Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A turncoat medical professional

I have attempted to highlight the large themes that run through this 4,000-year history
Siddhartha Mukherjee
The writer of the above line is a “physician, [a] researcher and [an] award-winning science writer.” The line appears in the first page of his thick book, The Emperor of All Maladies, under Author’s Note. “[T]his 4,000-year history” refers to history of cancer, which is tagged “emperor of all maladies”; quite justifiably, I would say, after reading through the book.
Now, I turn to an article by B. M. Hegde, entitled While there is no pill for every ill, there is an ill following every pill, appearing in The Hindu of May 24, 2016.
In the interest of full disclosure: I read Hegde’s articles merely to enjoy idiocy. For some unfathomable reason, the newspaper has featured his articles, each more idiotic than all the others, and twice I have sent rejoinders to the paper, at least one of them getting published under Open Page some years ago. A couple of times I have responded to his ranting in my own space, just to remind myself that I do respond to repeated moronic assertions, though unnecessary and fruitless.
There is a difference this time though. The article in its byline does not mention that he was former Vice-Chancellor of some university and a medical professional-cum-teacher. That is, perhaps the newspaper decided to spare the university and the profession the author belonged to. Note the past tense, “belonged”.
What exactly had Hegde said that riled me so much? Let me start from the end.
“[C]ancer is the body’s own cell that got mutated to survive a hostile environment created by the present lifestyle [my emphasis] and the greed of man to exploit nature to make money”. The good (?) doctor had come to the conclusion that it is the present lifestyle that is agent provocateur of greed, the cause of cancer. This from a doctor, fortunately only a former one.
Now, read the opening quote. Cancer was identified 4,000 years ago, in Egypt. The book the quote is taken from is well researched and this particular sentence is well authenticated. My mother died of cancer and that could have been one reason I bought the book, read it from cover to cover and significant statements have stayed with me.
Unfortunately, Hegde is beyond all that. He just knows: Cancer is caused by the present lifestyle that is underwritten by western greed. The greed is exclusively western and has only proximate, temporally and spatially, causes. How do I say that, in the absence of any specifics in the sentence I have chosen to highlight?
OK, I will take another sentence from the newspaper piece. “’every ill has to have a pill or surgical manipulation to put things back into shape.’ This is the bane of modern western medicine”, by which western doctors earn obscene amount of money. Add the following to it: “Western science that we believe as gospel truth did not come from God.” Of course, I had been thinking wrong all this time!
Jump on to the other side, about eastern (more specifically Indian) thoughts, and Hegde has this to say: “Eastern philosophies, Indian Ayurveda and yoga systems are built to fit into this living world model [my emphasis] proposed by evolutionary biologists.” Most of the evolutionary biologists Hegde refers to are western, but I will let it slide.
To explain, the “living world model” asserts “nature is a living and steadily evolving system, and man is just a part of the whole.” This is basically the GAIA hypothesis. “Oh, how could you say that? That is a western concept. We must discredit it, pronto” – I hear Hegde screaming.
Going further to the head of the newspaper article, you come across, “The new evolutionary biology and the systems biology in it make a lot of good sense with the background of the new quantum worldview.” What is this “quantum worldview”? One of uncertainty? Multiple universes? Particle-wave duality? Strings? Branes? Higgs Boson? Search me, or better, the article.
This is par for Hegde, just pop in a few words that sound avant garde but shy away from explaining it. This is a wasted sentence. Oh, by my reckoning the whole piece is a wasted effort and why pick on a single sentence in it?
There is another telling point in this particular piece. Earlier, Hegde, an inveterate name-dropper, always referred to some Nobel Laureate or the other. This piece is surprisingly devoid of that! I cannot imagine why.
One last thing. Hegde is behaving just like Clarence Thomas of the US Supreme Court. After availing all the benefits of affirmative action all through his life, after getting his high seat in the court, Thomas is the staunchest opponent of benefits to the historically discriminated. Hegde follows Thomas’s brief – feed the hand that bites. Hegde, in his current avatar, believes that whatever he taught his student, the treatment his patients’ received at his hands were wrong. But, just like Clarence Thomas, Hegde does not have the nerve to seek apology from his students and patients.
Tut, tut ... Hegde is a turncoat.
Raghuram Ekambaram


Amrit Yegnanarayan said...

I have read a few of his articles - some WOWing it on FB. I too consider him a total bogus. If he thinks surgery is useless and western, wonder what he has to say about Sushruta and Co. He exploits the gullibility in folks that these fake gurus exploit. Throw in a few terms of science to add credibility.

mandakolathur said...

Yes, Amrit, you are spot on ... high sounding scientific terms and Vedic sounding words - fatal combination. FB is a sucker for hucksters. He would not know Sushruta if he came and hit him on the head!



palahali said...

I remember you had talked about him in an earlier post also. We had some sicussion aout him on FB few months ago mostly questioning his views. There must be some sub editor somewhere in HINDU who shares BMH's views !!

mandakolathur said...

Pala, what happened to the subeditor's immediate senior?! :)

We should see this as a disease and The Hindu is not immune to it. If a submission comes along that puts down anything connected with the "West", it finds column space. This is my take.

I hate Hegde and there is no going back on it. One of my friends appreciated my post for the one sentence that equated Hegde to the SCOTUS Clarence Thomas!