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Ledermann, R. (1977). Bach, Susan R. (Zürich). ‘Spontaneous pictures of leukemic children as an expression of the total personality, mind and body’, International Journal of Child Psychiatry, reprinted from ‘Acta Paedopsychiatrica’, 41, 3 (1974/75).. J. Anal. Psychol., 22(3):272.

(1977). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 22(3):272

Bach, Susan R. (Zürich). ‘Spontaneous pictures of leukemic children as an expression of the total personality, mind and body’, International Journal of Child Psychiatry, reprinted from ‘Acta Paedopsychiatrica’, 41, 3 (1974/75).

Review by:
Rushi Ledermann

The author gives a moving account of her studies of twelve pictures (reproduced in colour) drawn by three children who were dying of leukaemia. This study is part of a twenty-five year's research project at the Neurosurgical and Paediatric Hospitals of Zürich University.

Dr Bach claims that the ‘pictures reflect the condition of the patient's total personality, mind and body … disclosing hitherto unexplored reactions of the psyche to the somatic situation and vice versa … (and) the patient's position within his life span’. The pictures are used for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. Dr Bach gives interesting thought-provoking interpretations of these paintings, e.g., a picture of an owl copied by a patient. The author takes the marked alteration of colour in the child's copy as indication of a possible change in the iron content of the patient's blood. The picture of a little girl's large red mouth is seen by the author to represent the leukaemic child's hunger for blood.

It is shown convincingly that these pictures enable those caring for the sick child to ‘draw nearer to him in his loneliness’ into which he may have been driven by our ‘misguided attempts to protect him from the truth’ that he is dying, a ‘truth that is deeply disturbing to us’. Furthermore, these pictures and the child's comments establish a bridge between him and the medical and nursing staff, make it easier for the parents to know the child's needs and wishes and thus enable him to live his short life as fully as possible.

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