The Medicalisation of Society

Time for Irish society to turn the spotlight on the doctors

Why is psychiatry a branch of medicine?

I ask that question in all sincerity, and not simply because I have concerns about our society today, but because I’d like an answer.

Is emotional hurt properly the province of doctors?

For generations, the medical profession in a largely uneducated society supplied us with  men and women of authority, and for generations, when people went to their doctors, they accepted their word without question — even when the word of those men and women sometimes sent them to their death.

In darker times, the word of a general practitioner was enough to consign a person to a lunatic asylum for the remainder of their natural days, and many decent people were so imprisoned while the family and the doctor split the inheritance between them.

This is the position doctors occupied in Irish society and perhaps it’s about time they were placed under the same spotlight that has exposed the other passport people.

Who am I talking about?

The passport people.  The ones you used to ask for a signature on your passport application.  The people regarded as upstanding, dependable citizens.  Priests.  Bank managers.  Policemen.

The discredited people.

Today, unlike in Britain, our nearest neighbour, Irish doctors still garner obscene amounts of money from the practice of medicine.  Publicly-funded consultants are paid twice as much as their colleagues in the USA, and are also free to supplement this money by practising privately.  Family doctors charge fifty or sixty euros per five-minute visit, and pocket most of this money as cash.

The medical profession in Ireland is a gigantic, money-grabbing, tax-avoiding scam.

Furthermore, because our society is so obsequious, these people have managed to avoid scrutiny and have managed to place themselves above question, even though taxpayers’ money has paid for their training.  Some of them have such a sense of entitlement, they would seek to sneer at us as they demand our money.

Isn’t it about time we called their bluff, just as we question the politicians, the bankers, the lawyers and the priests?

To return to the point of the post: why are people approaching doctors because they feel depressed?

If you lose your job, you’ll feel depressed.  It’s normal.  You don’t need pills.  You need money.

If your relationship breaks up, you’re going to be depressed.  It’s normal and predictable.  You don’t need a doctor.  you need friends.

If somebody dies, you need no drugs and no doctor.  You need to cry and be with your loved-ones.

And yet, for generations, our doctors have been shovelling out tranquillisers and advice to people on matters they know absolutely nothing about, just as they do in many other things.  Much like priests.

It seems to me that as our society has abandoned one set of unquestioned oracles – the Catholic priests – it has retained another: the medical profession.

And it also seems to me that our society has applied equal deference, by giving both of these vested interest groups as much as they demand without question.

It’s time to call a halt and turn these people into employees like the rest of us, instead of keeping them in the exalted, unquestioned status they currently enjoy.

52 thoughts on “The Medicalisation of Society

  1. O course you are right except one point about UK doctors in the last 5 years they have seen the pay rise to around in some cases £500,000 a year. Most of this through various government schemes which meant they work less by moving bits of papers around .
    Just today in The Mail this story….
    “Doctors are raking in nearly £15million a year from bereaved families by filling out simple forms that give permission for their loved ones to be cremated.
    The payments, cynically dubbed ‘ash cash’ by medics, are seen as a perk of the job, it has been claimed.
    Junior NHS doctors have spoken of how they hope patients will die on their shift before competing to sign the cremation forms – which earn them £73.50 each – to try to boost their salary, in some cases by up to a pay grade.”
    Note they hope people die on their shift to get more money the greedy sods.
    But to be fair they spend about 7 years before becoming a doctors unlike politicians who have no skills.

  2. Doctor, flash car, big house(s), drugs, dealership, pusher, casualties, profit, prozac ooops dropped my joint.

  3. My gp earns about 400k a year from medical card visits, then you have private patients and whatever other perks. I told this to a friend of mine and he argued that he had overheads to cover so he wouldn’t take home anywhere near that, wtf is he mad or what? A little house near the city centre and a secretary overheads? But i couldn’t fault him when it comes to giving drugs i’m a bit of an insomniac and about once a year i ask him for a week of sleeping tablets, jesus he’s very cagey about it and nearly always refuses

  4. bout time it was all acknowledged. the amount of money falling into the hands of psychiatrists and the like is obscene. I see some G.P’s and they over-prescribe all for the sake of perks from the pharmaceutical companies, with no regard for their patients long term health whatsoever. now the medical card dental care is practically scrapped- and for the very people who cannot afford a 90 euro mercury filling. next we’ll be taping up broken arms the American way!

  5. You’re so right. These pharmaceuticals are very bad for us anyway.

    I suggest some herbal remedies, the odd homoeopathic tincture, some aura adjustment, a chiropractic realignment, a localised reiki treatment, and attaching magnets to your scrotum. Best part: NO SIDE EFFECTS (or any effects).

    Drugs? Hah, not me! I’m off to make a collage in my dream journal.


  6. Spot on as ever BOCK.

    To change this would require a seismic shift in attitudes and beliefs. Hasn’t happened with the banks, politics nor with the church. They are all still in situ.
    Can’t see it happening here either.
    Depressed yet?
    Perhaps you need a tablet?

  7. Yeah, maybe having an aura adjustment would rectify all the problems from the drug side effects? there is no harm having an odd antibiotic for whatever, but its another thing when you are so over-prescribed that it reduces your tolerance and you become dependant on drugs for your survival, but I suppose thats what pharma wants. more money.

  8. sometimes my child says the worms and the flowers are talking to her- in america thats childhood schizophrenia and a lifetime of drugs right off the bat

  9. I suppose as long as she doesn’t talk back, she’ll be grand. :)
    I know lots of people that could do with an aura adjustment. Where would I get me one of them? Would a chiropractor do that for me?

  10. It only works when you don’t know it’s a placebo. The more pills the better, the more colourful the better. In fact, the greater the intervention the better the ‘response’.

    Cat, over prescribing generally increases your tolerance to a particular drug, it doesn’t reduce it. It is well know that some doctors and pharma reps have too close a relationship. The extent that these reps lie to doctors is also known, it may be that most doctors can’t deal with the statistics. The pipeline of new drugs is drying up, pharma are ‘inventing’ new uses for their existing products, such as using SSRI’s to treat anxiety separation in dogs.
    Look at the prescribing rate of Ritalin in the US and the UK a decade ago and compare them with the rates today. Were the US over prescribing or were doctors/parents in the UK under prescribing and are merely catching up? I think society is increasingly relying on a pill to solve its problems. I think we are teaching the youth of today that our problems can be solved by medicating, a pill for every problem.

  11. I meant it reduces tolerance to bacteria, sorry! Yes, the more antibiotics, the more tolerant of the antibiotic the bacteria become….mrsa and such, etc…I was continuosly pres. one particular antibiotic so much so I am now allergic to it. that doc also has a cozy relationship with his rep and gets free holidays to Africa in return for reaching targets for prescribing seroquel, a drug I personally don’t feel a g.p should be prescribing anyway. I think we are teaching youths that tablets are normal. it seems not only is pharma inventing new patients, but doctors are also inventing more psychiatric illnesses to treat

  12. Re depression, why shouldn’t somebody approach their doctor? Have you heard of bi-polar disorder?

    Of course the doctor shouldn’t be the only port of call, but don’t totally rubbish the possibility they could help. I’d actually recommend Aware myself. ( At least before going to the doctor. It’s not always a case of “sure of course you’re depressed, get over it”. This argument has been debunked before, and it does nothing for those suffering with depression.

  13. I think we’ve been conditioned to accept that every human problem is the province of doctors and this is for the purpose of profit.

  14. I think a friendly family doctor is a good port of call for someone experiencing depression, but not to one who doesnt care about the consequences on your mind and body as they barrel you up with drugs and say goodbye. its just my own gut feeling that g.p’s shouldnt be able to prescribe heavy psycho-tropic drugs, but then, some of the consultants themselves aren’t too great either. I suppose when it comes to mental health there is no black or white and the problem is when doctors treat it like it is. It saddens me that counselling isn’t promoted as an option and it seems to me that it is not offered as an alternative to drugs or even as aftercare. there are some great self help organisations there which I think are very beneficial though= le cheile I think

  15. yeah, Ive definitely heard of bi-polar- its something of a family trait, or maybe an Irish one?

  16. Cat, do you have any proof that your doctor is getting holidays for reaching targets? Its funny to think that doctors were all but useless before the 1930’s. Is all about money.

  17. I agree; doctors derive significant profits from dealing with people. It’s far from ideal, and I don’t think anybody is happy about it.

    But, do you think that those with undiagnosed medical conditions connected with depression (i.e. bipolar disorder) should stay away, and sort it out themselves, just because the doctor profits?

    I would certainly agree that every human problem shouldn’t fall under the remit of doctors, but I think you’ve seized on the wrong problem to criticise. Depression can be a medical condition, and in those cases people shouldn’t feel they are doing the wrong thing approaching their doctor.

  18. I think that people with bipolar disorder have a physical imbalance that can be corrected with chemicals. However, the history of our country is that people have gone to doctors with all manner of sadnesses and have been prescribed drugs to deal with them.

  19. Well I think your post would benefit from an acknowledgment that there are cases of depression very well served by a trip to the doctor. You’ve pooh-poohed it all, without balancing that against the fact that some good is done.

    It’s not right to give a blanket criticism of doctors and “all manner of sadnesses”, without pointing out that some people should go to the doctor.

  20. clearly, it is not a black or white issue and very complex. of course depression should be treated, it just seems to be that doctors are too quick to prescribe drugs and there aren’t many other options displayed and I think that is the issue here. not that depression isn’t real, just that there is an overly medicalised response to it. I have gone from the doc I mentioned, but I am positive that for someone with an inclination to look under the surface, proof would not be very hard to find. I can also think of a psychiatrist who benefits from the same holidays, and it doesnt seem to be very top secret, the benefits of a friendly relationship with a pharma rep. seem to have become just another perk of the job. on another note, there is no scientific proof of this “chemical imbalance” but it seems to me, from what I have seen, that bi-polar disorder is preceded by alcohol and drug use and is often called an evolving illness. I think that, if bi-polar is brought on by chemicals, treating it with chemicals makes less sense as from from what I have seen, by continuously treating it with drugs, a person diagnosed as bi-polar has less and less chance of leading a balanced, unmedicated life. but feel free to shoot that down, after all I am not a doctor.

  21. I think we have a very high rate of prescription dispensing in this Country, much more so than most of our European counterparts, When in fact many investigations into a patients symptoms will be investigated before any medication is prescribed.
    Many types of “Emotional pain ” can be misdiagnosed as depression, from mild depression to the dark debilitating types of depression where daily function becomes impossible, A visit to a GP and a prescription for anti depressants is not always the answer.
    ECT is still carried out, often on unwilling patients, Its effects can be very unpredictable as can the taking of any medication which alters the chemical composition of the brain without full and thorough investigation..
    I think the point here is that we as a nation undervalue our greatest asset, our health, the state of which we are largely responsible for as individuals, We seem though to be very willing to pass this responsibility to the Doctor and the prescription.
    Whether it is lack of education or interest, I dont know, but once health is lost it is not so easy to regain, How is it that we place so much trust in a Doctors selection of a particular drug to cure our ill’s ?Where is the will to investigate independently?
    I know people who have been on anti depressants for over 20 years, just have their prescriptions topped up and never an appropriate revue, It seriously restricts their quality of life but their dependence and belief in their Doctor defies logic, Is that dependence ever questioned by the dispensing practitioner, I wonder.

  22. Thanks. Where do I go for reasoned debate?

    I know this place isn’t balanced, and that it’s under no obligation to be. After all, it’s all your personal opinion. I just disagreed with a certain aspect of your article. In my opinion it would benefit from a little more balance. You seemed to be discussing it before shooting me down.

    I presume when you post your opinion on the internet you’re looking for people to respond? I presume you’re not just satisfying your ego when your opinion is broadcast to the world? If you don’t want anybody to oppose your views then fine, I’ll fuck off.

  23. Conor — I’m replying to you on two threads simultaneously. Can we have the discussion in one place to avoid confusion?

  24. Cat. There is no scientific proof that Bi-polar disorder is preceded by ” Alcohol and drug use “.
    Symptoms of Bi Polar can begin in childhood but mostly in teens and young adults, Whereas Scientists have not isolated a specific source, It can be genetic, but not one isolated gene, rather a genetic combination which is usually triggered by environmental stress, It also manifests in varying degrees, from mild to severe.

  25. Bock – would that not be even more confusing? For us, as well as anyone else. It’s two separate discussions in my mind. In this case, I think your article would have benefited from a bit more balance. You’ve stated you weren’t looking for balance, and that this article is what it is. Fine, I’ve accepted that we disagree, and I’m leaving it.

  26. We won’t fall out over it. I think the medical profession is every bit as much an unquestioned priesthood as the Catholic clergy, and I think it’s about time we started asking hard questions of them. That’s as much as I want to convey in this post.

  27. I know there is no proof, its just my personal experience, i suppose call ‘alcohol and drugs’ an enviormental factor

  28. Spot on Bock. Conor where are you getting this imbalance from? Bock makes quite clear what he wanted to convey in the article, that the medical profession is ranked in the exalted status among with the priests and bankers in this country and that we should now question that fact and their eagerness to prescribe medication for nearly everyone who visits and this trend is growing and ongoing for a while now. you can argue those with serious conditions like cliinical depression you mentioned may need actual chemical medication but this post was speaking generally, not about those who actually NEED some sort of medication but those of us that would do fine without it but end up walking out of a clinic with a pharma logo’d slip of paper with some scribbles on it.

    In the U.S. its been reported that now 1 in 6 children are on some form of mind altering medication, Retilin being among the top prescribed. Its far to easy to get it and doctors are more than happy to prescribe it as they are keeping their drug rep.s happy and no one is questioning the reasonable notion that perhaps we simply dont need these harmful chemicals in our systems and continued use may be more damaging to us than the we’d expect on doctors advice but they are more than happy to up the strength of the next prescription if you are now immune to the drugs your popping religiously for the last few years or all your life instead of helping you to get off the harming drugs and cleanse your system of them they are much more likely to just give you more or change to a different chemical. Its a business for these people and its about time we recognised that fact.

  29. I am one of those extremly tiresome people who asks too many questions of the Medical profession when I encounter illness, for myself and for my family.
    I look for information so that i can effectively process what i have to deal with, In my own experience i would say 8 out of 10 medical professionals have treated this process as exasperating and responded with a large amount of condecension.
    When we become ill, we also become very vulnerable, its almost primitive as our first line of defence is broken, I don’t see it as reasonable that a Doctor would hand me a prescription without a thorough explanation as to what it is and why he/she has reached the conclusion that it will resolve my symptoms, This is extremely annoying to most practitioners, largely i think because ” time is money “.
    So much of our Health practices here make no sense, One example , being close to my heart is that even though we have the highest carrier rate of CF in the world per capita, We have the shortest life expectancy for that same illness.
    In Northern Ireland the life expectancy of a person with CF is 15 years longer, That is largely down to cross infection control of which we have almost none in the South.
    Another area I question is why GP’s are the “gate keepers” to the route of visiting a Consultant ? Why can’t a person, concerned about some aspect of their health directly make an appointment with a Consultant, The Consultant will reach their own conclusions on examination etc, But not only will one have to firstly attend the GP they will have to reattend the GP to get their results, This process can accumulate the cost of 50 x 2 euro for GP and possibly 150 euro for Consultant, minus costs of tests, A cost saving exercise for the patient is not exercised as the entire workings are shrouded in the ” mystery ” of the “elevated status ”
    I recently visited a friend in hospital, where i noted the cost of a private room per night was 910 euro…….thats room only, plus hospital food presumably, how can that be justified given the state of MRSA in our institutions of healing ?
    Do we view Doctors in the same light as Priests, Solicitors, Accountants, Those with the power and wisdom to bestow upon us their superior knowledge for which we pay so dearly but rarely find a solution ?
    Who decides what fee to pay ? If its 5 mins or 20 mins its 40 to 60 euro, How is that broken down ?
    How many patients are directed or advised toward a healthier lifestyle prior to a prescription for drugs ? As pointed out in this post, Life and it’s losses are part of the deal, There is no pill to deal with the pain of emotional grievance, Why are we being misdirected toward pharma solutions and paying for the privlidge,, prescriptions for anti depressants are at an all time high, Given the current climate, this seems very convienant.
    About 2 yrs ago, I decided to get a total check up as I was feeling a lot of anxiety and difficulty sleeping, I was prescribed an anti anxiety drug, which i was told i would be on for life but would never again experience an anxious moment, I was not in a good place at the time and tired of the battle, on the first night i took the pill, within about 30 mins i felt zombiefied, my mind was muddled and dull, I slept fine but woke with a headache as if my head was being crushed in a vice, On contacting the Consultant I was told i had to build up a “tolerance ” for the medication, That was enough to snap me out of that place, cut back on the coffee, stop eating so late, get back to walking a few miles everyday, A small level of adjustment was all that was required.
    Sorry for long long post.

  30. Funny how the likes of Kerry Katona is diagnosed with bipolar. Nothing to do with the abuse of drugs and drinking on top of her appalling upbringing by a b of a mother. No, it must be a seratonin imbalance – my arse. Funny how there are no physical tests for seratonin levels and yet they have the gall to say this is what is wrong with someone. People are overprescribed medicines when sometimes they need a good friend or a good psychotherapists.

    Or my favourite one – “doctor I’m feeling tired and worn out”, Doctor – “it’s a virus” !

  31. Ellie, there is such a test for determining possible neurotransmitter imbalance. I cant remember the specifics but it involves getting hold of platlets from your blood and measuring the uptake of certain compounds. Ill see if I can dig out a book or two and get back to you.

  32. Really? I wasn’t aware of that, but isn’t it true it is often supposed rather than tested?

  33. No illness should be supposed, that can be very dangerous. Yeah, its called the imipramine binding assay, the WHO uses it to assess the efficacy of new antidepressants. I read of a study carried out before where reupake levels returned to normal after counselling, a magic pill is not always the answer.

    Due to embryological reasons the platelets in our blood have the same mechanism for serotonin reuptake on their membrane, as do serotonergic neurons. Serotonin reuptake is quantifyied by measuring how much radioactive labelled imipramine (drug for depression) sticks to the platlet membranes. Its a surrogate model for reuptake in the brain and correlates well. Reuptake is often found to be lower in people suffering from depression. Its worth saying that correlation does not imply causality. Also, often how a person feels and what state their biochemistry is in may be out of kilter, it is just one marker for depression. I don’t believe there is a one to one relationship, as some people would like to believe, mental processes are extremely complex.

  34. And the establishment lives in fear of them! I’ll give an example . Two young sportsmen died of Sudden Death Syndrome ( I think that’s what it’s called…apologies if it’s something near ) and the Government did its’ usual “very sorry for your trouble ” act and nothing else.
    About this time I was taking my son and a friend to France for their transition year and to play a bit of rugby.
    You might not be suprised to learn that the French take Sudden death Syndrome seriously and don’t allow young players on the pitch without a license and to get a license you have to UNDERGO A FULL MEDICAL !!
    Imagine the diffficulty I had in getting this together in Ireland. My sons friend got a letter from his GP which said:-
    “I’ve known ***** since birth and he’s in great shape.” Honestly. And this letter cosr 60 euros.
    Giving up -I couldn’t get the vaccination numbers from the relevant authority because my sons numbers were on the same Dickensian ledger page as everyone elses, and so to give me the page would have meant disclosing private info about others- I hi’d me thither to France and went to the doc there.
    The doctor gave both lads a full medical including ECGs and stress tests and charged me 21 euros.
    My doctor in France drives a Merc, has two “wives ” lives in a big house and really knows his stuff.
    Why do we allow our lot to get away with incompetence ? The money is a seperate issue. The incompetence is paramount.

  35. I’ve known ***** since birth and he’s in great shape.” ha.. that’s funny.. not suprising but funny.

    “Doctor in France drives a Merc, has two “wives ” lives in a big house and really knows his stuff.” Two wives ha.. he must be in great shape all together. Carlsberg don’t do doctors, but if they did..

  36. lapsedmethodist, that sounds all too familiar. An american friend of mine who was living here for a couple of years went to see the GP. He had not been in the years since he was living here and the GP’s response was;

    Doctors in the US would say shame on you for not coming in for regular check ups but here we say well done.

    A buddy of mine living in Paris was telling me of the basic medical and dental care they are entitled to, it was amazing. The French republic is one and indivisible, unlike Ireland.

  37. Just a follow on from the side that won the civil war! The professionals followed on from the classicist bullshit that existed pre-Bunreacht na hEireann. How many scandals has this country seen with regard to medical negligence and abuse! Blow a big one up! That’ll calm you down, and it might just cure your cancer, and improve your appetite, and clear your cough, and resolve your depression, and and and…. i could go on. But unfortunately, natural substances are not allowed. Why? because the pharmaceutical companies have tried their damnedest to patent THC but cannot because it is a natural growing plant! That is one of the sole reasons why Cannabis is not used today, because it cannot be kept by the pharmaceutical companies for themselves.

    Michael Moore’s Sicko shows the horrific manner in which patients in the States are treated, and unfortunatley we are going the same way here. Everyone in cahoots with each other to drain the poor ill patient of everything. One lady in that documentary was on 9 different medications and upon review by a caring doctor she was taken off all of them as they didn’t apply to her and put on 3 medications. Her inhaler cost $150 per month in the states and in Cuba it was approx .25c. She cried and asked why her country was raping her?

    If your feeling a bit headachy? why not pop out and chew on a willow tree? Thats where the natural form of codeine comes from! Or a bit of lavender in the bath.

    I went to my GP recently due to stresses at work and a whole lot of other bullshit and the first thing he asked me was did i want valium? No, i just want a few days away from the shithole i work in to sort my head out logically! Doctors in this country think they are god, and frown upon anyone who questions them. Heck, even a GP in my village faints at the sight of blood!

  38. Nevie, just because they cannot patent it does not mean they cannot make synthetic THC. Pharmaceuticals do make it and it is marketed under various names such as dronabinol and marinol. As for the willow tree, a compound very similar to aspirin (acetylsalicyclic acid) is found in the bark, not codeine. Codeine is a precursor to opiates like morphine or heroin–its more likely to be found in poppies.

  39. The links between the pharmaceutical industry and the over-prescription of happy pills could do with some examination in Ireland.

    I’m seeing a lot of Percodan Princesses in the same way that in the US they have a major problem with prescription drugs.

    Millions of American women report to their doctors with ‘unspecified back pain’ every year to get their happy pill prescription filled and I’m seeing evidence that Irish doctors are vastly over-prescribing as well. Why wouldn’t they when they get tickets to the match from the pharma rep and money every time they write a prescription?

    Its a great business being a doctor these days and a license to print money. It also involves a certain amount of ‘government without responsibility’ in that medicoes seem to lecture everybody on health issues while simultaneously being members of a profession which has the worst reputation for alcoholism and drug abuse.

    That profession needs to be looked at in Ireland without a doubt.

  40. I’ve just a finished a very interesting book called Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre. He deals mainly with showing people how to spot bullshit in the medical/health food/alternative therapies/medecines industries. I certainly learned a few valuable lessons from it. He touches on the subject of medicalisation of our western societies, and I would say Bock that you would find him to be generally in agreement with your thesis. I think many of the posters on this thread would find it an enthralling read, in places at least, it requires concentration in places where it gets a little heavy, but is also quite funny. I realise this is sounding a bit like a plug, its not, I odnt know the guy from Adam( he’s an english doctor who writes in the Guardian), its just a book I picked up a few weeks ago.

  41. Sorry about the misinformation re codeine, but almost right :) I must have been out of my mind on natural drugs at the time. So now i know why i got nothing of the willow ;-) Haven’t touched a chemical for anything in probably 5 years.

  42. No need to apologise, Nevie. It’s hard to keep up with which drug comes from where and who sold you the bad shit. The lowlifes.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.