Saturday, 31 May 2008

Doctors Should Be Seen And Not Heard

Of late, certain elements of the medical profession are really starting to get on my nerves. What is it about possession of a medical degree that makes the buggers think they're entitled to tell the rest of us what to do? To make demands, and seek the force of law to back them up, just because they think we should behave a certain way?

Take Vivienne Nathanson, for example, although she is far from alone in trying to dictate to the general public. As head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, she's been sticking her nose into things that shouldn't concern a doctor quite a bit recently. Her latest outing is in today's Sun, where she appears to support Dawn Primarolo's efforts to ban branding and logos on cigarette packets. Nathanson is reported as saying, "It is essential that cigarettes are made more inaccessible to children and one way to do this is to ban 10 packs of cigarettes and to get rid of tobacco vending machines."

Medicine is, traditionally, an advisory profession. We go to the doctor when we don't feel well, and we expect them sort the problem out. This is what they're paid for. They may well wish to give us some sage advice while they work, a friendly heads up that something might not be too good for us. Again, that's what they're paid for, and it's not only ok, but is expected.

But that should be as far as their influence goes. Whether we choose to follow their suggestion - and it should never, ever be more than a suggestion - or completely ignore it is none of their damn business. Most certainly, they should not be lobbying government with a view to imposing their opinions upon the rest of us in the shape of bans and restrictions.

Yet this is what Nathanson is doing here, and it's what she's done elsewhere, too. Back in December 2007, on the opinions website Yoosk, Nathanson was asked, "At the moment public opinion seems in favour of boxing but we don't hear much about the health risks and or progress of anti boxing legislation. What are the BMA doing to advance the anti boxing campaign..."

She replied, "The British Medical Association (BMA) has been an authority on boxing since 1982 and opposes both amateur and professional boxing and calls for a complete ban. In September 2007 the BMA updated its call for a ban on boxing to include other combat sports such as mixed martial arts fighting. The BMA along with the Australian Medical Association believe that ‘international events based on the spirit of goodwill – such as Olympic and Commonwealth Games – are no place for interpersonal violence and injury’ and that ‘it's time to remove boxing from the sporting line-up’. Boxing by men and women is equally unacceptable. "

Doesn't like smoking, doesn't like boxing, probably isn't so keen on drinking, either... oooh, look what I found: "Doctors call on pubs to display alcohol units" in which none other than our Viv said that the current voluntary agreement between the Government and drinks industry to include unit information on cans and bottles did not go far enough.

Gosh, that's a surprise, isn't it? What Professor Nathanson and the many other similarly meddlesome busybodies fail to understand is that this is simply not their job. If they want to lay down the law, they are perfectly entitled to quit medicine, resign their GMC membership and stand for election as a Member of Parliament, though I can't see many of them keeping their deposits.

All of which is not to say that they're not perfectly entitled to their opionions. They most certainly are, and they are equally entitled to share those views with the rest of us - or, at least, those of us who are interested in what they have to say. Where they cross the line is in seeking to enforce those views, and turn them into law, without any democratic mandate to do so.

Until they obtain such a mandate, the British taxpayer has shelled out an awful lot of money to provide them with medical degrees. They were granted those degrees to help treat the sick, not as a means to becoming Health Fascists, and I don't think it's asking too much for them to use them properly. They should get off their soapboxes, dig out their stethoscopes and get their shiny-trousered asses over to the wards.

If we want their opinion, we'll be sure to ask for it. Until then, I'm certain that the NHS could find them something useful to do.

Billy Seggars.

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