‘Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?’ | The Irish Times 4th April 2019

Sir, – “Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?”, Dr Muiris Houston asks (Health + Family, April 2nd).

Every so often this challenging and welcome question arises.

Many of us remember Ivan Illich’s book Medical Nemesis; it was required reading at a pre-Google time when we met in groups to analyse and debate his views, always leading to healthy and heated arguments.

Dr Séamus O’Mahony’s book Can Medicine be Cured? reminds me of our now departed friend Prof James McCormick whose book The Doctor, Father Figure or Plumber? was published in 1979.

In 1994 James wrote an appreciation in The Irish Times remembering his friend and colleague Prof Petr Skrabanek (mentioned by Muiris Houston) whose views were taken seriously by thinking physicians throughout the world.

“Future generations will honour his learning, the elegance of his writing and the cogency of his criticism”, Prof McCormick wrote.

The questions raised and challenges posed by these people at different times are so important, now more than ever before.

These are issues not just for members of the medical profession but for all working with or concerned about the health of fellow human beings.

Today medicine is so often seen as the only solution to the pain of living. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Rise in use of antidepressants | The Irish Times 9th March 2019

Sir, – Few people would be surprised to see the massive rise in the prescribing of antidepressants. The daily stress experienced by so many people is tangible.

The pain of living for some people is unbearable, and the only hope of relief for many is a prescription from a GP.

GPs can struggle to find appropriate services to refer people on to for support.

Professionals have told us they can often find themselves accused of “wasting time with people” if not adhering to time limits, generally set up by those with questionable experience in the value of human contact.

This too we now hear is creeping into the NGO and voluntary sectors, with pressure on them to meet targets to get funding.

This certainly will have consequences for many vulnerable people and those attempting to care for them.

The late Tony Gill who lived on the streets was known to us for many years and rests now in our burial plot in Glasnevin.

He once wrote: “Today I spoke to no one, And nobody spoke to me. Am I dead?”

With those simple words he certainly captured a sign of the times we are living in. – Yours, etc,



Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.