Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Time for the Golf Course. (Doctors)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Time for the Golf Course. (Doctors)

Article excerpt

Maybe I'm paranoid, but I've noticed a profoundly anti-doctor sentiment gaining ground of late: not among the general public, which on the whole retains its respect for and trust in doctors (a fact borne out by all the surveys), but among the intelligentsia-literary folk, journalists and so on. Perhaps because their own crafts are held in such low public esteem, they believe that doctors should be taken down a peg or two.

There are two main charges against doctors, particularly hospital consultants: the first that they are on the golf course most of the time, and the second that they are making a fortune from their private practices. When you come to think of it, these two complaints are not strictly compatible. Doctors are often quite clever people, but even they have not mastered the art of being in two places at once, and the only way of making money out of private practice is to work very hard at it. Doctors are not paid for a birdie three or an eagle two.

The primordial antagonism towards doctors on the part of journalists and the literati is not fully rational: it is a little like anti-Semitism. Just as Jews, to the anti-Semite, are simultaneously capitalist plutocrats and communist agitators, so doctors are incredibly lazy but ferociously avaricious. The golf course is to anti-doctor sentiment what ritual murder is to the anti-Semite: a myth to keep a hatred warm.

I am far from suggesting that all doctors are exemplary: how could any body of 100,000 men and women (the number in Britain) be that? But, taken all in all, doctors as a group are better than many groups of comparable size. …

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