LETTER: Portrait of a doctor in the doghouse was unfair

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LAST Sunday's profile of me by Geraldine Bedell ("Doctor on the make", Review, 7 April) was an old-fashioned hatchet job. But I fear that Ms Bedell got carried away and in many places the hatchet was swung with too much enthusiasm. She describes my honorary degree as obscure but although the university (the International Open University) which gave it to me has the misfortune to be foreign, it is large and highly regarded in many parts of the world and was formed under the guidelines of that other obscure body, the World Health Organisation. She complains that Plan 2000, which has a large international membership, is not listed in the Hull telephone directory as though this is of some serious significance.

She implies disbelief at my honest admission that I cannot remember why I resigned from the People but she later admits that the editor told her that I resign frequently. She says that I will leave the paper next year when my contract expires this November. I haven't yet decided whether I'm leaving or not. She comments on a review of one of my books which appeared in the Sunday Independent and inexplicably points out that the review didn't come from the Independent on Sunday when no one has ever suggested that it did. She describes my book, I Hope Your Penis Shrivels Up as "quasi pornography" though, despite the title, I fear such a claim would get her into trouble with the trading standards watchdogs and she fails to mention that both the Guardian and the Observer gave the book excellent reviews.

She reports that I once said that "hospitals would be better places if women went round in short skirts" and uses this as evidence that I have a "strange view of women" but fails to mention that I told her about this as an illustration of how easy it is to be misunderstood. The comment had originally been a joke intended to illustrate a point but it had been taken out of context by other reporters. (Strangely, despite complaining of my non-feminist attitude, Ms Bedell accurately describes my girlfriend as "very pretty" - a politically incorrect comment if ever I read one). She reports that the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint about one of my books but forgets to point out that I have complained about the decision to the Office of Fair Trading on the grounds that the ASA had refused to accept scientific references as evidence. She says I turned up in a Range Rover when I didn't - and the headline on the profile, "Doctor on the Make", is also inaccurate since I have written this letter entirely without charge.

Vernon Coleman

The People

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