Liam Farrell: And GPs shall inherit the earth

Doctors and lay people are not mutually exclusive groups. Some day, inevitably, every one of us will cross that great divide and find ourselves sitting across the desk from some patronising sod with a stethoscope (and we will be thinking 'What a jerk').

Dr Liam Farrell
Dr Liam Farrell

We are not supermen, we are not gods, we are not made of rock, if you cut us we bleed, if you pinch us and you are not good-looking we object loudly. We ourselves are human and frail, and because of this we understand human frailty (unlike hospital doctors).

Just as chimpanzees share 98 per cent of the human genome, doctors and lay people are virtually the same; if we were stripped naked, rubbed down with sweet-smelling body oil (just to make it more interesting), and persuaded to line up in an identity parade, only a keen and trained observer could tell the difference (doctors have an insufferable air of smugness, they tell me, to which I reply, why shouldn't we?)

Or so I thought.

Because there is a growing body of opinion that doctors and lay people are in fact quite different, and the source of this apparent discrepancy is our immune system. We may even qualify as a new species (homo superior, perhaps); Richard Dawkins might approve of this as evidence of the theorem of evolution in action, creationists might want to burn us at the stake as abominations.

Consider how, every day, each one of us is exposed to scores of patients breathing, coughing and expectorating in the surgery. What with the swine flu being so infectious, you would expect us to be going down like flies, wouldn't you?

But this doesn't seem to be happening; I haven't heard of any of my colleagues contracting swine flu, and the most obvious reason is that we are made of stronger stuff than lay people.

OK, I accept that there may be other reasons: (1) we are self-employed, and can't take a sickie; (2) we don't really believe in swine flu, and this denial lends us some kind of subliminal protection.

Both need to be excluded by scientific method but, ultimately, I believe we will see my hypothesis confirmed. And with genetic superiority comes a solemn obligation; to pass on our genes to future generations. Go forth, my colleagues, and multiply.

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