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Beyond the Tape: Questions with Dr Marie Cassidy

To celebrate the launch of her new memoir, Beyond the Tape: The Life and Many Deaths of A State Pathologist, the team at Dublin Book Festival were delighted to ask Dr Marie Cassidy some questions from our followers about her fascinating medical career.

Catherine Kelly: Are there any aspects of the job of a pathologist that most people are unaware of?

Generally people equate pathologists with death, post-mortems and murder, but most pathologists, 99%, are based in hospitals and, together with the other doctors in the hospital, are devoted to the diagnosis of disease and the treatment of patients. In contrast, forensic pathologists devote their time to the dead, particularly those whose death was due to unnatural causes. Don’t think of mentioning your symptoms , illnesses or medication to us at a party, as far as we are concerned if it hasn’t killed you it’s not that serious.

James Howe: Why did you decide to become a pathologist?

As strange as it may seem, the biggest shock when I became an intern was suddenly becoming aware of the number of patients dying in hospital. I must have missed that lecture in medical school! I was still in the honeymoon phase of ‘doctoring’, assuming that I would heal the sick. The realisation that hospitals are full of really sick people, some of whom would never get better, no matter what we did, should not have been a surprise. I found it difficult that the patients I had built a relationship with would not leave the hospital through the front door. If I stayed in mainstream medicine there would be no respite. I knew that was not for me. The only way to cope was to build a barrier between me and the patient, hence the move to laboratory medicine. From then on it was a gradual progress moving further and further away, until I found myself surrounded by the dead. It wasn’t death I had been trying to avoid after all, but the emotional attachment to it.


In partnership with the Murder One Festival and Eason, Dublin Book Festival will be hosting a thrilling event featuring Dr Marie Cassidy in conversation with Sinéad Crowley about her recently published memoir, Beyond the Tape: The Life and Many Deaths of A State Pathologist.

Click here for more information and to book your ticket, which includes a signed copy of the book.


#AskanAuthor is an initiative at the Dublin Book Festival that encourages our audience to pose questions to the authors at DBF 2020. We may be going digital but we want to make sure that our audience don’t miss out on direct engagement with the authors. 

You are invited to submit questions to each week’s chosen author via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Email. Create a tweet or post containing your question and include the hashtag #AskAnAuthor. Alternatively, you can send us an email at info@dublinbookfestival.com with #AskAnAuthor in the subject line.