Doctor, doctor, I've got a hole in my head!
That's because I just shot you for being a jumped-up, annoying little fuckwit.
You know those green tracer bullet laser things that streak across the night sky during war time? (I'm a girl, I'm too busy embroidering kittens onto cushion covers to learn proper war terminology.) That is currently what my nose and throat look like. Vast amounts of snot and phlegm streaming out in a neverending arc of disgustingness. And various at-at-ats of bacterial infection around the tonsils. They've led to a prescription for utterly vile tasting penicillin, and a boredom-inspired Google search. Which accidentally revealed I have half as much penicillin as generally recommended.
The internet is a blessing but also a tool of mischief in the hands of… well, tools. Why on earth did I google my medication? Bored? Yeah. Trying to get more background on what I was taking? I guess, but I could just as well have googled Fleming, Florey and Chain. Was my subconscious attempting to check up on my GP? Christ almighty, I hope not. Because I have a medical degree, have spent several years as a junior skivvy slogging my guts out in random NHS hospitals to pay my dues and learn my craft in order to be deemed fit to dispense medical wisdom to others and am therefore qualified to judg… oh wait, no…
We're such an entitled society. Previous generations were raised with the expectation of a relatively short, relatively painful life but hey, at least they weren't disappointed. Then, at some point, middle class hippy liberals decided that Jocasta and Quentin should be encouraged to express their inner selves and be set free to achieve everything their hearts desired. And it's filtered through to most of the rest of us, to the point where Chanel and Abercrombie are raised from birth with the expectation that they will be a celebrity and drive a big car and mum, why is Simon Cowell saying I sing like a cat being strangled?
It's no bad thing that we're encouraged to expect more from ourselves, otherwise we'd all still be working down t'pit and in t'fact'ry. But I have a suspicion, based on no evidence whatsoever, that one of the things that's driving our society out of the doctor's surgery and into the arms of the dowsers and crystal healers is our belief in our innate specialness. A GP has a queue of people, is usually running late and has ten minutes in which to see you. We don't like this. We don't like the cursory look down the throat, the quick check of symptoms and glazed expression while printing out the 15th prescription for antibiotics that morning. Damn you, we're worth more than that!
Bad Science touches on this phenomenon (thoroughly recommend the book; covers a lot of the same ground as the columns but with the space to be more even-handed) in the section on the placebo effect – a totally mindfucking thing, more things in heaven and earth etc etc. We respond better to 'treatment', even when that treatment is a non-active sugar pill, when there's been a lot of attention paid to us, when we feel we've been listened to. In short, when we've been made to feel a bit special.
The old attitude of accepting the authority of the white coat is long gone. And again, this is not altogether a bad thing. But when I'm in the vicinity of a ticking nuclear device, I want the Nobel-winning scientist to come and defuse it and I don't care how rude he is to me. And when I'm hugging my neck and begging for relief, I want to see the dude with the training who knows where the serious painkillers are. I really don't care that he can't spend half an hour with me and isn't fascinated by my problems, he knows stuff that I don't and I want him to help me. And I swear I only googled the tablets from idle curiousity, and I'm assuming I have five days' worth of penicillin rather than ten because that's what the doctor meant when he said "let's see how you get on with that".