A Country of All Its Doctors

There isn't a soul, it would seem, who has not expressed his opinion to date on the quality of care Sharon has received. Every man, every expert, and his alternative medicine.

While it is highly doubtful that Israel will ever become "a country for all its citizens," there is no doubt that it has already become "a country of all its doctors." Everybody here is a certified doctor and ready at any moment to give "a second opinion" and even a third and fourth one. Thus Ariel Sharon's medical file makes its way from one groping hand to another, and there isn't a soul, it would seem, who has not expressed his opinion to date on the quality of care Sharon has received. Every man, every expert, and his alternative medicine.

There was even griping over the weekend about "fiascos and neglect" in his treatment. Saul was deemed among the prophets and I am also among the experts, and I want to state that there is no issue of neglect here whatsoever; On the contrary, it is a matter of preferential treatment, which in this as in similar cases, was not affirmative action but rather destructive action. Many ordinary citizens complain sometimes that "very important people" benefit from preferential treatment in the health system and they demand the same treatment for themselves. The grievance of citizens over preferential treatment shown to leaders is perfectly understandable, though the favored ones are not always to be envied. Sometimes this preferential treatment is to their detriment. Clearly, the prime minister did not suffer in recent weeks from lack of treatment, but he probably did suffer from excessive consideration.

Anyone else in his place, who is not a major big shot, would have received by-the-book treatment, suitable for someone who has reached the age of 77. But the prime minister is not "anyone else," so he received special care, the best available. And sometimes "the best" turns out to be the enemy of the good; good old routine treatment might have been more successful, ya never know.

A congenital heart defect was belatedly discovered in Sharon's heart. Perhaps they did not notice the fact that, since the day of his birth, Sharon has lived through 78 extremely active and demanding years - he also ate like a horse while riding like a jockey - and it is entirely unclear whether, at a grand age, such grand alterations to his body and lifestyle were really necessary. It is possible that our very best doctors - and they are - prescribed our prime minister an overdose of good will and indulgence.

The onus is less on the caregivers and more on the patients and their advocates: aides and advisers, spokesmen and publicists. The leaders, flesh and blood, are scared like everybody else of sickness and pain, and that is natural and human. But they're even more afraid of the patient image - scared to death. If their pains become public knowledge, heaven forbid, where do they run? A leader has no choice but to be Superman. And when the leader himself is fearful about his sickly image, his advisers are more worried: they could lose their patron along with their job. Even before the doctors have diagnosed the patient's weakness, they have to diagnose the associates' weakness, and to leave them outside the confines of the hospital.

I read in the paper a few weeks ago about Shimon Peres, whose health has already become a legend: he underwent minor surgery to lift droopy eyelids. His office was upset when the operation became known and quickly reported that the vice premier returned to work after just two hours. One might wonder what cause they had to play down the procedure in the first place, and why a person has to return to work in the blink of an eye. And that is what happened to the prime minister himself, who was betrayed not by an eyelid but by his brain: after a blood clot he went back to full flow as though nothing had happened, only because the people need to see the jockey riding again, upright in his saddle.

Once, when I was "an important person," I had some stomach trouble (for the sake of full disclosure, it was a bowel obstruction), and every few months the problem recurred with all the risks and pains entailed. It was obvious an operation was in order, but I didn't want one, and I persuaded the doctors again and again to give in and make do with scalpel-free treatment. That was a mistake, of course, that might have resulted fatally in gangrene of the colon. Finally, one doctor decided to put an end to the wanton stupidity, that is, to the overindulgence, anesthetized me as I continued to refuse and persuade, persuade and refuse, and since my operation - I've felt fine. Speaking from my personal experience, I am therefore entitled to say: Gentlemen, pulling strings in healthcare is the devil's work.

The kibbitzers, they always know best, and the patient is sometimes no small kibbitzer himself. Therefore, it is hereby recommended not to wheedle the doctors into a caprice. Leave the doctoring to the doctors. And if the important people, who are always strong, know how to be patients, then they'll also be healthier.