Every one of us at some point will have been subjected to an unsolicited scolding from our doctor on the topic of our disgraceful behavior regarding what they call preventable disease. These monologues include the usual suspects such as drinking, smoking, eating wrong, no exercise and fatness. The tone of the lecture is invariably condescending and admonishing and could even include finger-wagging and exasperated sighing on the medics part.
The point of it all is that regardless of what we are complaining of today, we are utterly at fault for it, as for years we smoked and drank like mad, what the fuck did we expect? Implicit too of course is the idea that the white coats themselves never behave in such a reprehensible manner. Oh no! The medical community is chaste, moderate and good living and is therefore on the high moral ground when dealing with the great unwashed. They are immune to human desire and weakness as they lord it over the rest of us. But thanks to senior registrar in occupational medicine Dr Anthony O’Keeffe today, we now know different.
Take the saintly hospital consultant for example. This particular breed see themselves as loftier than most and demand a financial reward commiserate with their assumed image. These are the lads and lassies most likely to give you a full broadside on your, ahem, lifestyle. Yet it seems they are no saints themselves when it comes to the hooch. “Hospital consultants drink alcohol more frequently than trainees,” the article from the Indo tells us. “Senior registrar in occupational medicine Dr Anthony O’Keeffe, who surveyed more than 3,000 doctors, found that on a typical drinking occasion a consultant has 2.8 units – more than two glasses of wine or a pint and a half.” And there was you thinking that not a drop of the ‘devil’s milk’ passed their lips.
But no! “There was a significantly higher prevalence of drinking multiple times per week among consultants compared to trainees,” they tell us. Fuck me. Are these lads on the ran-tan or what? But surely they are working off all that booze the next day with plenty of the strenuous exercise the sort they recommend to the rest of us mere mortals? Not so, we hear. “Overall, hospital doctors were found to have less than the recommended levels of physical activity. Some 25pc of the whole group were inactive and just under 20pc exceeded the minimum public health recommendations of at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity five days a week. As many as 57pc were minimally active.” Good Lord! If they keep that up we’ll have an epidemic of obese lethargic doctors.
But at least they hate tobacco, right? Well, not exactly. You see, “The rate of smoking was low, but 9.1pc still lit up, despite the warnings.” So one in ten of the medical finger wagers you might encounter, like to have a quiet puff on a fag, well away from prying eyes. They may even have told the good Dr Anthony O’Keeffe a few mis-truths. Perhaps, as they assume we all do, they halved their actual tobacco consumption figures for the purposes of answering a direct question politically correctly. Maybe they said they had two and half glasses of wine when they know they downed the whole bottle, or even two, before bedtime? Self deception is a human failing after all.
Maybe too they fear being exposed as a smoker, with all that might entail for a medical career. In light of that, being condemned for not taking enough exercise is a piece of piss. Not too long ago there was a report on doctors here self-medicating. Well, if you have a cabinet full of potions and pills that make you feel good then why not? Dr O’Keeffe didn’t explore this obvious one in his research but it has to be a no-brainer. I mean, how do you think the average doctor is able to deal with the mind-numbing stuff they have to deal with every day. Personally if I were one of them, I’d climb into the medicine cabinet and hide out with the feel-good stuff.
But rather than be surprised and appalled by this report, I am in fact heartened by it. I like to think the doctor I am dealing with is human. I like to know that he/she took and still takes risks in their lives. I like to hear they suffer from the same human frailty I do. I want to know they can be mad bastards on their time off because only by being so can they have true empathy for others when on duty. Only then can they understand the way the rest of us live and why. Critically, only then can they help us with whatever ails us because they’ll know fairly instinctively what it is. It may not be politically correct but human doctors are the way forward.
Physician, please don’t cure thyself!