Utopian lab: No longer an island

When good-health is compromised by illness, it becomes quickly apparent that ‘no man is an island’. The illusion of one’s independence and autonomy is shattered by the need to care or be cared for. Interdependence extends far beyond the reliance of a patient on his or her physician, into needs that might not have previously been noticed. Help is needed to get dressed, to buy and cook one’s food, to leave the house, to continue paying off a mortgage, and to weather new emotional experiences.

2.5 million people in the UK are living with cancer, and by 2030 this number will have risen to 4 million. No longer an island explored the ways in which the meaning of Utopia might be different for cancer survivors; people who have lived with and overcome one of the UK’s most significant diseases. Audio recordings of the thoughts of Guy’s Hospital cancer survivors were interspersed with readings from Aldous Huxley’s novel Island, a Utopia that re-imagines political priorities and social relationships as emanating from core values that centre around the human body (and mind), imagined by Huxley as he died of cancer.

Project lead

Martina Bohn works at Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS FoundationTrust, and is coordinating A Celebration of Hope for Cancer Survivor’s Day 2016.

Utopian lab

This project was part of the Utopian lab, a contemporary glimpse of the Health Faculties at King’s College London. The crusade to understand, save and compliment the human body and mind was the spirit of Utopia itself, uniting cultures, defining humanity and standing on the shoulders of giants.

Rotating through the different stories of present day work day work being carried out across the Health Faculties at King’s College London, Utopian lab was a snapshot of the future with roots firmly planted in King’s College Hospital’s past: a workhouse on the Strand that was propelled to notoriety by the surgery work of Joseph Lister in the late 19th century. 

‘I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results’ – Florence Nightingale



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