12 APRIL 1975, Page 12

Personal column

Brian Inglis

The American Medical Association is complaining that its members in big cities are having to pay insurance premiums of $20,000 a year, to cover themselves against malpractice suits. I should feel more disposed to be sorry. for them if the AMA did not go on to estimate that this represents "as much as 20 per cent of their incomes"; in other words, they are earning around $100,000'a year. 'Earning' is the wrong word. The great majority of doctors involved are specialists (general practitioners have been becoming obsolete); and as specialist status encourages the doctors to refuse to go to his patients' homes — his diagnosis is ordinarily undertaken by telcphone. Not that the doctor has to make a diagnosis, on hearing of the symptoms; the standard practice is to send patients on a round of expensive laboratory tests. If that fails to elucidate the nature of the disorder, the unlucky patient will be sent to a hospital; and there, he will have to undergo and pay for the same tests all over again, even if he has the evidence to show they have all just been done, because hospitals have pacts with their lab, staff to that effect. The whole relationship has become so impersonal that it is hardly surprising the patient does not hesitate to sue when anything goes wrong.

As for —lawyers

Two executors of a will, John Doe and Mary Roe, had just signed some legal document for probate in London the other day when the solicitor saw that Mary had used the form 'F. Mary Roe' by which she commonly signed her cheques, though the 'F' had been forgotten for all other purposes since her childhood days. You would think — or, rather, you would not think, in connection with the Law — that provision would have been made to cover what must be a fairly common contingency, by allowing the individual concerned to make the appropriate explanation, and have it duly witnessed (if somebody were trying to cheat, after all, he or she would not make that mistake). But though this was done, the solicitor warned that it would come back; and of course it did. The document was returned from the Registry through 'Oyez Services Ltd' (I am not inventing the name) with a reference number AG.1 /GGB/PW /150083 — this being, 1 suspect, the number of times Oyez have been able to perform this particular service. The injunction ran: As the first Christian name of the second executor does not agree with that given in the will, it will be necessary for her to be further identified. For this purpose a clause should be added to the Oath statill.g that she is a neice of the deceased who never had a neice named Mary Roe.

. . and so on. Not only was 'neice' thus misspelt, but so was Mary Roe's name, arld differently misspelt on two different Occasions, at that. The letter ended "Awaiting your further instructions". I would be delighted to, only they are defamatory.


I have not always agreed in the past, nor shall probably agree in the future, with muchthat, William Sargant writes on psychologica; medicine; but (if I may return a compliroe,h„, paid in these columns last month) it is a PLY that so few of his fellow psychiatrists appear to, have read his works on possession. If more 1, them had, we would have been spared nutc" nonsense about the exorcism affair. 1-11 phenomenon of possession, in which duals (or groups) appear to be taken over bnY some outside force (or personality) has beein known in every country, in every age. 5 Christian communities, the assumption ordinarily been that the devil is responsiblet his attendant demons. When medicine werir rationalist, it threw out the baby with the watkee by denying the existence not simply of the demons, but of possession, and even of t"s trance states in which it occurs. To this daY,,,ae a result, few psychiatrists (Dr Sargant being t". outstanding exception) have cared to invest'," gate the whole phenomenon of' dissociation by which the mind appears to split, somethrife to be battled over by what appear to 'J... intrusive personalities. And as a result excus cism, which is only one of many possible watY, of resolving this conflict, has continued to regarded as an occult and sinister procedure.


If decorations were awarded for bravery it'. itntee face of orthodoxy's gunfire, another candlos.:A would be John Taylor, Professor of APPII`is Mathematics at King's College, London, win, currently describing his research into e7q; sensory perception in the Observer magazth.,ti Somebody once remarked in connection wl` the discoveries of medical science that orthc:, doxy first derides them as nonsense; the accepts them but dismisses them as uniroPnt tant; and finally, embraces them as imPorta: but claims to have known about them all all ESPrs now moving into the second stage: all right, perhaps spoons can be bent, but Sa what?" Taylor, who used to be alrnosd professional sceptic in such matters, has t?"0 the sense to realise that if spoons or anYthi% else can be bent by mental forces, t;(1 implications for physics are enormous;

shattering. He still believes, or did when I spoke to him, that an explanation will be foo. '

Ors within the known laws of physics. I feel th1.5 unlikely; but at least it is well worth exploring'

Missing Alan

I shall miss Alan Brien's Sunday Times diarloi discontinued so that he may write a book. The as a diary: a misbegotten notion, that was in essence of the diarist's craft, at leas1 journalism, is to get around, and to listefl. is more interested in ideas than in haPPennl... and he has hardly been known to listen sine. be left Oxford. While he was on The Spectatcirthe achieved the remarkable feat of becoming g best theatre critic in London without havice, had any previous theatre-going experien in except perhaps the odd girlie shoW Sunderland; but this was because he broutr, an independent mind, and gut, to the Peri, jp the n intervals.ces, an d l'as not permitted to talk exce h fhBri562 a9n.Inglis s was editor of The Spectator fon 19t