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Seamus O'Mahony, 'Experts, politicians, and Covid-19' -- Intro

Seamus O'Mahony is a recently retired hospital consultant (gastroenterology) of 35 years experience, who worked both in England and Ireland.

He was kind enough to agree to be one of our plenary speakers at the (now postponed) Medicine 360 festival. He is (more importantly to others) also the author of two acclaimed books.

The Way We Die Now was published in 2016 and won the British Medical Association Council Chair's Choice Award (2017). That it is a book for the general reader on a complex and sensitive topic, and has made its way onto many medical students' reading lists, speaks to the importance of the questions it raises -- and the fluency with which O'Mahoney discusses the various answers given to the questions about the handling of death, the refusals to give answers, and the obfuscation of the issues . The book is, as they say, a great read and food for thought. Those expressions of praise are clichés, but well-justified in this case.

Can Medicine Be Cured?, published last year, in some ways marks a development of the first book. It turns its gaze more determinedly on how we have have got to the way we die now, and so turns to more institutional, structural, and economic questions around the practice of medicine, particularly as that happens in developed economies. Quite how pleased O'Mahony will have been with the praise lavished on it by Richard Smith, the editor of The British Medical Journal until 2004, is questionable: 'The most devastating critique of medicine since Medical Nemesis by Ivan Illich in 1975.' (BMJ 13/02/19) Very pleased, one imagines, basically (who doesn't like extreme praise?), and Smith is quite right to point to the intellectual continuities, but, at the same time, O'Mahony's writing distances itself from the contentious nature and difficulty of Illich; Phil Hammond (M.D. in Private Eye) has the better overall characterization in calling the book 'a history and a celebration of medical scepticism' (The Times, 15/02/19;  subtitle 'GP's stuck in a sick system'). 'Humane' might usefully be added in front of the 'medical'.

So we are very pleased to be able to publish, tomorrow, a short article by O'Mahony on 'Experts, politicians, and Covid-19', and look forward to hearing him speak at our plenary, sometime in the future.

 Reviews quoted from:


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