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Most Significant

"Somehow Arthur feels very, very close to me."

Why didn’t Van Helsing tell Lucy that she had received Arthur's blood? Later, we learn that Van Helsing feels there is something quasi-sexual about receiving donated blood (10, 22 September).

There may be a legitimate and ethical reason for Van Helsing not to tell Lucy about the transfusion. Although informed consent is very important in modern medical practice, some exceptions are recognized. One exception is if the patient is “emotionally fragile:” they may be so stressed out by their illness that they will reject any treatment at all without proper consideration, or they may be in such a poor state (either emotionally or physically) that "disclosing too many details about a necessary procedure would cause an emotionally fragile patient to become sick with anxiety".*

Is Lucy emotionally fragile? Let's ignore the evidence from the Victorian men, who might view any woman as being emotionally fragile, and look instead at what Mina and Mrs. Westenra think about this. Mrs. Westenra had no problem with telling Mina about her own terminal diagnosis, but withholds that information from her own daughter. In her 8 August journal entry, Mina writes "I greatly fear that Lucy is of too super sensitive a nature to go through the world without trouble". So the two women closest to Lucy both have doubts about her ability to bear bad news.

Although my first impulse was to complain about Victorian doctors and their paternalism, it may be that it was ethical to keep Lucy from knowing about the dangerous medical procedure that was tried in order to save her life.


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