Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Personal Physician

If I should ever in this life reach that benighted state where I both desire and can afford my very own "personal physician," I hope someone will do me the favor of just shooting me right then and there.

The recent death of Michael Jackson made me think: doesn't it seem like those celebrities and other rich folk who find it convenient to keep a sawbones on staff tend to die (a) young, (b) under somewhat dodgy circumstances, or (c) both of the above? I'll bet there's a negative correlation between longevity and how easily accessible your doctor is (only up to a point, of course; poor people obviously have the opposite problem, and they too often die young too).

It's not really hard to understand what happens. In medical school, young doctors-in-training are provided with a toolkit and taught how to use it. Once it was a little black bag, but increasingly these days, it's a prescription pad. It seems there's a drug for just about everything, and they're meant to be prescribed and used, by golly (my all-time personal favorite is the drug that was flogged on TV as a cure for "social anxiety disorder": basically an anti-shyness pill, as if a couple of shots of Tequila couldn't do the trick. In my youth I probably would've popped those things like jelly beans, but somehow I muddled shyly through without chemical aids.)

Now take a self-absorbed, narcissistic star, add a captive physician just down the hall, and you've got a recipe for massive pharmacological intervention. "Doc, I've got a headache!" "Doc, my back hurts!" "Doc, I couldn't sleep last night!" Out comes the scrip pad yet again, and into the star's body goes yet another powerful chemical—often an addictive one. Soon you're taking drugs to combat the undesirable side effects of other drugs. And it's all perfectly legal, thanks to your Personal Physician.

It's a slippery slope indeed, and once you're on that path, it seems to be just about impossible to get off it. In a sense, the doctor is as trapped as the patient—hired like any other employee to keep the employer happy, and using the only methods he or she knows. Typically, the cocktail of medications continues to get more potent, until the patient's body simply can't take it any more.

Most people have their good days and their bad days. But if you're a star of the caliber of Michael Jackson or Elvis, you may come to expect, and demand, that every day should be a good day. After all, you're special. You deserve it.

And if you have to hire your own doctor to get it, so be it.


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