It’s a strange world where anyone has any interest whatsoever in who is the UK’s Chief Medical Officer. But these days it’s a role which seems to be somewhere between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Governor of Wormwood Scrubs prison. These bastards have a lot of power.
The new one is called Professor Christopher Whitty CB FRCP FFPH FMedSci (born April 1966), and is a British physician and epidemiologist:
His early career was as an NHS doctor, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and as an epidemiologist and clinician in Africa and Asia working on infectious diseases, in particular malaria.
All sorts of nasty people have come out of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. And epidemiologists have had whole books derisively written about them by people like John Brignell.
So far, so bad.
However, malaria is a real parasitic (infectious?) disease. There are real epidemics of malaria. I wonder if Whitty, like the authors of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, believes that there is a tobacco epidemic. I also wonder whether he thinks there’s an obesity epidemic or an obesity crisis. If he believes either, he’ll be yet another ideologue in the line of Sally Davies, Liam Donaldson, and George Godber. We’ll find out soon enough. I’m not optimistic.
I think all professions get swept by fads and fashions. In music it was all big bands in the 1930s and 40s and much of the 50s, and then it became rock groups in the 60s and 70s and 80s, and now (as far as I can see) it seems to be sickly sweet boy bands.
It’s the same with medicine. In my childhood in the 1950s, doctors were Mechanics. Most of them had served in one war or other, and they were good at patching up people who had been riddled with machine gun bullets. They would take your temperature and listen to your chest attentively with stethoscopes, and look for bullet holes. And then they’d recommend a week or two in bed, which was all they’d ever been able to offer the soldiers in their care.
Then, in the 1960s, doctors became Chemists. Everything could be cured with a tablet of some sort, and doctors started dishing out tablets to everyone. This change was perhaps a consequence of the discovery of DNA – the Chemical of Life – in the 1950s. We humans were all just chemical processes, and we required chemical cures. This was around the time when the pharmaceutical industry really took off. And a great many doctors became, in effect, salesmen of giant pharma companies. Some 95% of the world’s drug addicts are the creation of the Chemists and their vast array of drugs.
But then, in about 1990, the Moralists took over the medical profession. The moralists brought with them Lifestyle Medicine (another name for morality). If you got sick, it was your own fault – for smoking, drinking, eating, and screwing. The moralists preached Preventive Medicine. They believed that people brought their maladies upon themselves. They believed that if they could only reform their patients’ behaviour, they would stop coming. The Fairy Godmother of this new movement was Gro Harlem Brundtland, who combined the roles of doctor, politician, and director of the WHO. She also happened to be a climate alarmist. And she had a morbid fear of mobile phones.
To some extent, all these various movements coexist in the medical profession. The hospitals are full of Mechanics, and family doctor’s surgeries are filled with Chemists, and the upper echelons of the WHO and BMA and RCP are full of finger-wagging Moralists.
Seen this way, the reigning medical paradigm changes every 30 years or so. And so we should expect the Moralists to soon be superseded by whatever next medical fashion will emerge.
It may be that the medical profession is always learning from its successive disastrous mistakes, and each new paradigm is a reaction to some previous catastrophe. The Mechanics were in many ways a reaction to their predecessors, the Eugenicists (who wanted to exterminate everybody). But the Mechanics were useless in the peaceful post-war world, in which people were afflicted more by anxiety than by armaments. So in came the Chemists with their arsenal of psychotropic drugs. And when 30 years later we’d all become drug addicts, the Moralists arrived to tell us that we Only Had Only Ourselves To Blame for our misfortunes.
So what was the new catastrophe that the Moralists caused, and which their successors must struggle to rectify?
They are the authors of our modern pandemonium. They are frightened of everything. They exaggerate every threat. They see epidemics where there are none. And they’ve scared the wits out of everybody.
The wartime Mechanics didn’t need to manufacture phantom terrors: they lived through the reality of it every day. They weren’t trying to extend human longevity to 90+ years: they were just trying to help a man with an arm and a leg blown off to survive for another week or two.
By comparison, all our modern threats are phantoms. Smoking, Tobacco smoke. Alcohol. Drug addiction. Obesity. Meat. Sugar. Salt. They’ve all been conjured out of thin air. They’re all imaginary menaces. And while the Moralists have been fighting these imaginary enemies, the real ones have probably been creeping up on us unnoticed.
It’ll probably take another real global epidemic (of Ebola or something) to drive out the Moralists. There’s going to be no blaming the patients for their own ills when they arrive in their droves with blood dripping out of every orifice.
Either that, or there’ll be a complete loss of confidence in our current moralistic, bullying, scaremongering medical profession.
The sooner they’re gone, the better.