I really thought this was a simple ‘obviously’ until I sat and thought of it too long. Now I’m not so sure.
Physician, heal thyself.
Do they? I mean, I bet there’s some self medication going on. But then, they’ll have to refer themselves to a specialist every now and then. Psychoanalysts are required to be in constant therapy themselves, to ensure they are strong enough to handle the projected neuroses of their patients, but what about doctors?
Doctors are weird, as far as I can tell. They study for years, yet seem to spend most of their time guessing. The number of treatments that seem to be on the basis of ‘try this pill, if it goes away, it’s probably that’ or even just ‘try this, and go away, if it gets worse, come back’.
I occasionally wonder if there’s a grand placebo conspiracy. I think I heard once that most of the time doctors are just tricking patients into resting and not worrying. That works ninety percent of the time.
So do doctors need to trick themselves into resting and not worrying? Or do they already possess the extreme confidence to be ina permanent state of relaxed healthy bliss?
I guess the hypochondriacs get weeded out by the seven years of intense study. You find out about so many things wrong with the body that you’d end up missing too much study through fretting. So the doctors that make it must be fairly hardcore.
And they play with dead bodies, so their hygiene standards should be pretty high. (Funnily enough, this isn’t true, according to one study doctors are much more likely to fail to wash their hands properly whilst moving around the hospital than the other members of staff).
Then there’s the clichéd arrogance. Doctors who think they are gods. I’ve mostly heard this one from nurses. I don’t know if it’s true, but for those where it is, I somehow doubt they’d submit to the will of another doctordeity. It’s hard to picture yahweh bowing to allah (or vice versa), and in principle, they are roughly the same god. (Of course, doctors, unlike deities, are interpretable, visible and probably actually exist in a real and knowable sense, so it’s a faulty comparison).
Doctors must get ill sometimes. And every now and then they’ll need someone to look at the bits they can’t reach. Doctors apart from GPs tend to specialise, so they don’t know everything (and GPs are even more likely to not have the expertise).
But then, self medication probably sees off a lot, and I’m willing to bet that something has to get pretty damn serious to warrant a trip to another doctor.
Doctors probably hang out with lots of doctors. Specialist vocabulary breeds ‘in’ groups. So they probably do go to the doctors, but more for social calls.
And if they’re really worried I’d half expect ‘well, I’ve got this patient….’
Illustration by Lucy.