201606-Burke-Peter-Dr-Dec 15

It’s a brave new world out there, says Dr Peter Burke. Or is that 1984 rolling around again?


Have you seen your first case of Lynch Syndrome yet? For doctors who might think a syndrome is a constellation of symptoms and signs, this is a modern version with none of those. Sufferers were formally known as ‘Completely Normal’. But now, there’s a website. You can help them raise awareness and funds, of course. It’s terribly underdiagnosed and tragically underfunded.201606-Am-I-Normal-sign

One laboratory reports Vitamin D levels with the notation ‘38% of our tests are abnormal.’ That confirms they’re complying with Medicare by only testing high-risk patients. Either that or the current normal range is bollocks.

Yes, that’s right… 38% of folk in this land of sunshine, milk and honey have rickets with symptoms so subtle they’re detectable only by true believers.

Normal is dead, but who killed him? It was a big mob of them, constable… and look, they’re still rifling through his wallet.

Psychiatry probably threw the the first punch. Try rifling through the DSM5, if you can lift it, without self-diagnosing half-a-dozen times. You cannot be normal, unless you are the man with the gun in the Lindt Café. AMA spokesman Dr Bill Pring berated the media for suggesting Monis was mad because that impugned the reputations of millions of ordinary Australians with mental illness.

The ‘Wellness Industry’ had a good crack at normal. Wellness is now one of those Orwellian terms that means exactly the opposite. At its commercial worst it is deeply committed to pathologising normality in the name of profit. It’s big and getting bigger.

Look out for genetic testing in your local pharmacy. You’ll be guaranteed a ‘diagnosis’ and a ‘syndrome’ will cost you a bit extra.

Monomaniac Messiah Doctors pushed normal to the pavement, too. Practice Tip: If you have diagnosed 500 cases of Lyme Disease and/or Selenium Deficiency, or anything else that scores a ‘zero’ from all the other doctors you probably should change the sign on your door to Shaman.

Naturopaths were seen fleeing the scene, and a few iridologists. And a hundred other ‘health care providers’ seeking to become indispensable features of their patient’s lives. You can like them on Facebook, or not.

The Law threw a couple of punches. GPs often feel the need to further investigate Normal for reasons of perceived medicolegal risk. Referral to a specialist? Further investigation required and a diagnosis out of professional politeness. Technology gave Normal a kick or two. I used to get Chest Xray reports bearing two words – Normal Xray. Now the resolution is so damn good there’s always something to report.

I reckon normality is rife in the WA community. So, if they’re normal let them know. I often diagnose a bit of normal human sadness. I like the sound of it and so do most of my patients.

Normal your patients’ eyebrows may rise as you utter it because they certainly won’t have heard it on social media, or television and definitely not from their homeopath.

Officer, look! Normal’s trying to stagger to his feet. The medical profession might still be able to save him. Quick, get him in the car before that mob of therapists gets to him!

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