MIND AND MATTER
" What is Mind ?—No Matter. What is Matter ?—Never Mind."
The advisability of appointing a resident doctor at the County Hospital is at present a subject for local debate, the financial side of the question being the main issue. Indeed, when doctors are discussed by laymen, finance usually assumes prominence. Doctors' fees are one of the world's stock jokes, like mother-in-laws, which age cannot' wither (the. jokes, nob the ladies), although convalescents declare there is little that is humorous in some of the bills rendered. Strangely enough, accompanying the popular,, notion that doctors' bills are excessive, is the recognition that the medical profession is not only noble in itself, but that doctors are usually gentlemen deserving the confidence and trust reposed in them. Gentlemen are never avaricious, apd it is difficult to credit that doctors' bills, generally, are heavier than is just, especially when one considers the amount of capital and effort sunk in the initial stages of a medical man's education and career, the irregular hours, and , "the, often, disagreeable dutiescT-The real fact is the doctors' charges are not too heavy, but many of their patients' purses are too light. As an Irish writer once declared, " the key of the difficulty is in th© pockets." In ordinary times, patients manage to live within their incomes, if somewhat crowded for space; but a serious illness, with its resultant expenses, upsets their financial equilibrium, and they say in their haste that all doctors are grasping.
Coupled wjfch this accusation is often an inferejßeeioHncompetency. Talk is rife abou£ doctors burying their mistakes, and a popular verse of long ago used to read:
Our doctor is dead. Ah, well, dry ■your tears.
Death's sad, but what ase to resent
it: For if he had lived for another few years There'd be none of us here to lament it.
Again, we have all heard of the undertaker who. diffident as to naming hie occupation, used to declare to his social acau'kintances that he was following the medicsoTiProfession, Nor do ' wck"'* people , always believe that there is safety in numbers where doctors are concerned, and some laymen have trepidation because their medical advisers do not use plain English when writing—if " writing "is an appropriate word—prescriptions. This fear of the unknown was greater in days gone by, for another old verse declares:
The doctors talk Latin, 'tis said, When they meet in the sick room. Oh. why ! They think that the language that's dead Suits the man that is going to die. On the other hand, some patients would hot credit a physician with the possession of much skill were he to do everything in a manner \mderstanded of the people. Truly, a doctor's task is not easy.
■If invalids imagine that where medical men's accounts are concerned, the creditor accents the first syllable of the word patient, physicians, with equal justice, might declare that too many of their debtors wish to So the same with the wdrd doctor. Experience comoels medical men to be. \vvary of him .that hath bitt-is to part, and some;: interesting stories cquld be told of methode! , used to check these too thrifty. The honours; however, are not always with the profession, as was instenced when a man with a cold stopped a busy doctor in the street and asked what a man with a cold ought to do to get relief. Indignant at the attempt to obtain free advice, the doctor said: "Such a man, my friend, should consult a good- physician." "Thanks, my friend. I will," was the reply. Even when doctors go out of their way to give gratuitous counsel, the- result is not always encouraging. The mostquoted instance, perhaps, is that of the medical man ,who entered a railway carriage,, where a labourer was smoking his pipe. The tobacco was strong, and the smok,e got into the doctor's eyes and throat.; Touching the "son of toil on , tlie shoulder, he quietly remarked. " You will pardon me, but I am a medical man, and my 20 years' experience "'has taught me that all the bad oases of: cancer of'the tongue came from smoking bad tobacco." "Well," said the labourer, removing liis pipe, and looking- straight into the other's eves, " ray, '40 .years' experience has taufrht me that all the bad cases of black eves and broken noses come from interfering with other people's business." Incidentally, chemists are said by ~.so.me to be able to give doctoi's a long "start in the way of costs, and many who have taken a prescription to be made up will sympathise, with the .woman on a similar errand who. when handed the mixture; asked what she had to pay. "Ten and sixpence for the medicine, a shilling for the bottle, and ..." "Charge for the cork and let me.know the worst," interrupted the customer.
To avoid the reproach oi' being nothing but A writer-up of ill-considered trifling, I will end on a more serious note. When all is said and done, neither doctor nor chemist is much to blame. Few of either class die really wealthy. The , system is at fault, and great changes are inevitable.. It is obviously unjust that- a man, after suffering a grievous illness, should be burdened by i debt occasioned by such ma.la.dv. Health restoration-must be made more df. a public: charge, in the same war as the common purse provides nrotection and facilities in'"other directions. This , , is, of course,-ho'new proposal, but iintil the doctors co-operate there is little' .chance of progress being mado. This j$ the real grievance the community ihjay have. Not that their fees are excessive, but that they uphold a system of individual payment by those who have had the misfortune to be afflicted in health is what gives birth to nUich of the feeling against the medical orofession.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9606, 10 May 1919
MIND AND MATTER Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9606, 10 May 1919
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