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Docs can’t save lives but they can prolong them indefinitely

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

A well-known medical consultant corrected me many years ago when I suggested it must be unbelievably rewarding to save a sick person’s life. It’s never happened yet, he told me – they don’t save lives…only prolong them.

I was reminded of that recently when I heard a different medical expert on the radio talking about how the now-sorted Stormont impasse had impacted on day-to-day services in the North – particularly in his own chosen field.

“People don’t just wait on waiting lists,” he said. “They get worse.”

And that’s the awful truth of it; we all know that early intervention is key to increasing chances of a cure in any context. Being stuck for years on a waiting list will not alone see your health deteriorate; it will also add to your stress levels and exacerbate the situation to another level.

Even if your surgery is ham-fistedly defined as ‘elective’, that only means there’s a fair chance you won’t die while you’re waiting for it to happen.

But nobody in their right mind would suggest that having cataracts removed, or knees or hips replaced, is a matter of choice; if you can’t see, or you can hardly walk, and there’s a way of fixing that problem, then that’s what you’re going to do.

Elective surgeries might also include simple tasks like removing a mole or a wart, but it can also stretch to hernia surgery or removing kidney stones or an appendix – and you wouldn’t want to be trying to cope with the ongoing pain of any of those.

This isn’t like going to Turkey to fill out your lips or get a new set of teeth that look like they were originally owned by a person with a much bigger mouth; this is vital surgery to allow you to live your normal life again.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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