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December 2009


The Year of Living Dangerously

There is a curse, some say of ancient Chinese origin, which runs: ‘May you live in interesting times’. It seems the interesting times are already upon us. There is mayhem and mischief abroad. A long chill shadow has settled on our profession; and in the gloom that lies beyond, unsettling forces are at work. We shall face, in the months ahead, renewed and ferocious attacks, and on the outcome the future of our profession will depend. We are about to enter the year of living dangerously.

Good Nooze

It is a truism of the festive season that, as the party lights come out, so to do the Temperance Brigade. Last week we had two pronouncements: one from Sir Liar, advising no booze for under fifteen year olds, and another from Alcohol Concern, telling us we grossly underestimate our consumption when answering drink surveys. What Alcohol Concern didn’t say – probably because they hadn’t realised it – is that the study data behind their pronouncements show that the current safe drinking limits of 21 units/week for men and 14 for women – already known to be arbitrary – are also misleadingly low.

Totto Blotto

The planet may be heading for Gas Mark 10 – and the country half buried under snow – but that is not the only science anomaly in the news.

Yesterday, we had Pants telling us that not a drop of the demon drink should pass the lips of children. Where once we had Gin Lane, we now have middle class parents weaning tiny tots into blotto tots. Pants even managed to tot up some figures of his own: half a million of England’s 11-15 years olds had been drunk in the last four weeks, he wailed, before switching to Full Temperance Mode: childhood was being robbed of its ‘clear-eyed innocence’, only to be replaced with the ‘befuddled futility’ of ‘dirt cheap alcohol’.

Human Frailty

It has come to Dr No that, despite appearances, ethicists are in fact moles in disguise. He is forced to this unavoidable conclusion by their habits: they live in the dark, cannot see things too well, and have a nasty habit of throwing up another molehill just when you thought you had finally seen the last of them.

The latest molehill has been thrown up on Dr Grumble’s blog by a mole calling himself Enzyme. Seemingly unaware of the mountain of debate that has surrounded the death of Kerrie Wooltorton, Enzyme has been busy tunnelling through Dr G’s blog, ejecting familiar clods of support for bad law and dodgy practice.

Tami-Scam!

FED UP with flagging sales, BMJ editor Fearless Godlee has revamped the boring old British Medical Journal.

She has FIRED all those tedious academics who clog the Journal with silly science.

She has TEAMED UP with Channel 4 to conduct fearless probes in Big Pharma.

Assisted Suicide

The DPP, Keir Starmer QC, has recently aired his Interim Policy Guidance on prosecuting cases of assisted suicide. Although this interim guidance arose from concerns that those who travel abroad to a suicide clinic might place accompanying relatives at risk of prosecution under the Suicide Act, the guidance is general in scope, and is intended to apply in all circumstances where consideration of such a prosecution arises. The same guidance, therefore, applies in cases of alleged physician assisted suicide.

Delusions of Anonymity

There has of late been some sharp discourse over the health of the UK medical blogosphere. JD kicked off with Where are they?, featuring a man with a worried back peering anxiously downhill. Many lively comments followed. A few days later the irrepressible RP popped up with Club Culture – which provoked JD to accuse her of doing a “hatchet job” on him, which she denied (and DN is with RP on this one). Meanwhile over on the NHS Exposed blog, JL was re-activating the long running fear of official interference in blogging activity.

Resident Pathogens

“At that moment in time, a human error occurred…” intoned Count Rubin on yesterday’s Today programme. Uttered as it was with an air of omniscient mastery, it seemed some great catastrophe, like a jumbo jet crash, had occurred. The truth turned out to be rather more commonplace: a study had revealed that nearly one in ten prescriptions written by hospital doctors had been found to be wrong.

All Gas and Garters

There is, believe it or not, a group of doctors madder than the shrinks, and seedier than the pecker checkers; a bunch of clowns, jokers and no-hopers so weird that no one knows what they do or why they are there. Mostly, they don’t know either. Until, that is, one or more of them develops ideas above their station, and puts their arse over the parapet and launches an air biscuit. I refer, of course to that posse of disconnected and discontented doctors who call themselves public health physicians.