I will start by publicly apologising to Professor Meirion Thomas; in a moment of folly, I erroneously signed a petition decrying his alleged ‘disrespect’ of colleagues, in the wake of one of his articles in the Daily Mail. In my defence, my newborn was crying at the time and I was sleep deprived.
Now, however, I believe that the undignified manner – see the abuse and attacks against him, as detailed in last week’s Spectator – in which members of his own profession reacted to his views speaks ill of the medical profession and says a lot about how public discourse has deteriorated.
I have read Professor Thomas’ articles. I do not agree with all his views but they do contain uncomfortable truths, expressed eruditely and not in the groveling, apologetic manner demanded by today’s delicate souls. The fact that none of his critics could address his points with the same conviction, authority and unambiguousness is telling.
The bid to get him disciplined by the GMC was straight out of a Carry On film. The GMC deserves praise for reminding the baying mob that their duty to protect patients does not extend to harassing professionals exercising their right to free speech.
The internet is very good at concealing those who lack the courage to stand by their views — in this case, the sheer number of ‘professionals’ insulting Mr Thomas while concealing their identities online. Here I can empathise with the good Professor, as I myself enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining evening being subjected to insults from the administrator(s) of the Facebook page ‘The Medical Registrar’, who somehow felt that hiding behind a nom de plume exempted them from polite discourse.
The question is how does a venerated profession manage to include so many individuals with Stasi-like tendencies and an inability to debate contentious ideas dispassionately? I believe this is nothing more than the result of a series of long-term, political initiatives to remove effective opposition to any NHS reforms.
The first of these, the sowing of dissent among the medical community. The poisoning of the medical well took place via administrative interference, budget cuts, diminished clinician authority and the rise of the non-medically trained managerial class who think they can run the NHS like a business and interfere with patient management. That’s not to mention government bodies forcing medical protocol onto the NHS, disenfranchising clinicians while attempting to avoid the need for their expertise through diktats.
NHS doctors, wary of what happens to whistleblowers, appear to follow the philosophy that ‘greater sacrifice has no man than this; that he lay down his life and his mental health for the NHS’, thus creating perfect conditions for in-fighting.
Second, the constant media attacks against doctors, particularly following the renegotiated GP contracts. Medics were painted as greedy, grasping, and lazy. The behaviour of the then Labour Health Minister following the debacle that was Modernising Medical Careers that changed the face of junior doctor training for the worse, merely furthered the campaign against medics.
Third, the gradual societal conditioning that ‘equality’ supposedly also meant that there was no difference between a profession and a job. Doctors no longer enjoy the respect they used to.
Compounding the issue has been the insidious metastasis of a left-wing philosophy of stifling dissent, of labelling those whose views conflict with the status quo as extremists or bigots of some kind. Anyone who dares express themselves in non-PC terms can expect a character assassination.
Last, the political elevation of the NHS to that of a religion or cult, to whom one must sacrifice their firstborn on the altar of ‘it’s the envy of the world’, with no dissent, criticism or whistleblowing tolerated.
Offending people has been elevated to a de jure crime. Freedom of speech up until recently was not predicated on not being ‘offensive’. Now unfortunately, it would appear we have a generation of individuals — doctors among them — who are determined above all both to be offended and to avoid offending others. Is it any wonder then, that NHS whistleblowers and anyone else daring to criticise Mother are treated like pariahs?