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Monday, 6 October 2008


I was interested to read recently that archaeologists think Stonehenge may have been a centre of healing. This prompted Dr Copperfield writing for The Times Online to imagine what a prehistoric consultation with an A&E doctor might have been like:
I've reproduced part of it below below:

Many of the bodies showed signs of recent serious injury such as broken arms and legs. I'd love to think that these were the mangled remains of amulet salesmen who'd got their comeuppance but it's more likely that Stonehenge acted as a local A&E department. If it did, I'll bet that the doctors on duty there were plagued by the same problems as their 21st-century counterparts. Cue harp arpeggio and mist ...
“Mrs Tharg, you really should have gone to your regular doctor.”
“Couldn't get an appointment, Doctor Zog. Besides, he's rubbish. Stig has had a sore throat for ages and the useless sod that calls himself a village doctor refuses to drill a hole in his head to let the vapours out.”
“But Mrs Tharg, drilling a hole in a child's head isn't going to help a simple sore throat. Most of them get better in about a week or so even if you do nothing except offer a prayer to the Sun god and sacrifice a medium-sized barnyard animal. I suggest you slaughter a goat, sit back and watch Mummy's little caveman get better. If he's not well in a few days I promise that we'll run some tests.”
“I'm not falling for that ‘do some tests' malarkey again, Doctor. Last time Stig was ill the shaman ran around him wearing a sabre-toothed tiger skin and charged me an extra two gold pieces for ‘CAT scanning'. When his hands were covered with warts the doctor gave us the same old ‘they'll get better on their own' story. The week after we went private and had a hole drilled in his head, every single one of them disappeared.”
“Very interesting I'm sure, but if you'll forgive me, I have other pilgrims to see.”
“So you're not going to drill a hole in his head then?”
“No, Mrs Tharg.”
“Well, while I'm here, can you have a look at my leg? I cut it climbing over a fence.”
“Go and see the nurse and she'll put a pine needle and prune dressing on it for you.”
“Pine needle and prune? They use exotic lizard dung at Avebury.”
Avebury is two days' walk and they're covered by another authority. Exotic lizard dung is expensive and our managers will only allow us to use it in certain well-defined clinical situations. For most patients pine needle and prune is every bit as good.”
“What if I'm not one of the ‘most patients'? Does that mean I have to drag my injured leg halfway across Salisbury Plain to get the treatment I need? Suppose I get possessed by demons or an imbalance of the humours? You'll look pretty silly with your pine needles and prunes then.”
“If you want to comment on the service you've received today, you'll have to talk to the hospital administrator.”
“There's no point is there? Mrs Moog lost her husband last year after he got pneumonia doing some etching in a damp cave. No one drilled a hole in his head. They said it wouldn't have helped. But when her son got whacked on the skull and didn't wake up they were there with their drills in no time letting the blood clot out. He was right as rain next day.”
Medicine may have moved on but Stone Age Doc knew when it was right to drill into people's skulls. He had even figured out that willow bark was effective at reducing fever. And so he came up with the time-honoured advice that GPs still rely on today: “Chew two twigs and if you aren't better, see me in the morning.”

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