When you enter a hospital at night and hear a sick man groan, approach his bed, and if you have nothing left to give him, give him a smile – Dr Sousa Martins

After climbing Lisbon’s second hilltop, you will encounter a curious phenomenon. In a cosy little park called Campo Santana arises, amidst sturdy crowing little roosters and slow belly rocking ducks, a very special statue.

In its back the former Medical-Surgical School – now the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the New University of Lisbon – at its feet an immense heap of marble plates engraved with thanks for graces and miracles performed. Remarkable is the complete absence of religious symbols on these ex-votes. Was the figure in bronze on the pedestal a prestigious doctor, a saint or both?

Born in a village of humble people some 30 km from Lisbon, he came at the age of 12 to the capital under the protection of his pharmaceutical uncle Lázaro and graduated in Pharmacy at the age of 21 and in Medicine two years later, both with the highest grades in his class. Became professor of General Pathology, esteemed for his professional skills, modest character and dedication to charity.

Dr Sousa Martins (1843-1897) gave special relevance to the doctor-patient relationship, teaching his students at the Hospital São José (St Joseph’s hospital) not only to treat but most of all to cherish the patients. One of his lessons was that if a doctor had nothing to relieve the suffering of the patient, he would still have a smile. Although famous as a pioneer in teaching, a brilliant scientist and doctor of the Royal Family, he never liked being credited with such notoriety and affirmed himself as ‘progressive and Freemason’.

He was especially loved for the generosity with which he served the less fortunate, earning him the nickname Father of the Poor. He charged the rich large sums for their medical appointments but his poorest patient nothing, and often left money on their bedside tables along with recipes for medicines.

Sousa Martins gained enormous prestige in his fight against tuberculosis – which at that time reached epidemic proportions in Lisbon – and his name will forever be linked to Portugal’s first sanatorium in the Serra da Estrella, a mountainous region in the centre of the country.

As a dedicated physician, he always was in direct contacts with his patients. The – at that time incurable – infectious disease he fought so hard during his medical career, coupled with a heart injury, eventually killed him.
At 54, he committed suicide with an injection of morphine after confining to a friend  ‘a doctor threatened with death by two diseases, both fatal, must eliminate himself.’
The brightest light in the kingdom went out, they said.

Enjoy your week                                                         Aproveite sua semana




Het overleg is nog maar net begonnen of ik hoor links van me een zachte plop, gulzige slikgeluiden en een inpandige boer. Weeïge, zure lucht. Als het lege, roomwitte plastic bio bakje wordt teruggezet, knijpt de vlezige voorzitter aan de overkant van de tafel haar diepliggende varkensoogjes even helemaal dicht, neemt een ferme slok uit de torenhoge beker en vervolgt vol nieuwe energie haar monoloog. Praten doet haar goed, zeker na vier maanden veroordeling thuis met een been omhoog. Luisteren, dat is iets voor de Anderen. Ze was bij het uitstappen van de lift zomaar gestruikeld over een muizig rugzakje. Dat had helemaal niks met haar buikomvang te maken, zoals die volslanke collega in de kantine beweerd had! Zweetdruppels vechten om voorrang, vestjes gaan uit, sjaaltjes af, ramen open. Een zwarte kanten waaier in haar propvolle roze vintage tas biedt uitkomst. Allebei overgehouden aan een weekendje Sevilla. Rechts een zacht schuren van nagels die worden bijgevijld. Achter me een alsmaar knarsende deur waardoor medewerksters binnenwaaien, op jacht naar instructies. Grommende smartphones worden zonder pardon het zwijgen opgelegd.
Pas als ze moet plassen krijgen de Anderen een kans. Over hoe de zomervakantie is geweest, de nieuwe juffrouw op school en wanneer precies de herfstvakantie begint. Een half leeg zakje amandelen komt voorbij en niet meer terug. Naast het biobakje wordt een broodje opgevuld met rauwe ham en blauwe aderkaas. Ouwe sokkenlucht. De Spaanse waaier wordt gemist. Eenmaal terug legt de voorzitter met zoveel woorden uit, dat het eigenlijk toch allemaal helemaal anders zit. En begint haar betoog van voren af aan. De Anderen staren weer voor zich uit, krabbelen iets in hun agenda of bellen met een buitenwereld waar de zon uitbundig schijnt. OK, zegt ze tenslotte, alles gaat dus veranderen. Meer weet ik ook niet. Als er geen vragen zijn, kunnen we nu naar de lunch. In een oogwenk is de vergaderruimte leeg.



‘There is no planet B’

Portugal prepares to vote in Sunday’s general election.
With thousands of youngsters filling the streets at Lisbon’s Global Climate strike, one wonders how ‘green in fact its political parties are?

The centre-right Social Democrat party (PSD) recognizes ‘the state of emergency the planet is in’ but only presents measures enhancing the country’s ‘adaptation to climate change’ by limiting urban expansion in risk zones and favouring garden roofs. The PSD argues the energy sector to adapt but doesn’t specify how.

For the ruling Socialist party (PS) climate change adaptation is also needed. But that isn’t enough. The party defines concrete targets for 2030 and others for 2050, such as carbon neutrality. The PS wishes to reinforce the capacity of wind farms and – faced with extreme weather – extend forecasting and warning systems. Empowering farmers ‘to adopt good practices’ is also called for.

The Left Bloc (BE) is in favour of a Climate Law, an Energy Base Law and a Ministry of Climate Action. The far-left party advocates the end of fossil fuel car production by 2025 and coal-fired power generation by 2023, in the meantime accelerating solar production. It also intends to ban cars from city centres and strives for free public transport, favouring investment in ‘rail mode’.

The Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU) – an electoral coalition between Communists and ecologist Greens – rejects green taxation, the concept of user pays and CO2 licensing. Instead, the railway network should be modernized with ‘high-speed connections’ from Lisbon to Porto and the Spanish border. It also advocates a Forest Policy based on traditional ecosystems.

The millennium Animal and Nature party (PAN) – founded in 2009 – wants vegetarian meals at state-sponsored events, prevention of any exploitation of hydrocarbons and the closure of all coal plants by 2023. Furthermore financial benefits for cycling to work, measures to reduce car traffic, restrictions on night air traffic and the suspension of the construction of a new airport.

For the rightwing Christen Democrats (CDS) a Climate Law for carbon neutrality is warranted. The party wishes to materialize an energy transition with transparency in the energy market’. Other objectives include ‘green’ entrepreneurship, full electrification and expansion of the railways.

However, the level of commitment of all six major parties is far too low, argues a group of independent citizens, analysing the elections programs. None of the parties mentions sufficient steps to reach the 96 goals (metas) defined in the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality.
The PS – with 40 targets – comes first, which is not surprising given that the Roadmap is an initiative of the current socialist government. The CDU closes the peloton with only 13 targets covered. PAN proposes the most CO2 reduction measures and BE is the party that most concretises the actions to achieve carbon neutrality.

The polls suggest António Costa’s Socialist party will win but fall short of an absolute majority in parliament.
If the climate were to choose, it would be a coalition of the Socialist party and the Left Bloc or the PAN- which is less ideologically fixed.

Bom fim de semana                Enjoy your weekend            (pic. Público/Sapo)