Simon Clark has the following response by a retired doctor to Brian Monteith’s assertion that, in the light of the BMA’s retraction of the claim that secondhand smoke in cars is 23 times more toxic than in bars, people can no longer trust the medical profession.
As a former GP, I find the generalization that one cannot trust doctors is particularly worrying. It may sell papers, but it does terrible damage to the doctor-patient relationship which HAS to be based on real trust…
Whilst the BMA’s pronouncement is based on erroneous data, the sentiment behind the health prevention message is sound.
So it’s okay to lie in a “noble cause” – the noble cause, in this case, being that of getting smokers to quit smoking. Perhaps this why many people have lost trust in the medical profession: they have come to believe they are being lied to.
But actually, as a smoker, you don’t have to believe that doctors are lying to you to fear and distrust them. There is, after all, a war being conducted on smokers these days, that has seen them evicted from their pubs and cafes and restaurants, and sometimes evicted from their homes, and fired from their jobs, and even refused medical treatment. Who have been the leaders and standard-bearers of this war? Why, the medical profession. It was Sir Charles George – a doctor -, then president of the BMA, who called on the government to ban smoking in public places in November 2004. It was Sir Liam Donaldson – a doctor – who as Chief Medical Officer demanded in 2006 that the proposed UK smoking ban have no exemptions. It was Gro Harlem Brundtland – a doctor – who pushed through the WHO’s antismoking edicts. It was Sir George Godber – a doctor – who told the UN in 1975 that they should “foster an atmosphere where it was perceived that active smokers would injure those around them, especially their family and infants or young children who would be exposed involuntarily to the smoke in the air.” There is a veritable army of doctors who have been pushing and pushing and pushing to firstly make smoking socially unacceptable, and then to make it illegal. But for these doctors, it is very unlikely that any government anywhere would have launched campaigns against smoking, or banned smoking.
So smokers know perfectly well that the people who have been orchestrating the mounting campaign of demonisation and exclusion against them have been… doctors.
In such circumstances, how can any smoker place trust in any doctor, knowing that they are all members of a BMA or similar organisation whose senior members wish to eradicate smoking (and therefore smokers) from society? How can smokers present themselves before doctors who will quite likely tell them that smoking is the cause of their malady, whatever it is, and if they wish to be cured they must stop smoking? How can any smoker cheerfully make an appointment with any doctor, after having been subjected for years to an incessant hail of abuse and discrimination that has been advanced and promoted all over the world by the medical profession?
Or, to put it another way, if smokers wish to see doctors who do not share the antismoking obsessions of their senior spokespersons in the BMA, how are they to know which ones to go to, and which ones to avoid? For while the mass of doctors continue to remain members of the BMA, and the RCP, and other medical associations, surely this indicates that they assent to the increasingly strident and vindictive antismoking campaigns that are being conducted in their name? But I’ve not heard of any mass resignations by doctors from any of these medical organisations. And in fact I’ve heard precious few of them voice any dissent at all.
The consultant oncologist who spoke on Radio 5 last week, denying that the BMA spoke for her (“No they do not!” she said) was a rare example of such a dissenting voice. But why was it that she had to phone up a talk radio show to express her dissent? Was that the only way she could get her voice heard? Was she the only doctor in Britain who felt that way?
I don’t think that the “23 times” fiasco is the cause of growing distrust of doctors. It just adds to an existing distrust. It’s not the only lie they’ve told, after all. There are far greater lies: the lie that passive smoking poses a health threat being just one (110 studies show it doesn’t). Distrust of doctors among smokers began when the medical profession declared war on them, and started demanding that smoking be banned everywhere. And in the UK, that was over five years ago.
In my own case, I haven’t been to a doctor for over five years. I used to be a regular visitor (if only for prescription sleeping tablets). Once the smoking ban came in, and I began to see doctors as agents of an antismoking bully state, peddling nicotine patches and counselling, I wanted to have as little as possible to do with them. I’ll only go to any doctor now in an extreme emergency. And if I do, I won’t be too surprised if I am turned away because I am a smoker.
And I’m quite sure that there are plenty of other smokers who feel exactly the same way.
When I write about the effects of the smoking ban, I very often highlight the immense social damage that I believe it has done, in terms of shattered communities and broken friendships (never mind all the closed or empty pubs and clubs which merely represent the visible tip of the iceberg of that social disaster). But it is necessarily the case that there is another set of relationships – those between doctors and patients – which have suffered in exactly the same way.
But in the case of doctors, they ultimately have only themselves to blame for this damage. Because it was they who called for these smoking bans, and they who set out to ‘denormalise’ smoking, and they who created our divided society.
P.S. The Crier in the Wilderness seeks a Bill of Attainder against members of the BMA Council.