The Anxiety Makers

By on March 3, 2013
This is the title of a book, rst published in 1967, by a doctor with the splendidly appropriate name of Alex Comfort, in which he debunks with scholarly aplomb certain medical pre-occupations of that time which were believed to be the root of all the ills to which the esh is heir, including, predictably, masturbation and constipation.With the progress of medical science since that book was written, and with medical information being instantly available via the Internet, it seems to me there is an ever widening scope for doctors to act unwittingly as purveyors of anxiety in many areas of normal modern life.

I refer not just the common practice, in disregard of the Biblical advice (Matthew 9:12; Luke 5:13), whereby much medical activity these days is directed to performing “tests” on healthy people in the hope of preventing diseases which may never happen, but also to an over-reliance on technology to the detriment of the traditional approach.

From time to time patients come to see me for another opinion because they feel dissatis ed with Dr. X at St. Elsewhere’s Hospital.  They say, with a slightly disappointed tone, “He never even touched me.”  Of course, scans and other instrumental interventions are sometimes essential and can provided more detail than a doctor’s physical examination alone, but I believe the human touch is important, not only because it is symbolic of healing but also because a great deal of information can be obtained by touching patients, as well as using one’s other senses of sight, hearing and smell.  Furthermore, relying on technology and not looking at the whole picture may be misleading.

For example, it is quite possible these days for a pregnant woman to receive the whole of her ante-natal care at a Japanese hospital and for the obstetrician never to put a hand on her tummy, that role being delegated to the ultrasound scan.

Yes, you can see the baby and surely that is better than feeling the tummy.  But is it?  In a pregnancy judged clinically normal there is actually no need for any scans, though two are commonly done and should suf ce, but should a scan be done every time? This happens in some Japanese hospitals. One unfortunate consequence which can arise from this practice is that the baby is pronounced to be too big.   Thus, concern about induction of labour and even a Caesarean birth may arise in ignorance of the fact that a baby’s weight in the womb cannot accurately be judged from the ultrasound appearances.  This is an instance of an all too common phenomenon where irrelevant tests are done and the results are then misinterpreted.

Babies do not grow “too big” unless there is an abnormality such as diabetes, or in rare cases the baby’s head may be disproportionately large relative to the mother’s pelvis because of a fracture or rickets (a bone disease due to lack of vitamin D).

The above is intended for general information only and should not be taken as medical advice.

Dr. Gabriel Symonds, the founder and director of the Tokyo British Clinic, offers comprehensive medical services to the foreign community, including antenatal care.  Tel: 03-5458-6099.

About Dr. Gabriel Symonds

Dr. Gabriel Symonds was the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. The clinic closed down in May 2014 after serving the expatriate community for 20+ years. Dr. Symonds has retired and the Tokyo British Clinic is now closed.
Dr Symonds will continue to live in Tokyo and may be contacted by e-mail over any questions concerning medical records or related matters:
He will be available from another address for:
smoking cessation
circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099