I took a sickie the other day. Nothing serious, but when you’re in the line of fire you get burned now and then. Patients always respond the same. They may say, half-surprised half-joking: “I didn’t know doctors could get sick.”
I can kind of see the humour of a sick doctor, but unfortunately finishing medical school doesn’t make us immune. Yes, I had my flu shot this year. No, I didn’t write a doctor’s certificate for myself. I also don’t have a secret cure that prevents me from falling ill.
Have a look at the headlines in the news this week, and you will be forgiven for thinking that medical science can cure anything:
“Implantable device ‘lowers blood pressure’ through electrical brain pulses”
“Duchenne muscular dystrophy may be treated with erectile dysfunction drug”
“DNA used to build tool that may literally shine light on cancer”
“3D-printer hearts ‘in 10 years’”
“Immunotherapy may work in cancers: study”
Hope vs false expectations
Health news is usually positive, which is great as most other news is depressing. News about scientific discoveries and new medical treatments gives us hope. Hope that one day, we may be able to live without suffering. But it also creates false expectations.
I would like to see more headlines that reflect reality, like:
“Doctors often don’t know cause of illness”
“Lifestyle just as important as medical treatment”
“Many diseases still without cure”
“If you eat healthy you probably don’t need supplements”
“Doctors get sick too”
Writer and philosopher Alain de Botton wants the news to take on new roles. I think he’s got a point. He warns about our appetite for the latest news: “We constantly want a new update on things and it’s become very hard to talk to ourselves… the news is from outside and any of that quieter news that bubbles up from within is being squashed by endless stories.”
The news often only tells part of the story and this may cause anxiety. It would be good if the news could educate us a bit more and help us to put things into context.