“Doctor, I’m normal. Can you help?”

Yes, I know patients don’t actually complain of being normal, but isn’t there sometimes a not so small voice in your head telling you that this is, effectively, what’s happening? Why, you wonder, is this person surprised that if they continue to wear tight shoes their corns will keep returning? And why, oh why, do they think it makes sense to ask you for advice rather than the local shoe shop assistant?

And why does the person who would drive round the house if she could get the car through the front door think you can do anything about her knee pain if she isn’t willing to eat less and walk more? It isn’t rocket science and it certainly doesn’t require a medical degree or even a medical check up to appreciate that eat, smoke and drink too much and do too little with your body and it will object. Oh and that changing the above will help.

But, just in case there really is  any adult out there for whom this is news, the UK government is now introducing ‘health MOTs’ or annual checks for all over 40s, well or otherwise, all with the noble aim of saving lives. Now it isn’t as though I’ve got anything against saving lives, especially through preventative measures. Far from it. I’m more than glad to be able to help people to choose a healthier old age for themselves. It’s just that, like health journalist John Naish, I wonder whether we’re turning normal human behaviour and normal stages of human development into medical conditions, and whom, if anyone, we-the government, the medical profession, society- serve by doing so.

I don’t know how well John Naish’s radio programme tonight will handle this important issue but it may be worth listening in.

BBC Radio 4: 9pm 30th March 2009

Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/ at 2100 hours GMT to Listen Live or anytime via the Listen Again service


  • Dr. Anoop C. Dhamangaonkar

    I am pretty pleased to read that the author has touched upon a very common happening in medical practice.I think everyone in todays educated world is aware of the risk factors mentioned above but when the same advice comes from the horse’s mouth (the doctor’s advice)with a possibility of an adverse severe outcome,the patient definitely a bit closer to accepting and implementing the advice. The other point that I think in day-to-day practice is that whatever advice comes for free, is not valued but when someone pays for the same, however little it may be,the advice is taken better.For instance, how many times has a person listened to one’s mom advising not to have too much of rice or junk food? very rarely.But when a dietician dictates the same, look at the outcome. The act of approaching the doctor and paying the professional charges commits the patient to a result-oriented conversation and thats what make sthe difference!
    The point of people leading a healthy old-age is also mentioned well and should not be overinvestigated. Most of the complaints are psychosomatic in nature, may it be listlessness, weakness, decreased sleep or diffuse aches.What these illnesses need most of the times is ‘only a patient hearing’ to what the patient wants to say. This alone ‘cures’ most of the complaints since these complaints are less ‘organic’ but more ‘social’ in origin.Hence, this ‘patient hearing’ will go a long way in giving the aged a ‘healthier old age’!

  • Karen Newby

    Oh I love this!! I’m a nurse, and the looks I get, mostly glazed over, when I reply to requests to suggest a “product”, cream, lotion, potion, whatever, to apply to a graze or a scratch, that there is no need, as healing will happen regardless…you’d think I was speaking in tongues. Whatever has happened to common sense? Oh yes, I forgot, it’s not on the national curriculum.