I recently met an anaesthetist who told me he was really unhappy in his job because when he went to see a patient before an operation, he could almost always predict the outcome, based purely on the patient’s outlook. If the patient thought they would survive then they more or less would, whereas people who were nervous, fearful or just negative, tended to confirm their own fears.
Which makes me wonder how far we have really come since Georgian times, when physicians really could do little apart from various purges, and dispense heavy metals and leeches.
This is a snippet from the early 1700s:
Sir Richard Steele, founder of ‘The Spectator’, retired to a small house on Haverstock Hill, on the road to Hampstead… Here Mr Pope, and other members of the Kit-Kat club, which during the summer was held at the ‘Upper Flask’ on Hampstead Heath, used to call on him, and taken him in their carriages to the place of rendezvous.
” Dr Garth, too, was a frequent visitor here. He was a member of the Kit-Cat club, and notorious for his indolence. One night, when sitting at the ‘Upper Flask’, he accidentally betrayed the fact that he had half a dozen patients waiting to see him, and Steele, who sat next to him, asked him, in a tone of banter, why he did not get up at once and visit them. “Oh, it’s no great matter,” replied Garth; “for one half of them have got such bad constitutions that all the doctors in the world can’t save them, and the others such good ones that all the doctors could not possibly kill them.”
Plus ca change?