Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bloody hell, a medical post.

For some reason medicine is second only to crime as a setting for TV programmes. There have been hundreds of medical dramas and comedies. Some of these have even been quite good but nearly all have been completely unrealistic.
For some reason the media want to portray doctors a some sort of superheroes, curing the incurable, righting wrongs and spending every waking minute agonising about their patients. This is not only irritating for those of us in the profession but also raises the expectations of the public to a completely unrealistic level. Even Hawkeye , for all his wise-cracking, had the air of the superman about him when it came to his operative skills. Doctors loved Green Wing because the doctors featured were all flawed (some were psychotic) and the action concerned everything but the patients.

'Bugger me, doctors are just like the rest of us.' Well... duh.

At best, doctors can give some sensible health promotion advice, provide a listening ear and may even delay the inevitable slightly but as for curing, that doesn't happen very often. Most disease that we 'cure' would go away its own if we did nothing. Often the 'cure' turns out to be much worse than the disease. Most of the treatments and investigations we foist on an eager public we wouldn't dream of having ourselves.

There are exceptions to this rather cynical rant and I am aware that there may be readers facing illness in themselves and their families who may find all this depressing and upsetting. If this is the case I urge you not to lose your common sense when you interact with doctors. Demand the full facts before embarking on anything. The most important question to ask is 'What would you do if it was you?' *
Most doctors avoid the medical profession like the plague.
If you want to be healthy eat well, exercise, don't smoke, don't drink to excess and have good genes. Above all avoid hospitals. The chance of dying in hospital is 1 in 100 admissions. That's slightly more risky than manned space flight.

There was one medical drama which struck a chord with the profession. Cardiac Arrest by Jed Mercurio (a lapsed doctor) which aired in the mid-nineties and featured the much-admired Helen Baxendale as Dr. Claire Maitland. At the moment over at the online forum (no link, you have to have a GMC number to get on there) they have started a petition to get it released on DVD. The Royal College of Nurses hated it, Virginia Bottomley who was the health minister at the time said it was 'propaganda' running down the NHS. What it did was show a system that turned idealistic youngsters into callous, cynical old trouts like me. I had just escaped after 4 years as a junior hospital doctor at the time and I have to say it often reduced me to tears it was such an accurate portrayal of what I had just survived. So if the petition succeeds I urge you to watch. In the meantime just be aware that Green Wing is a hell of a lot more realistic than Casualty.

* I agonised about this post in case I may upset someone who is ill, let down the profession etc etc but I really feel this is a subject that ought to be debated with a bit more honesty than has previously been the case.

a flawed but honest doctor


realdoc said...

Just testing if I can post as I have just installed the decidedly glitchy beta 'upgrade'

herschelian said...

Some years ago I read 'Bodies' by Jed Mercurio ( it was then turned into a TV thingy and is now available on DVD but I havn't seen it) and found it deeply worrying and hysterically funny in equal measure. I asked a good friend who is a consultant at a large teaching hospital how "true" it was - expecting to be told it was wildly exaggerated. Far from reassuring me, she said it was pretty damn accurate.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this Realdoc. I am currently having a career-break from the health profession, and feel very guilty that I do not feel inclined to return. Green Wing is amazing and scarily accurate, although it doesn't try too hard. Cardiac arrest was good too, at the time it was aired I was working in similar circumstances and it used to make me feel rather uncomfortable. All that said I have had some very positive experiences when on the "other" side as a patient myself. It's not all bad. There are some fantastic people doing a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. I am very grateful to them!

Billy said...

Dr. Claire Maitland.


realdoc said...

Herscelian Bodies is unfortunately accurate I only wish it wasn't.

Anon there are good people in the NHS and I don't wish to undermine them. It's the system that needs fixing.

Billy Thought you'd like the pic, Dr. Maitland was a bit of a heroine of mine.

ziggi said...

Nooooo! You mean House isn't realistic?!
I'm gutted :(

realdoc said...

Well ziggi I'll concede that he does a convincing limp.

Richard said...

Having had extensive third party experience of our health service over the last 4 years or so I can only thank something or other that out of the dozens of staff we saw we were lucky to meet at least three who were prepared to listen and apply some of their training. Perish the thought you should be at death's door and your GP is responsible for the practice budget (view put forward by neighbouring pharmacist)

helga von porno said...

European Friends living in London tend to go home (especially the French) for serious treatment andavoid the NHS which has a reputation for being crap. ONe joke was the doctor says "can you walk" you say yes, and he says "take an aspirin...Next!" So I agree about your health tips. Except for one stat I heard about longivity. People who regularly visit Doctors tend to live longer.

Anonymous said...

Just testing