78. Medication

Tapehead no 78

This week in Tapehead: drugs, doctors and dogs, diving.

Doctors In The Dock is a damn fine idea, as far as Tapehead is concerned. String ’em all up! Get the lot of them struck off! The bastards. (Tapehead does not like doctors.)

Unfit To Operate looks at the case of University College gynaecologist and Harley Street practitioner, Nick Siddle, who not only damaged the organs of several female patients during surgery but then “failed to respond appropriately” to his mistakes (ie, he ignored them).

If we listen to his opening remarks, Siddle is it seems still failing to respond appropriately, casually conceding, “I regret not having taken more precautions including knowing how to do keyhole surgery in the first place.” (A minor detail, but that’s doctors for you.)

His career started at King’s College, London where his colleagues remember him as abrasive, abrasive and er, abrasive. Siddle’s response to this suggestion is a masterpiece of unrepentant arrogance (one well worth memorising): 

“It still seems to me that the validity of what I was trying to do should have been self-evident.”

At University College, Siddle got into keyhole surgery, picking up the techniques by reading about it and going to meetings. A hysterectomy, performed by Siddle in 1991, went disastrously wrong. To help us understand how, the BBC had the (ingenious) idea of asking keyhole surgery pioneer Jeff Phipps to talk us through the mistakes you can make as he performs a similar operation, one that is “about as difficult as you can get.”

In a programme about surgical negligence, this struck Tapehead as highly apposite (or stupid).

“I’ll just de-mist the scope,” he apologises and turns back to the op.

Not content with just telling us about Siddle’s mistakes, they insist on showing them. In close up…

Siddle, it seems, was using a staple gun in an operation for the first time. A huge close-up of the uterus that Dr Phipps is operating on allows him to show us exactly how dangerous a novice in possession of a staple gun and uterus can really be.

The good news is that, having got rid of Siddle, surgeons are now given courses on keyhole surgery as part of their training (brilliant!) – operating on sugar lumps, by the looks of it.

Ultimately, Nick Siddle did more good this way than he ever did when he was practising.

This week’s My Secret Life is another shock example of people in the media continuing to be shocked by the idea that well-educated, successful, middle-class people take drugs (oh no !).

This misses the obvious point that the more money you’ve got, the better drugs you can buy. (Er, reputedly.)

Secret Life’s secret subject spends 10 minutes smugly boasting about how many drugs he takes to get through a day of data analysis, claiming “they make it less boring” – when surely the whole point of taking crack and jacking up gear is to make everything extremely boring, blissfully, beautifully boring. (Er, allegedly.)

Once, he says, he nipped off and smoked some crack in the middle of a conference on law enforcement. 

“I don’t think they noticed,” he says smugly, suggesting that it can’t have been very good smack.

Quite why the BBC thinks that some bloke boasting about all the drugs he’s doing, spouting Eubank-esque nonsense (“It isn’t just the drug: it’s the drug and you”) is worth our licence money is a mystery, if the answer wasn’t quite so obvious: it’s because he’s middle-class.

In Tapehead’s opinion, Secret Life is exactly 10 minutes too long.

The highlight of the week is on It’ll Never Work which features the president of the Useless Invention Society, whose work has included the foot-operated hair dryer, the portable zebra-crossing and the toothbrush splash guard.

The sight of Shadow, a merry black mongrel, scuba-diving, walking along the sea-bed in his mask and aqualung, playing with the sting-rays is, simply, better than drugs. Or very similar.



Doctors In The Dock – Unfit To Operate: Thurs, 10pm, BBC1

My Secret Life: Weds, 9.50pm, BBC2

It’ll Never Work: Tues, 4.35pm, BBC1