Strike Off All The Non-Practising Doctors

I was once a small boy, but I no longer call myself that.

For years I’ve been mulling over what to do about the medical profession. Or at least the high ranks of the medical profession. People like Sally Davies, the current Chief Medical Officer for England. Or Sir Liam Donaldson, her predecessor in the post. Or Sir George Godber, another predecessor. Or Margaret Chan, until recently Director-General of the World Health Organization. Or the infamous Sir Richard Doll. Or indeed my only personal bête noire, Dr W.

They’re all antismoking busybodies, of course. And health obsessives.

But above all, they’re people who feel perfectly entitled to tell other people how to live their lives, and dictate what they can and can’t eat, drink, smoke, or sit on. And not only do they think that everyone should be informed of their prescriptions, but that these prescriptions should be enshrined in law.

As I see it, they have made a religion of health. And they are trying to make their religion as compulsory for everybody as it was once compulsory for everyone to attend church. They have become the bishops and cardinals of a new church. They issue a stream of directives indistinguishable from papal bulls.

It is of course not very surprising if doctors should make an idol of health. For health is the central concern of the medical profession, much like justice is the central concern of the practice of law, or boats the central concern of boatbuilders.

But just because they think that health is the only thing that really matters, why should the rest of us be obliged to do so too. What about justice? And what about boats?

I can’t help but think that these medics have strayed outside the borders of their profession. Their interest should really be restricted to the restoration of health to those who have become sick or injured. They should treat the sick, not the healthy. Their interest in the sick should end as soon as they have restored them to health, and discharged them from their hospitals. But these days a new species of busybody doctor will pursue their patients out of the hospitals, and follow them into their homes, and  there issue instructions to them to desist from drinking beer and smoking tobacco and eating meat and sitting around on sofas.

I think that when doctors become legislators, they have ceased to be doctors. They have ceased to practise medicine. They have ceased to care for the sick. They have left their profession, and embarked on another.

If a soldier or sailor leaves the military, should he be entitled to continue to call himself colonel or major or general or admiral? If a policeman leaves the police, should he be entitled to continue to call himself constable or superintendent or detective-inspector? If a mayor steps down from his office, or a member of parliament vacates his seat, should the one be entitled to carry on calling himself mayor, and the other one an MP? If I marry a woman, and then divorce her, am I perfectly entitled to carry on calling myself her husband even after we have become divorced?

Surely when you leave the military you become an ex-serviceman? And when you divorce you become an ex-husband or an ex-wife? Isn’t anything else merely vanity?

I think that when doctors become legislators, and have ceased to practise medicine, they should no longer be entitled to call themselves doctors. They should renounce all the medical titles and qualifications that they have acquired during their service in the medical profession.

And if they will not renounce these titles and qualifications, then they should be forced to renounce them.

And so I recommend that all those doctors who have ceased to practise medicine, and who have entered upon new careers, should be struck off the medical register. They should no longer be entitled to call themselves doctors. And they should no longer be allowed to practise medicine, except if they re-qualify to practise it.

After all, if some soldier rises in the ranks of the army, and attains the rank of full colonel, and then leaves the army, then if he returns to the army, should he be allowed to rejoin as a full colonel? Surely he should begin again at the bottom, and work his way back up to the top? If he is a good soldier, he will rise rapidly. And if not, not. In his absence, the army is likely to have adopted weapons and tactics with which he is unfamiliar. His former skills may have become obsolate. What use is a cavalry officer in a tank battalion?

Sally Davies describes herself as Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies. But if she’s no longer teaching in a university, is she really entitled to call herself a professor? And since a Dame is the feminine version of a Knight, and a knight is a mounted warrior, then she should have lost that title when she last dismounted from her horse, and hung up her spurs.

And if she no longer practises medicine, she should not be described as a doctor either, as she is in Wikipedia.

The only title to which she is really entitled would seem to be Chief Medical Officer, and nothing else at all.

We should strip away all these redundant titles. We should describe people for what they are, not what they once were.

If nothing else, it would save a lot of ink.

About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to Strike Off All The Non-Practising Doctors

  1. Rose says:

    We should strip away all these redundant titles. We should describe people for what they are, not what they once were

    I disagree, specific qualifications show that they have some knowledge in that area and they are entitled to the views. But once they have stopped practicing, their knowledge will rapidly become out of date and anything new will have been received secondhand, which should be taken into consideration when they express those views.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    Of relevance:

    Inside the home of Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer

    Health expert on her worries about people’s lack of exercise, alcohol consumption and growing resistance to antibiotics

  3. John Watson says:

    I think people are in general responsible enough to make their own decisions regarding exercise, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption and this is how it should be, where resistance to antibiotics is concerned Doctors are over prescribing them and directly causing this health issue, they know this, so perhaps in law, if their patient dies as a result of resistance to antibiotics, they should be prosecuted for Manslaughter or at the very least struck off the medical register.

  4. Doctor is a title and should be kept as such. I see what you’re trying to say, however, if they quit practising, they ought to no longer be called physicians. Had a case here in my home town in Germany with a bloke who used to be a GP, then quit this to practise natural medicine in which he no longer was called a physician but, well, a natural practitioner (“Heilpraktiker”, literally “healing practitioner”), and has now taken over a recently vacated surgery, and resumed being called a GP. Throughout it, however, and with all right, he kept his title as a doctor of medicine. Though in all fairness, he’s got more right to be called a physician whilst practising alternative medicine than any of those you’ve addressed here on your blog.

  5. Buck Moody says:

    While I’m certainly no military man, my understanding of the British army at least is that, once one has achieved the rank of Major or above, it may be retained after retiring. Hence, all the indignant letters from Tunbridge Wells.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I know that is the case. I’m just beginning to wonder if it ought to be the case.

    • nisakiman says:

      Yes, my father was a Lt. Col. in the REME, and although when he retired he didn’t himself continue to use the title (he was a modest man), all official communication that was addressed to him continued to use the ‘Lt Col’ designation until he died at 96.

  6. Lepercolonist says:

    I see your point, Frank. People who quit smoking are now ex-smokers or former smokers, not smokers. Unlike alcoholics, once you quit smoking that is the end of referring yourself as a smoker.

  7. Clint says:

    Dare I say there is a conflation of descriptive between occupational title (Doctor, Physician shortened to ‘Dr’) and academic title (PhD, shortened to ‘Dr’). The distinction seems more than clear. The undergraduate medical/surgical double bachelor (equivalent to an ‘MD’ elsewhere) denotes the minimum qualifications required to be registered as a medical practitioner. On the other hand, the academic doctorate is a signal of highest academic achievement (reflecting a currency whose value is exclusively dependent upon the perceived credibility of the awarding institution). The PhD demonstrates an ability to conduct independent research, to supervise research and to have made an original contribution to the field.

    When a doctor ceases practising medicine and relinquishes registration, as they are no longer practising they could cease to be addressed occupationally as ‘doctor’. Those doctors that cease practising their arcane arts and move from practising in a bubble of self-corruption (self-delusion) to the political or administrative bubble of absolute self-corruption (total self-delusion) have as Frank suggested, no right to describe themselves as doctors. What they appear to require as much as they demand is a more authoritarian title, one which liberates them from any pretence at relieving human distress and pain, while at the same time exonerating them from the appearance of diktat, and perhaps appropriately reflective of their hunger for power and rank. Chief Medical Officer works well enough, conflating care with diktat, like wrapping razor blades in marshmallow. In its way it appeared to have served (Doctor) Leonardo Conti, public medical administrator well enough, that is, until he brought matters to a final close for himself.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Good point about the academic origins. I think they’re actually “doctors of medicine” in the same way that some people are “doctors of philosophy.” Somehow, over time, the medical profession has arrogated the word “doctor” to itself, at least in the UK. The US usage of MD is more accurate. We need another word for them. And I can’t think of a better one than the name my father had for them: “Quacks.”

      Which would make Sally Davies “Chief Quack.” And the WHO the “World Quack Organisation.”

  8. Rose says:

    Oh, surely not –

    David Davis dismisses ‘dystopian’ Brexit theory as Brussels starts new Project Fear with cancer warning
    20 February 2018

    “Brussels has launched its own version of Project Fear by suggesting British workers will be at a higher risk of cancer as a result of Brexit.
    A European Commission briefing paper claims the UK could dilute health and safety laws in an attempt to “lower production costs”, which would result in “higher exposure to chemicals and carcinogens”.

    David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, is irritated by the false claims and will on Tuesday hit back at them by rubbishing the idea that post-Brexit Britain will be a “dystopian” world akin to the Mad Max films.”

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