Presentation by Dr John Hayman
Royal Society Room
Tuesday, 3rd May 2011 Commencing 8.00 pm until 10.00 pm
About the Speaker
John Hayman graduated MBBS from the University of Melbourne in 1957, later studied pathology at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and spent 20 years as hospital pathologist in the Gippsland Region of Victoria. His parish included Bairnsdale, the home of the ‘Bairnsdale Ulcer’, a progressive mycobacterial skin ulcer that was first described in patients from the district in 1948. He obtained his MD by thesis in 1992 on further studies of this disease. Since 1948 the infection has been described in over 30 different foci, including several in West Africa and all Australian states except, interestingly, NSW and Tasmania.
Brief Abstract of the Talk
John became aware of the problem of Charles Darwin’s illness when studying evolution and the concept of ‘inclusive fitness’ and first thought that Darwin’s symptoms might be those of abdominal migraine. This, like the numerous, very variable diagnoses that have been proposed earlier, explains some symptoms but not all. Abdominal migraine led, however, to the diagnosis of the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, which explains almost all of Darwin’s symptoms. CVS explains Darwin’s episodes of nausea and vomiting and their initiation by stressful or even pleasurable events, his headaches, abdominal pains, his sea-sickness, his eczema and his recurrent boils. Somewhat tenuously, the diagnosis also explains his spelling difficulties, his tone deafness and his difficulty in learning German. His experiences while in NSW and Tasmania lend support to this diagnosis. If the diagnosis is expanded to that of a mtDNA abnormality, inherited from his mother and shared with his maternal uncle Tom, all of Darwin’s symptoms can be included such as his later stroke-like episodes. It is important that the exact nature of Darwin’s illness should be established. It confronts those who deny evolution and who would like to show that Darwin was psychologically flawed with an ‘imagined’ (psychogenic) illness rather than a ‘real’ complaint. Secondly, it is of help to those who suffer from this little known disorder today. Like Darwin, these patients, including Tasmanians, suffer from misdiagnosis, misunderstanding, inappropriate treatment, and, worse that Darwin, unnecessary investigations and inappropriate surgery. The thesis is presented with a view to its discussion and critical examination, in the hope that CVS/mtDNA abnormality becomes the accepted diagnosis for the ‘mysterious illness’ of Charles Darwin, an illness that has been the subject of controversy for over 150 years.