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June 2010

Bad News for Baby

‘The only function of public health,’ JK Galbraith might have said, ‘is to make cranial osteopathy look respectable.’

Such a thought occurred to Dr No as that tiresome quango, the National Institute for Health, Clinical and Anything Else Anybody Will Pay Us For Excellence dumped not one but two unwelcome coils of public health ‘guidance’ on an unsuspecting public this week. One was old hat – salt and saturated fat are bad for you, flogged into new life in NICE’s inimitable way (‘Tens of thousands of lives could be saved, and millions of people spared the suffering of living with the effects of heart disease and stroke, simply by producing healthier food says new NICE guidance’). The other was something altogether different. Pregnant women who smoke, NICE declared, can’t be trusted to tell the truth, and so the truth must be forced out of them, if necessary by coercion:

Howard's Way

Some time ago, the BBC ran a soap on the antics of ordinary yachting folk. Howards’ Way was, of course, pure video morphine, intended to induce coma and death in innocent Sunday evening viewers; and, in that strange way that fiction morphs into fact, we now have a new real-world version of Howard’s Way, where ordinary doctoring folk inject real morphine into real patients to induce real coma and death.

Dr No refers, of course, to the antics of one Dr Howard Martin, executioner-in-chief to those patients of his whom he deemed had failed his private Dignity Test. Fired up with ‘Christian Compassion’, the real Doc Martin shafted his patients with industrial volumes of lethal drugs in his zeal to assist their ‘passing over’. The fact that some of them were not terminally ill, and that others had not even been invited to consent, was neither here nor there. The Angel of the Lord had his work to do, and that was sufficient unto Doc Martin.

NICE but dim

Warning: post contains economics. Some readers may find themselves bored silly. In such cases, Dr No recommends taking a tea-break and returning to the post only when the sense of boredom has completely dissipated.

Economists are keen on a concept known as elasticity. There appear, from Dr No’s primitive researches on the matter, to be a disconcerting number of elasticities in economics. Naturally enough, economists dress all these elasticities up in hieroglyphics, but inspected through the lens of common-sense, economics stands revealed as a study of rubber bands, albeit rubber bands that drive economic activity, but rubber bands nonetheless.

NICE trip on the wagon

Another voice has been added to the hue and cry for a minimum price for alcohol. Within days of Rubber Duck stepping down from his CMO post, the better to quack his favourite message, NICE, the National Institute for Health, Clinical and Anything Else Anybody Will Pay Us For Excellence, has jumped on the wagon. Voluminous guidance, published earlier this week, recommends a raft of measures that, NICE says, will ‘significantly decrease alcohol consumption’ if implemented. A top tip for government is to make alcohol ‘less affordable by introducing a minimum price per unit’. There was much talk of growing tides of unassailable evidence. Dr No began to fear he was now King Canute, alone on the beach, his once half full glass now half empty. Until, that is, he heard an interview on the Today programme. Suddenly the glass was half full again.

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