Posted in Miscellany

*The Best Diseases

Doctors think heart attacks are hot, and fibromyalgia is lame; colon cancer rates better than ovarian cancer; and let’s not even talk about a hernia. Among medical specialties, neurosurgery and thoracic surgery were seen as tops, while geriatrics and dermatovenerology (skin things to do with std’s) were at the bottom. These are the results of a study recently conducted in Norway.

D. Album and S. Westin of the University of Oslo surveyed senior doctors, GP’s, and medical students, asking them to rank the prestige of numerous diseases and medical specialties. Their conclusion was:

that diseases and specialities associated with technologically sophisticated, immediate and invasive procedures in vital organs located in the upper parts of the body are given high prestige scores, especially where the typical patient is young or middle-aged. At the other end, low prestige scores are given to diseases and specialities associated with chronic conditions located in the lower parts of the body or having no specific bodily location, with less visible treatment procedures, and with elderly patients.

This says more about our social values than anything particular about the doctors. There is a lesson in it for how we, as a society, view illness. Instead of compassion, it is rife with judgment. As Mindhacks notes, “mental illnesses fill most of the bottom slots.”

Also provided by Mindhacks is the list in order:

Myocardial infarction [heart attack]
Spleen rupture
Brain tumour
Testicle cancer
Pulmonary embolism [normally blood clot on the lung]
Angina pectoris
Extrauterine pregnancy
Thyroid cancer
Meniscus rupture [‘torn cartilage’]
Colon cancer
Ovarian cancer
Kidney stone
Ulcerative colitis [inflammation of the bowel]
Kidney failure
Duodenal ulcer [peptic ulcer]
Pancreas cancer
Ankle fracture
Lung cancer
Sciatica [‘trapped nerve’]
Bechterew’s disease [arthritis of the spine]
Femoral neck fracture
Multiple sclerosis
Inguinal hernia [abdominal wall hernia]
Apoplexy [internal organ bleeding]
Cerebral palsy
Depressive neurosis
Hepatocirrhosis [cirrhosis of the liver]
Anxiety neurosis

Here is something I tell my children, an old joke. The parts of the body were arguing about who was boss. The eyes argued for the importance of vision, the ears for hearing. The heart said it was, of course, the heart of the body and therefore boss. The brain said that a heart can be transplanted but not a brain. The lungs scoffed at both, saying that without a breath, the brain would soon stop working. The bumhole interrupted and said, “I’m the boss.” All the organs laughed at it. So the bumhole closed up. It didn’t take too long for the body to start getting uncomfortable. Soon the stomach was hurting, the eyes were watering, the lungs were having trouble drawing a breath, the brain couldn’t think. And so the lowly bumhole proved that it was boss.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

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