Myself and the poor husband went into the High Court a few weeks ago, just to observe (ha got ye there, Yep, would dearly love a day in Court with Lundbeck). Anyway as we do, we stumbled into a case where a doctor was in the dock. He performed a hip replacement on a woman who alleged that after the operation, one of her legs was shorter than the other. The doctor proceeded to tell the Court how, despite sending a letter to her GP recommending a shoe with a built up heal, it was all in the womans head. In my humble opinion ‘the God complex’ is a huge issue in the medical hierarchy and that’s why I thought people might like a look at the first page of Professor Healy’s book. It’s a great read and as you can see from this excerpt, he doesn’t hold back.
Click on the Pharmageddon picture to have a look at the Amazon page.
My father smoked all his adult life. He had a number of physical disorders, including ulcerative colitis, ironically one of the few conditions for which smoking is beneficial. In 1974, when he was in hospital for colitis, a routine chest x-ray revealed a shadow on his lung. Dr. Neligan, the surgeon called in, advised my mother on the importance of an operation.
Our general practitioner at the time was Dr. Lapin whom I remembered from childhood as being tall, silver-haired, and distinguished, often wearing a bow tie. He had spent time, I was told, as a doctor in the British army, a very unusual occurrence then in Ireland. To a child, Dr. Lapin had appeared effortlessly wise and seemed to transcend the boundaries of religion, politics, and division I saw elsewhere.
When my mother developed problems in the early 1960s after giving birth, Dr. Lapin had suggested she come to see him once a week, but at the time she felt the arrangement was too open-ended, and she could not afford it. She was seen instead by another doctor, diagnosed with an ulcer and ultimately received the standard operation of the day, which involved cutting the vagus nerve and removal of stomach. This left her with bowel problems for the rest of her life, and regrets for not having taken Dr. Lapin’s offer of treatment for what she later regarded as postnatal depression.
When my mother consulted him about the wisdom of an operation for my father, Dr. Lapin was slow to comment. But when pressed, he pointed out that my father had a number of illnesses, any of which could kill him before the tumor would. Many people, he said, went to their graves with cancers, heart disease, or other problems, but these were not what killed them. An operation would take a heavy toll on him.
My mother relayed this perspective to my father and suggested that he take six months to build himself up and then have an operation if he felt stronger; he agreed. When this plan was mentioned to the surgeon, he responded, “That’s fine, but have him out of the hospital within 48 hours.” When my mother revealed that my father still didn’t know he had cancer, the surgeon went straight from the phone to tell him. Without an operation my father would be dead within months, Dr. Neligan indicated, but an operation offered the prospect of a cure. My father, alarmed, agreed and the operation took place two days later. Dr. Neligan afterwards said there was little they could do about my father’s tumor when they opened him up. He died six months later, his life almost certainly shortened by the operation.
If there had been progress to speak of in the treatment of lung cancer in the years since my father’s death, his medical care might be viewed as one of those sacrifices that at least ultimately benefits others. But there has been little progress, even though advances on almost all medical fronts are trumpeted daily. Genuine progress has been made in some areas, but far less in most areas than many people have been led to believe. More importantly, when it comes to pharmaceuticals in particular, many of these apparent advances underpin and contribute to what in recent decades has become a relentless degradation in medical care, a replacement of Lapins with Neligans, a quickening march toward Pharmageddon. While drugs played no part in what happened to my father, they have played a huge role in fostering a surgical attitude to medical care, a kind of fast healthcare.