Sunday 22 April 2018

Medical mafia: President Macron's extended family of doctors


President Macron: Illustration Eorna Walton
President Macron: Illustration Eorna Walton

Maurice Gueret

President Macron of France is the only member of his family without a prescription pad, writes Maurice Gueret, who also attends Bloom 2017

Painful Macronoids

France is succumbing to a new disease this summer. It's hard to pin down exactly what it's called. Some call it Macron mania. Others say it's acute Macronitis. Let's hope it doesn't end up as a painful case of swollen Macronoids. President Emmanuel Macron is the new golden boy of French politics. Having seen off the unsavoury famille Le Pen at the polls, this month his En Marche movement has been filling the National Assembly with youthful candidates from all walks of life. Much of the media commentary outside of France has focused on the fact that Macron's wife was a 24-year-old mother of two when he was born in 1977. Less well covered has been Macron's extraordinary medical pedigree. His parents, now divorced, were both doctors, and his neurologist papa then went on to marry a psychiatrist. Both of President Macron's siblings are medics - Laurent is a radiologist and Estelle specialises in kidneys. Macron's step-daughter Laurence, who is actually older than the President himself, is an eminent cardiologist who played a key role in his election. And guess what? Yes, she is married to a doctor, too. These extended families of today's doctors aren't called the medical mafia for nothing.

Blooming Health

The garden used to be a great refuge for healers who needed to get away from it all. But the public-relations blitz that's enveloping healthcare can turn beds and borders into a bit of a busman's holiday. Hot on the heels of this year's breast-cancer garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, our own Bloom festival turned up with a men's-health garden, a mental-health garden and a dementia-friendly garden to woo those with green fingers. I'm glad to hear that many of these exhibits were moved to worthy venues where they will be appreciated and used once the show ended. I did enjoy Bloom this year. The water gardens were really spectacular. Going with the good intention of bringing back a quality potting spade that was built to last, I gave up the search in a sea of food stalls and arrived home with six striploin steaks and a few spuds instead. I always had an idea that on retirement from the health arena, I might develop a medicinal garden and devote it to growing my own tonics and remedies. Monty Don has been planting medicinal varieties of mint on his TV show this year. If he can find a decent potting spade at Bloom 2018, Mossy Don might just join him.

Mortuary Specialists

A debate is kicking off in clinical circles about whether doctors are becoming too specialised these days. It's not that long ago since we had just physicians, surgeons, shrinks and a few technical types with cameras or gas cannisters. Then a wave of organ specialities took over. Heart doctors went one way and bone doctors another. Now those specialities have pretty much subdivided again. The orthopaedic specialist now might just replace shoulders, while her colleague only opens knees. This can be good news for patients, as narrow focus helps to build expertise. But it can be bad news for the many patients who don't have an easy classical diagnosis, or who develop a second complication or illness along the way. They can be ping-ponged around from Billy to Jackie in an unending search for somebody with expertise across more than one field. One Irish general surgeon suggested recently that the same overspecialisation problems are happening in the cutting business. He suggested that when everyone specialises in the care of one organ, the only department that gets to examine the entire body may be the morgue.

Circulation Boost

A press release has arrived extolling the benefits of circulation-booster machines. They are running off the shelves at more than €300 a pop, with sales up 200pc. I don't have one. If I had €300 for a health technology spend, it would more likely go on a nice set of Bose earphones for company on long walks. I've seen many legs in my time, but have rarely felt the need to electrify any of them. Pavements, fields and beaches are the best circulation boosters there are. Carpets work well, too. If you can't get out, you can still contract and relax your own calf muscles from the comfort of a chair or bed. Human circulation has been ably boosted by Achilles tendons for generations. They do like earth, but don't require expensive power supply.

Dr Maurice Gueret  is editor of the  'Irish Medical Directory'

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