In Favour of Surgical Intervention

I would like to take this opportunity to make clear that I stand for surgery. We know that the queen of specialisations is a highly effective treatment for many different conditions; British surgeons are respected around the world. In fact, I believe we would be failing in our moral duty to patients of all kinds if we did not keep surgery on the agenda in all cases.

Obviously, this should not be read as a call for cutting any particular person open; but I would be proud to make the intellectual case for the knife. Further, I call on the so-called physicians, psychiatrists, obstetricians and other members of the broader coalition of healthcare to roundly condemn all those who wish to reject surgery. If you are not in favour of cutting, it is my contention that you can only be considered objectively pro-autoimmune disease; to those sneerers and pseudo-experts who argue that surgery is not an effective treatment for auto-immune diseases, I say it is time to take sides.

We have to ask the question: can there be a decent immunology?

OK, enough with the snark; over at World of Decency they are having a retake of the old whose-side-did-you-take-in-Kosovo foundational argument. As it happens, I was weakly in favour of intervention in Kosovo, strongly in Bosnia; I really ought to be a Decent, but it didn’t turn out like that. Here are the two main reasons I opposed war with Iraq: a) Starting wars for no real reason is wrong, b) We’re going to lose. Far from turning into a Healyite on September 11th 2001, I turned into a Healeyite, as in Denis.

But this argument is profoundly silly, it was silly then, it is silly now. Being “in favour of intervention” as an abstract intellectual position is just as stupid as believing that surgery is an appropriate treatment for every patient, no matter what their diagnosis. And, of course, for many, many years doctors did actually believe that; rather, they believed that blood-letting was both an appropriate and an effective treatment for literally every patient.

You can probably see where we’re going here. This does actually appear to be the core of what it is to be Decent; there is one single, simple reason in all cases, they fell because The Observer printed insufficient shit. Bloodletting does actually appear to be their panacea, so long, of course, that they are asked neither to give blood or to carry out the operation themselves. Surgeons, mark, were much less dogmatic than physicians about blood-letting; probably because they got the blood all over their own hands.

That ends the lecture. As an exercise for the students, why do you think Martin Amis told a BBC interviewer that he “is not sorry” September 11th, 2001 happened in his lifetime because it gave his generation a great ideological challenge, and why do you think he appears to have forgotten that he wrote a great long essay about having to cross a post-nuclear London and kill his own children in the event of nuclear war?


  1. ejh

    Denis Healey. A couple of years ago I was coming out of the National Gallery and Healey happened to be coming in at the same time.

    I was going to mention Diego Garcia but then I thought, bugger it, he’s an old man and he doesn’t care what some passer-by thinks anyway. So I went on my way and he went on his.




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