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A Doctor Writes #326

Being an occasional series in which a highly-trained medical expert offers an opinion on a recent medical trend...

As a doctor I am often asked, when the present pandemic is over, what will people choose to die of instead?

This is not an easy question to answer, since medical evidence gathered pre-pandemic suggests that in those far off times, people chose to die from a variety of causes including those of disease, wear and tear [for example the recent case of the Duke of Edmondsham], circumstance [hospital admission was particularly popular] or from accidents involving, for example, small electrical appliances*. Whilst there is no reason to suppose that the situation post-pandemic [PP] will be markedly different from that pre-pandemic [PP], we should be ready to accept that, in altered circumstances, certain things may be changed and that, for a while at least, disease choice may be limited and queues inevitable.

* If, as I suspect, this is a reference to a particular incident which occurred some 16 years ago it should be noted, for legal reasons, that the case remains open and that death may or may not have occurred. See L'Authorités Suisses: Manquant présumé absent: le cas curieux du Professeur Thrupiece: Stipulations, Preuves et Conjectures [2018]. [Ed]

This begs, of course, a separate but related question: why, during the CONTRIK-69 pandemic, did people stop dying from other causes and decide instead - almost to a man woman and self-isolating bio-hazardous geriatric - to die of a single cause? Examples of collective behaviour of this kind [both voluntary and involuntary [more accurately "induced"]] are not wholly unknown to medical or even psychiatric science. Nor are they confined to our own species - homo sapiens - alone. Collective will or, more extremely, collective hysteria features in several species as well as in a number of standard textbooks** some of which - as a highly trained professional - have caught my interest momentarily.

The importunate fighting over grape nuts in the early 1960s. Proof if it were needed that working-class diseases were little understood at the time by medical professionals. The scramble for the toilets post purchase was described at the time as "particularly savage".

Take, for example, the now-famous case of the "two for the price of one on grapenuts offer" initiated by the Waitaminute supermarket chain in 1968. Dozens of "blocked" individuals flocked "as to a man" to the said retail outlets in search either of a bargain, retail therapy or relief. Were any of them conscious that they had succumbed to a collective urge we professionals know as bargain syndrome [Bene Emptio Pretium or Lidl's Disease]? Almost certainly not and yet the scientific evidence is indisputable: these were individuals with an illness. Sadly since most were importunate as well as constipated, "Society" at that time chose to stigmatize their behaviour: characterising it instead as "a lot of poor people trying to pull a fast one". How times change [See Lady Antonia de'Ranged [2004] "And the Fur Flew Everywhere: A History of Harrod's Christmas Sale" [The Threadbone Press].

** One such standard text Grey's Anatomy is now available as a boxed set read by the estimable Hugh Laurie - a popularizing move which has allowed even those unable to read to qualify and apply for Senior DHS [Dorset Health Service] positions. Being of a somewhat older generation myself, I skim-read the Large Print Edition concentrating always on the - frankly complex and often confusing - diagrams.

It is for this reason that at some point during my daily zoom consultations with patients I speak with genuine authority as I ask my female patients with lower back problems to "pop their top off", and face the camera whilst I - "at my end" - press record. They trust me - I am a doctor!

So to return to the main point. It is too early to say what people will die of once the pandemic is over. My educated guess is that between now and 2034 it will be from Long- and Even-Longer-CONTRIK and thereafter from anything for which there isn't an expensive and effective 8 times yearly vaccine. Still, I remain confident that, whatever the outcome, it will be an example to some and a warning to others: a reminder that living takes its toll. Statistics suggest that of all the people who have lived since the start of accurate recording, all, except those still alive, have died - and this despite a huge increase in medical knowledge, massive improvements in healthcare and an astronomical rise in the size and salaries of DHS management teams. A sobering thought as we look forward to alternative causes of death becoming more generally available once more.

NEXT TIME: Is Wet Beri-Beri now the disease of choice amongst 3rd World heart patients and top-draw supermodels?

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