Just like the Government, you read it here first

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The Independent Online

Evidence is now beginning to emerge that the Government bases some of its policies on this very column. This week, they announced that they are considering legislation to oblige patients to follow doctor's orders. On the 21st of last month, I brought you part of a trial in which a doctor was actually suing a patient for medical negligence precisely because the patient refused to obey the doctor and would not adopt a healthy lifestyle. Coincidence, or what?

By great good luck, that trial is still continuing, so let's have another extract from it. A couple of days ago, the doctor, Dr Joshua Fellowes, was up on the stand being questioned by the opposition...

Counsel: Now, Dr Fellowes, we have heard you tell the court that you recommended Mrs Armstrong to drink less and exercise more. And give up smoking.

Fellowes: I did indeed, yes. But she ignored me.

Counsel: Do you smoke, Dr Fellowes?

Fellowes: No, I do not.

Counsel: When did you give up?

Fellowes: About six months ago.

Counsel: In time for you to be a non-smoker at this trial?

Fellowes: There was absolutely no connection.

Counsel: How long have you known that smoking is bad for you?

Fellowes: Since my student days.

Counsel: Which were 20 years ago. And yet you were still smoking six months ago?

Fellowes: Well...

Counsel: Do you drink?

Fellowes: I take the occasional glass of wine.

Counsel: Do you take the occasional bottle of wine?

Fellowes: On a very festive occasion I might get through a bottle.

Counsel: Dr Fellowes, as an examining doctor, are you aware that when asked to state their normal consumption of alcohol, the average punter understates it by at least two-thirds?

Fellowes: Yes, I...

Counsel: So, you drink quite a lot of wine?

Fellowes: Yes, I suppose I do.

Counsel: Are you aware that excessive drinking among doctors is quite common? That doctors are high suicide risks? And that many doctors smoke? And take drugs?

Fellowes: I believe that may well be the case...

Counsel: How much exercise do you take, Dr Fellowes?

Fellowes: Enough.

Counsel: Indeed? We have heard how your patient, the defendant, Mrs Armstrong, has to get to your surgery by bus and on foot. How do you get there, Dr Fellowes?

Fellowes: I drive.

Counsel: There is a doctor's parking space reserved for you?

Fellowes: Yes.

Counsel: Not much exercise there, then, Dr Fellowes. So, how do you get your exercise?

Fellowes: I bend over backwards to follow government guidelines.

Laughter in court. The judge uses his gavel to produce silence.

Judge: There will be no laughter in court unless I make the joke! Carry on, Mr Matchless.

Counsel: Thank you, m'lud. Now, Dr Fellowes, sketch out for us, if you will, the average amount of exercise you get in a day.

Fellowes: Well, I play golf once a fortnight...

Counsel: So, that's an average of a hole of golf a day...

Fellowes: I walk to the pub of an evening...

Counsel: More drinking...

Fellowes: I do some sailing...

Counsel: More drinking...

Fellowes: And I am a very keen gardener.

Counsel: Though not so keen, perhaps, as your gardener, Mr Stringer, who does three full days a week on your property?

Fellowes: Yes, he...

Counsel: Leaving very little for you to do?

Judge: Mr Matchless, you would seem to be giving Dr Fellowes a bit of a hard time here. Is there a reason for that?

Counsel: Yes, m'lud. I am trying to get him to admit that doctors are often as hopeless as their patients. I am also attempting to raise his blood pressure till he has a mild seizure of some kind, which will give me the chance to shout out: "Is there a doctor in the house?", thus getting a cheap laugh at his expense.

Judge: Excellent! I shall look forward to that. Carry on.

More of this some other time