Not only are we great people and famously skilful and sensitive lovers, but we also have another huge and enduring advantage over our lay colleagues.
'If you can't laugh at your patients, what good are they?' said the eminent psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane, with all the conviction and veracity that only a fictional television character in a drunken stupor could muster. But, like the idiot savant, his words disclose a deeper truth.
As doctors, we have a treasure chest of material at our fingertips, an Aladdin's cave of droll spoofs, sordid peccadillos and funny stories about the people who come to our surgery every day. We are the observers, the flies on the wall, the I-Spy camera - in the picture yet not part of it, eternally standing as unemotional commentators, our task the perpetual reservation of justice. Like the great novelists, we are involved with our 'characters', yet we retain the ability to be objective, to tell the story without prejudice, to draw unbiased conclusions.
Is your deadline rushing up, a spectral Hulk Hogan gripping your creative muse in an unbreakable headlock? Mrs Magee will come to the rescue; her hilarious varicose veins in the shape of the Statue of Liberty should be good for a laugh, followed up with a few wise words about the prevention and treatment and the final mandatory admonition to see your own doctor if you are worried. In the interests of confidentiality, of course, reassign her gender and change the Statue of Liberty to the Eiffel Tower.
As an example, my patients had been well-behaved this week, and thus utterly unproductive as comic material, until Mr Jackson (I have anonymised the data) came in, as truculent as ever, the chip on his shoulder as big as a hippo which has been trying to put on weight.
'Don't you dare patronise me,' he said. 'You think you're smart, but I've been to university as well, I have a degree, I've got letters after my name just as good as you.'
'Indeed, sir,' I replied, the little devil perched on my shoulder inciting me to pat him on the head and goad him even further.
'But it's getting them before your name that really counts.'
- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com