Tuesday 10 July 2007

Doctors not Special

Many media commentators have expressed their shock that those arrested for the recent attacks in Britain were doctors. Had these men been engineers, no-one would have raised an eyebrow. But doctors! Why do people still allow their critical faculties to be subdued by the old fallacy that doctors are a higher form of human being?

How on earth, people have asked, could doctors perpetrate these barbaric crimes? The answer of course is simple: because they are human. The medical profession gladly competed to get into Hitler's vile T4 program, which was set up to purify their race by murdering thousands of disabled people, many of them children. That they had studied medicine and professed a desire to heal gave them no immunity from the loathsome, perverse ideas that drove the Nazis.

We should remember that there are many reasons why people become doctors: the reward of healing people, the joy of applying an interesting science, family encouragement or even pressure, and, as often as not, because it pays well.

In the past, doctors (with lawyers and the clergy) were part of a social elite by virtue of their education and their specialist knowledge in an age when these were rare. Nowadays, thankfully, a huge swathe of the population have access to higher education. The doctor no longer seems so special. Doctors are not now seen as infallible. Indeed, better outcomes nowadays are achieved when the doctor treats the patient as an equal.

The attacks in Britain show us that a whiff of superiority still hangs over medicine. The notion that doctors are different is elitist and simply wrong, and it should not be indulged.

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