Brain surgery sinks to the level of kitchen design

By Calvin Palmer

Have you got a brain tumor? I know just the man to help.

Yesterday if you had asked me, I would not have had a clue. But today I received a flyer in the mail from a doctor in Arlington, Texas, advertising that world-class brain and spine surgery was now available to me.

The doctor informed me that he was “excited to bring his passion and skill of world-class brain and spine care to the Metroplex”. It is a great shame that I no longer live there.

I get excited when the Dallas Cowboys win or at the prospect of a trip overseas, a new car or a new camera. Brain surgery, I am sorry to say, just leaves me cold.

World-class brain and spine care, who says so? This doctor does not appear to have any links with any of the great teaching hospitals of the world, although he did do a fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. I guess that counts for something.

And within the Metroplex, the hospital where the doctor is plying his profession does not have the greatest of reputations. When I needed surgery back in Texas, I opted for Medical City in Dallas rather than the hospital where he practices.

Only in America can a highly-valued profession, in terms of the life-saving skills it embraces, be reduced to the level of thermal insulation or a kitchen makeover for your home.

Unlike the rest of the world where health care is mostly a service; in America, it is a commodity and, as with any commodity, there is money to be made, ergo the doctor’s need to advertise.

I could perhaps understand the logic of this doctor’s marketing strategy if he were dealing with elective surgeries, women who require bigger boobs, a nose job or stomach tuck. But why would a doctor feel the need to advertise surgery for a life-threatening condition?

Surely, if someone is diagnosed with a brain tumor they would be referred to a neurosurgeon by their GP. It’s not like people sit round and say, “Darling, let’s not bother going on a cruise this year, why don’t we both have brain surgery instead? I hear Dr X is very good. He has a passion for world-class brain care.”

And in Black Friday mode, how about an ad that reads: “Let us remove your brain tumor and get a lobotomy at no extra charge.” That has got to be the deal of the century.

American advertising is problematic for me to say the least. TV ads advertise goods and services the like of which would never appear on British TV.

One law firm advertises with the slogan “power to the people”, which roughly translates into “money in our pockets”.

Prescription drug ads always end, after the list of side effects that are ten times worse than the complaint the drug is treating, with “ask your doctor”. I always thought doctors recommended drugs for patients not the other way round.

But again, there is money to be made from prescribing drugs. And the pharmaceutical companies need all the money they can get to pay off the damages awarded against them in various lawsuits.

Strangely, ads for hard liquor do not appear on the network TV channels. At this time of year, I miss the clever and amusing British TV ads for Famous Grouse and Gordon’s Gin. I guess the ghost of prohibition still haunts the psyche of the American establishment. Alcohol is right up there with drugs and tobacco as a big no-no.

And it will take a cold day in Hell before women in tight white jeans prance around on roller-skates or skateboards to advertise Tampax on the American networks.

Clearly in the Disney-inspired mentality that seems to holds sway in America, women do not have periods but they can be prone to brain tumors.

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