Tracy received an email circular at work yesterday offering her a flu jab. The jabs are provided by 'Capita Health Solutions' and the email included an influenza information sheet provided by 'Masta'. I only mention the names of the companies because my life now seems plagued by anonymous conglomerations sporting meaningless names ending in 'a' that have all appeared out of nowhere over the last few years; Capita, Equita, Aviva, Consignia, Centrica, but that's another post.
Anyway, Tracy got this email that started with the line
FLU IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS OF 3000 – 4000 PEOPLE IN BRITAIN ANNUALLY!
And finished with
- ASK ABOUT VACCINATION TODAY!
The words in between explained that sick people over 65 were the ones at risk but that anyone could be struck down by this plague.
What was going on here was a combination of two factors; our growing compensation culture and the use of fear to stimulate revenue. Tracy's employer is covering its rear end by making the service available and the service provider was trying to bump-up its customers by scaring the bejesus out of people. Of course, lawyers still have an angle and can claim that the vaccine made people sick and sue on that basis. That's why the US doesn’t produce its own vaccines any more. No domestic producer wants to run the risk of a class action down the line.
Anyway, we've had socialised medicine in the UK for the last 56 years so we're not really accustomed to being pressure-sold medicines. Sure, UK medical sales are big business and most GPs can usually look forward to one or two free golfing holidays and a desk full of coffee mugs every year but, as patients, the British people are still pretty much virgin territory. Direct marketing of drugs is, of course, old news to Americans and after many, many visits to the States I still marvel at the sight of TV commercials for heart medication or branded insulin cropping up between ads for Budweiser and collect call services.
Caution! Possible side effects include restlessness, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping or dry mouth. In rare cases extreme side effects may also include heart attacks, acute hypertension, strokes, dizziness, fainting, paranoia, psychosis, depression, respiratory depression, coma, or death.
Paranoia? Psychosis? Death? This stuff offered all the downside of Angel Dust but without the upside superhuman strength and sense of invulnerability. I carefully repacked the box and took it back to the UK with me for scanning. It’s still around somewhere but I can’t remember where I put it; probably buried in the garden under six foot of earth with a stake through its barcode.
Maybe, I over-reacted. Maybe, this pills weren't that risky and warnings like that are an integral part of a compensation culture. Sooner or later some lawyer is going to point out that consumption of oxygen is the primary cause of cell oxidation and that breathing can, in certain cases, can cause ageing and death. I'm not sure who he would sue though. God could presumably employ, or create, a pretty strong defence team.
But, hey, where America leads we Brits slavishly follow like a devoted spaniel. I'm looking forward to the day when I see a decent selection of sweeteners available in London eating establishments. For now, we have to content ourselves in most places with a choice between boring old brown or white sugar. What we need is a for a few restaurants to get nervous about being sued so we can all have the opportunity to choose between sugar (obesity), saccharin (cancer) or aspartame (brain tumours); all handily arranged in a neat integrated dispenser in those dinky colour co-ordinated sachets.
I'm curious though. Does offering a choice of life-shortening sweeteners really work as a legal device? Has anyone actually tested The Nutrasweet Defence in a real, or American, Court?
'Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Like a modern-day Alice in Wonderland, the claimant did not have to sweeten his coffee with the contents of the light blue sachet. He could have used the pink sachet instead. The pink sachet would have given the defendant cancer and he would not be here suing my client over his brain tumour. I rest my case, thank you and goodnight'.
Why oh why didn’t I get into the legal profession …