Liam Farrell: Medical education for the masters of the universe

If you use the words natural, organic, herbal or detox, you can flog any old shite (just ask your local pharmacist, there'll be plenty on the shelves).

It’s not the product they are selling, marketing people tell us, it’s the image, of clear mountain streams and pristine rain-forest; no-one can seriously believe in the efficacy of detox footpads, for those unusual individuals who excrete urea through the soles of their feet instead of employing the more traditional routes.

We might expect the purveyors of postgraduate medical education to be above this kind of thing, but in fact they’ll try anything to get the punters in and their bums on seats. That’s the tragedy of the human condition. No one wants to be greedy and manipulative.

Our postgraduate tutors must have started out with good, even noble reasons for doing what they do, helping doctors keep up with the ever-changing world of good medical practice. They don’t want to misuse their standing or or forget their ideals. But it keeps happening anyway.

'Flatterers are not your friends,' said William Wilberforce, 'Nay sir, they are your deadliest enemies,' but I’m as insecure as the next man (when I was young girls wouldn’t go out with me because I was specky) and I need the validation.

'I’m here for the master-class,' I told the receptionist.

'Ooooh,' she said, overtly impressed, clearly wondering if we could go dancing, maybe take in a movie, and someday look back and laugh at how in awe she’d been of me at our first encounter, and how she found I was just a regular down-to-earth guy despite being a high-status male and obviously a big stud.

She escorted me to the lecture hall; there was a large mirror outside, and some of the other attendees were preening themselves in front of it. They looked sleek and prosperous, sharp suits, skin well-moisturised. The receptionist curtsied and retired, and we greeted each other warmly, like members of an elite brotherhood, Sons of the Desert without Laurel and Hardy. No riff-raff here, we thought.

The master-class, evidence that doctors are as gullible and subject to grandiose delusions as anyone else.

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