Thursday 27 June 2019

Theodore Dalrymple on the British Medical Journal

Theodore Dalrymple has written an excellent article about the state of the British Medical Journal, inspired by the BMJ's recent attack on the Institute of Economic Affairs. It's full of gems so read the whole thing, but here's a sample...

To most modern doctor-philosophers, everything, up to and including a meal, is either health-giving or health-harming, and it is the most important function of a government, under their expert direction, to promote the health and prevent the harmful. They are the Islamic fundamentalists of human welfare: their religion allows the healthy and forbids the unhealthy. They do not recognise any ambiguities. Vested interest for them arises only from the possibility of making a commercial profit: their own demand for control over ever more resources, or for ever more power to forbid, is purely and objectively for the good of humanity. As the BMJ puts it, concern has been “prompted” that the current Health Secretary might be “listening to the views of vested interests above those of the health community”. The “health community”—assumed to be of one mind, incidentally—has no vested interests, because its interests by definition cannot be vested. 

.. I am not so much concerned that the views expressed in this article should be expressed (everyone is entitled to his opinions) as that there is not likely to be much debate about them. One has the impression on reading the medical journals—the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the BMJ—that a kind of stifling pensée unique has overtaken or infected an important part of the medical world: a pensée unique from which it is increasingly harmful to a career to dissent.  

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