Ward 4, Pulmonology Department Section 16, Kitasato Semi-Automated Medical Facility, Yokkaichi District, Nagoya Sub-Metropolis, Kansai Metropolitan Zone, Shin-Nihon.

Ward 4, Pulmonology Department Section 16, Kitasato Semi-Automated Medical Facility, Yokkaichi District, Nagoya Sub-Metropolis, Kansai Metropolitan Zone, Shin-Nihon.

Marker on MDF.

Height- 21cm

Width- 43.5cm

 

The origin of the idea for this picture was the grandson of a friend of my fathers. He has a rare respiratory disorder called Ondine's Syndrome (also called Ondine's Curse or, to give it its proper name, central hypoventilation syndrome). Basically it's where the person's brain doesn't tell the person to breath, as in sleep apnea, except that in severe cases of Ondine's this can happen when awake. People with Ondine's have to have some form of artificial respiration, often in the form of a tracheostomy (a tube in the neck) to survive.

I remember being told that there was not a lot of research being done into this condition. The reason for this, I was told, was that it is a rare disorder, and therefore it receives significantly less attention from pharmaceutical companies. And that got me thinking about the way a lot of modern medicine functions; how medical research is funded and how large sections of the medical industry are driven, basically, by market forces.

And out of that grew this picture; a ward of sick children, shorn of their identities as human beings and assigned numbers, treated like components on a factory line. Obviously this is set in a dystopian future hospital, but let me be clear; there are many wonderful medical personnel who work themselves to the bone with no lesser motive than the desire to help people. The point of a picture like this is to highlight the system they are forced to work in, a system that treats sick people like numbers on a spreadsheet.

Incidentally, you may notice that the ward in the hospital in the picture is Ward 4. This is a bit of a joke. The number 4 in Japanese is pronounced shi, which is the same as the word for death. Therefore hospitals in Japan will sometimes avoid having a ward 4 or a floor no. 4 because of the superstition that 4 is an unlucky number...

 

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