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The King Who Talks To His Plants

By Fintan Moore - 04th Oct 2022

king

Fintan Moore hopes that the coronation of King Charles won’t mean a shot in the arm for the homeopathy industry.

I’m generally sceptical about the benefits of any country having a monarchy, especially when the head of the royal family is allowed a degree of power and influence over the actions of a democratically elected government. I prefer the Irish system of electing a President to represent us as Head of State. Nevertheless, I was sorry at the passing of Queen Elizabeth, who had done much to improve Anglo-Irish relationships over recent years. Her ability to achieve so much was due in part to the odd fascination that a lot of Irish people have with British royalty, despite our 100 years as a constitutional republic. This is bemusing, but I try to have an attitude of ‘live and let live’, as long as people’s interests or beliefs don’t result in harm to anyone else, although I still harbour a degree of bigotry and intolerance when it comes to golf. However, the question of what harm the personal beliefs of the British monarch can cause is actually about to become a live issue. 

King Charles seems like a fundamentally decent human being, and can be allowed a bit of slack for the pressures that come with having lived all his life under a microscope. Despite wealth and privilege, it can’t always have been easy being just one branch down from the top of the royal tree. Maybe that’s why he reputedly talks to his plants. To his credit, he has a long-standing and apparently genuine interest in the environment, but on the downside, he has been a sucker for homeopathy for decades. He hasn’t been shy about being an advocate for it either, and in 2019 became a patron of The Faculty of Homeopathy in the UK. This move was widely criticised by scientists and doctors, but was gleefully welcomed by the charlatans who plug this nonsense. 

Dr Gary Smyth, the President of the Faculty of Homeopathy, said: “It is an enormous honour for us to receive the patronage of his royal highness the Prince of Wales and I am delighted to announce this news.” This fawning appreciation for the then-Prince’s actions suggest that the homeopaths thought it could be good for sales. Homeopathy as a practice seems to be waning, and internationally there is less state funding being wasted on it, but hopefully the sprinkling of royal stardust won’t generate a new wave of gullible or desperate people to be exploited. 

COIL AND TROUBLE 

The Free Contraceptive Scheme certainly landed with a sudden bang, and despite being a nice idea, it smacks of something put together on the back of an envelope by the Minister for Health before becoming a decree to be obeyed by everybody else. I think the people in the IPU who worked on this did a very good job in the circumstances, both in terms of the deal struck, and the implementation advice they provided to us. The IPU were caught by surprise as much as other stakeholders through no fault of their own, but refusing to row-in with the scheme immediately would have been a mistake. The optics of delaying could have been a PR disaster, and we know that there are media elements always ready to give pharmacists a kicking — we saw recently how they gave 15 seconds of fame to the nonsensical, and ethically dubious, RCSI pricing study. The other consideration, as always, is that the IPU needs to build and foster relationships in order to make progress, so it makes more sense to show the ability to deliver results rather than being obstructionist. 

The question of what harm the personal beliefs of the British monarch can cause is actually about to become a live issue 

There are other groups impacted by this scheme to a greater extent than pharmacists, given that coils and implants are now available free of charge. The extra level of work involved for us to dispense a coil rather than an OCP is minimal, whereas the extra workload for a GP practice to fit a coil rather than prescribe an OCP is considerable. This will be a problem in particular for the staff working in third-level student health services. For many young women, a coil is a better option than the OCP, but the cost of having the coil fitted was prohibitive. Now that cost isn’t a factor, there will be a surge in demand, but no extra resources have been allocated to allow for this. The other obvious query is whether or not the Department of Health has correctly predicted the level of demand that will exist for coils, and the knock-on effect for the HSE budget. I suspect that any figures done were on the back of the same envelope used to write out the original idea. 

PRESCRIPTIVE WRITING 

It’s becoming less of an issue in these electronic times, but the problem of reading doctors’ writing has been a perennial bugbear. I recently came across the following comment, which has an interesting feature — see if you can identify what that is before seeing the answer below: 

“I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality counterbalancing indecipherability transcendentalises intercommunication’s incomprehensibleness.” 

I don’t know who wrote it originally, but I suspect it was a pharmacist somewhere with a little bit too much time on their hands. The quirk is that the sentence contains 20 words, and if you count the letters you’ll see that the first word has one letter, the second word has two, and so on all the way up to the 20th word having 20 letters. I assume the author ran out of words, or steam, at that point. 

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