If medicine were like politics we’d all be selling snake oil

Oscar ToHeadshot barts crest

Staff writer



The patient sits in the GP practice awaiting their appointment. You walk in, and before even letting them say a word, you tell them they have cancer. You then immediately then tell them they need blood tests, an x-ray, CT scan, and an MRI. Finally, you begin telling them to take a plethora of chemotherapy drugs. Or, you add, they can just take a homeopathic snake oil pill. The patient sits flabbergasted at the information onslaught you have just given them. You hand them a piece of paper saying, ‘medicine: yes or no?’

Of course, this would be an utter travesty of a consultation suitable for the fabled halls of the GMC. No doctor would possibly have such bad manner, claiming a diagnosis that hasn’t even been investigated for and then try to prescribe treatment, especially not harmful treatment to a patient with no idea what they’re signing up to.

And yet, this seems to the exact thing that is happening right now with the EU referendum.

There are two kinds of people taking part in the EU referendum; those that are engaged and those that are completely and utterly apathetic. Considering that the outcome will affect the direction of the United Kingdom for decades to come, why do we find ourselves with a silent majority?

The referendum is only the tip of the political iceberg. In virtually all western democracies, voter turnout has nosedived over the past decade. This voter apathy has been driven by the fact that as political parties have chased the mythical centreground, becoming increasingly similar in the process, voters have decided that it is simply not worth the effort to vote anymore. Why act, when nothing changes, even if the decisions we have to make influence our entire livelihoods?

In a referendum, however, the stakes become different as both sides are required to mobilise their voters in order to secure victory. The EU is a vastly complicated thing that surveys frequently show the majority of the population knowing extremely little about how it actually functions. So, instead of debating these fine minutiae of product standards and human rights, politicians have decided to do what they’ve been doing for the past decade: producing soundbites.

These short clips, whilst easily stirring emotions, are much more useless at actually educating people that know little about the topic. The two overriding topics have as a result become a risk to people’s livelihoods on one side and dog whistle racism on the other. What these campaigns fundamentally lack is vision, as politics has become simply about pursuing focus groups that find out what people want from a limited range of options.

The EU referendum is an utterly needless event putting the entire EU at threat. The reason it has been proposed is to appease voters that are convinced that immigration is a problem when the reality is that it is simply being used as a scapegoat for the scandalous stagnation of wages and jobs for the majority of the population whilst business executives have seen their salaries balloon over the past 30 years.

This ability for politicians to avoid key issues is also prevalent in the junior doctor’s contract dispute. Except this time, it isn’t to avoid a problem but instead to push their own agenda. The contract dispute is tentatively about a 7 day NHS, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Offering elective services during the weekend have already been shown in data to be utterly unnecessary due to low demand for these services. What is instead happening is an attempt to undermine workers rights, an issue extending far beyond the medical profession.

Politicians are lobbied by firms to get their way and as a result, there are huge amounts of corporate sleaze as politicians are paid in clear conflicts of interest. For example, many former health secretaries have been promoted to lead health boards in large private companies. The fact that Jeremy Hunt has co-authored a book promoting privatisation of the NHS reveals his motives. The fact that Jeremy and his kind promote homeopathy are clear indicators of a lack of understanding of not only medicine, but a propensity to listen to savvy PR adverts rather than look at anything resembling a fact.

The entire junior contract dispute has fundamentally been a struggle on extremely shaky grounds. It is for this reason that it must be rejected in its entirety. If we let a government win on a bed of lies in this instance, what will they do next time? A dangerous precedent has been set, and we have an opportunity, a mission, to bring politics back into a reality grounded in the lives that we and thousands of other people experience everyday. But in order to do, we have to vote.

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