One of the funny things about my hobby is that people you previously considered to be mates and colleagues can cheerfully denounce you as a media whore. Until today I could parry that accusation by suggesting – tenuously mind you – that the whole Bad Science project represents some kind of moral crusade. As of today that excuse no longer holds water.
At 11:00pm on Radio 4 you can share in my dubious and rather poorly thought-through views on infidelity.
How did it come to this?
I’m also on You and Yours talking about mobile phone stalkers at midday. In fact, I was on Greek telly talking about stalkers yesterday. Greek telly. They offered me a cheque when they left. This is completely out of control. I feel dirty.
You can “listen again” until next Friday:
Anyway, now I come to think of it, there is one bit of this pre-recorded Radio 4 thing tonight which I’m kind of intrigued to see if they cut, because I think it speaks to the conflicted media whore problem. When I arrived, the presenter had no idea I was a doctor: I was surprised, and I’d just bombed over on my bike from clinic, but in many ways I was pleased, because I deliberately don’t write as “Dr Ben Goldacre”, I’ve never thought it was very relevant, and it somehow feels a bit crass to trade on some supposed authority or rep. It is possible that I’m just a bit weird about this issue. So.
The first piece in the show was a genuinely moving essay – and you know I wouldn’t say that very often – from someone my age who’d been screened, and had discovered she was going to get Huntington’s Chorea. I think because she was my age, and went to Cambridge, and reminded me a lot of a lot of some of my friends, and was clearly a really solid decent person, I have to say I was a bit choked. After the essay, there’s a discussion, and the host turned to me, and said: “as a doctor, you must encounter this kind of thing all the time, what would your advice be in the surgery?”
Now, I can’t fully explain why, and I would hope I wouldn’t need to, but I’ve always thought there’s something unbelievably nauseating and inappropriate about TV doctors, charging around making phony normative pronouncements on peoples’ relationships with their sister, or whether their mattress is bad for them, or whether they should have a breast cancer screen, or the right way to die, or any of that stuff, but suddenly, in that studio, I found myself in a situation where I was being invited and expected and cornered into fulfilling that role myself.
So stop me if I’m boring you, but this precipitated an absolutely colossal internal freak out – I was a bit on the hoof as I was kind of lost in my own thoughts about the very human story I’d just heard from the person I was sitting next to – and I just found myself blurting out something like “look, I have to say, I’ve always thought that people who talk like that about their work as doctors are really sick-making, so, yes, I am sorry, I didn’t know you were after that kind of thing, I can only really speak for myself, as a, umm, person.”
I’m thinking this was not the kind of insightful commentary they were looking for.
Now I freely confess, you could argue, this was a slightly melodramatic and egocentric response. But what else was I going to do? I’d rather slam my cock in the door than be a media doctor who talks about what he gets up to in the consulting room, and more than that, I feel very strongly that they are a corrosive and unhelpful force for the perception of doctors as a whole and are in so many ways a “bad thing” (it’s a long argument). There was genuinely no other way to work my way out of this uniquely strange corner. I could have just given a “speaking only for myself” type answer (which I had to do later, anyway, when he doggedly tried for a second time to get me to give an “as a doctor…” answer), I could have ignored what he’d said, rambled into something else, but I don’t know, I just couldn’t think about anything other than disassociating myself from the grim media archetype of “doctorly arse on sofa”. Am I so wrong?
Anyway, I’ll be interested to see if they cut that bit. The rest of the show is much more interesting than this trivial personal quandary.