Saturday, June 5, 2010

Does Your Disease Have Prestige?

I guess we always knew it but a recent study shows it is official: indeed, a medical hierarchy is alive and well among doctors.

A study published in "Social Science and Medicine" reports that numerous studies have found that surgery and internal medicine are thought of most highly by doctors. Gorgeous hair aside, do you honestly believe Dr. McDreamy of "Grey's Anatomy" would be quite so sexy if he were discussing adult diapers for the aged? Scalpels equal sex appeal on TV, Pampers for Gramps, not so much.

The study showed that those with the least status in society, 'children, the mad, the old,' also carry the least status in medicine. Psychiatry, geriatrics and pediatrics came near the bottom of the list. Surprised? Not a chance.

Sociologist Erving Goffman wrote an influential book on the social dynamics of stigma in which he suggested that it has its power through associating people with stereotypes. Ya got that right, Mr. Goffman.

So, I ask the question: does your disease carry prestige? Norwegian researchers asked senior doctors, general practitioners and medical students to rate 38 conditions and diseases in order of most 'presitgious' at the top to least 'prestigious' at the bottom. Can you guess where fibromyalgia ranked? You got it - dead last. Self-starved anorexics, people with pickled livers and schizophrenics all carry more prestige than fibromyalgia sufferers. Quite literally, the bottom line is that our plebeian disease carrys no prestige.

I was surprised to find that breast cancer was no where to be found on the list, however, ball cancer made the top 10. What is to be inferred from this? I have a sneaking suspicion the majority of docs was comprised of scrotum-sporting males.

I can only hope that with time, education and public awareness we fibromites will longer be on the medical earthworm list. While I do welcome medical validation regarding fibromyalgia, the very idea of any disease carrying cachet is absurd, in my humble opinion.

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

Taken from


  1. Interesting list. As a lowly GP I see the surgeons and many of the internal medicine sub specialties make the big bucks. At least in Canada. The psychiatrists and pediatricians tend to be at the bottom of the financial ladder. Part of the problem with fibromyalgia has been that there were all these complaints without any evidence about what was causing the symptoms. I have seen a definite rise in interest in fibromyalgia as new technology such as functional MRI and brain mapping are showing that there are differences that separate FM sufferers from others. There was definitely a bias years ago with FM that had doctors thinking neurosis when they saw someone with FM. I think the tide is changing. The fact that we can now offer some treatment for FM helps doctors to show increased interest in the condition. Love reading your blog FibroCathy.

  2. Thanks for your valuable input, LowlyGP. Being told year after year that our pain is 'all in your head' is enough to turn the most stable of us into snivelling neurotics.