Thursday, April 21, 2011

"A spurious diagnosis"

Critics of Sarah Abrahamson #12

 I spoke to Janet Frame's family doctor this week, the General Practitioner who attended to her health in the last years of her life. He knew her quite well of course, as she had the brace of health problems you can expect from a first world citizen in her late 70s: diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, cataracts, hearing impairment, heart trouble. And then of course she was diagnosed with the leukemia that ended her life.

Janet's GP, unusually, has a Bachelor of Arts as well as his medical qualifications. He of course knew "who" his world famous patient was, and he discussed her past medical history with her.

When Abrahamson's article first appeared in 2007 I discussed it with him, and when I saw him again the other day, I asked him for his formal permission to state publicly what he had said to me at the time. He gave me that permission, in the light that as Frame's legal executor I can choose to reveal the medical opinion of her own doctor.

"You can tell them it was a big surprise to me that such a spurious diagnosis had been made," he said.

With this post "Critics of Sarah Abrahamson #12" I complete for the moment anyway, my marshaling of the evidence for a widespread critique of Dr Sarah Abrahamson's posthumous diagnosis of Dr Janet Frame Clutha with high-functioning autism. (Or of Sarah's idea about Janet, that she first got by watching Kerry Fox play 'Janet' in the movie.)

It was a defamatory letter about me written by Sarah Abrahamson and printed in the current issue of North & South (May 2011) that has spurred me to action. She claims that I have been applying "considerable pressure" on her to try to force her to "retract" her opinion, including sending her "extensive material". But I have not corresponded with or directly addressed Abrahamson since we had a brief email exchange after she published her viewpoint article in October 2007. (NB: Apart from the exchange of letters in October, apparently I wrote to Abrahamson again in January 2008, to ask her not to compromise my daughter's privacy.)

I have also not "disowned" any member of my family and I have not persuaded anyone else to do so. There is no "rift" among the Frame cousins, in fact there is no such fairy tale entity as "the Frame cousins" (and if there were it has no rational bearing on any questions about the author Janet Frame, whose estate is safely in the hands of an autonomous charitable trust and not subject to the vagaries of any resentment and envy in the wider Frame family).

And it is libellous for Abrahamson to say that I refuse to communicate with anyone in the family who disagrees with me. Honestly some of the claims Abrahamson makes about me are actionable. She seems to have been genuinely overwhelmed and surprised that a "scholarly" article published in a peer reviewed journal should have attracted criticism.

Anyone who wishes to publish academic "research" should know that stringent well-argued criticism is part of the process of seeking after truth, and if you can't take it, you have to get out of the kitchen. There is no rational place for the "ad hominem" methods that Sarah has been using against me.

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