Difficult To Keep Ills Secret


S. Q. Lapius was considering the book reviews. “Seven,” he said emphatically. 


“Seven what?”  I asked, wondering whether Lapius was entertaining numerology. 


“Seven books out on the Nixon affair, Harry.  Can you imagine how this has gripped the public?” 


“Well, it is the first time a president was ever caught lying to the people.” 


“Not really,” Lapius said laconically.  “It is the first time it was ever chronicled word for word.  That was what was so unique.” 


“Nixon not only taped his lies, but revealed them to the people as if he were not aware of the inconsistencies in his statements.” 


“Bizarre to say the least,” I admitted. 


“And that is the least you can say,” Lapius quipped.  “Actually, the public is apparently willing to accept indirection and pap put out by politicians to mislead.


“For instance, the denials of a contender that is running for the presidency, despite the obvious fact that he has engaged a campaign director and is running so hard he is out of breath.  It has even spread to patients that doctors see.”   


“Yes, I was reading about that.  In California, someone had the bright idea that doctors could check up on their patients by having the pharmacy computerize their sales so the doctor could find out whether the patient was really filling the prescriptions.”


“A fact,” said Lapius.  But on the other hand, we are not yet a police state, and it must be left to the individual patient to decide whether he wants to abide by the suggestions of his doctor.  A prescription is advice, not an order.” 


“Do you find that your patients mislead you?” I asked.


“Not often,” Lapius replied, “but curiously enough there are a few who do, who behave like children violating the commands of a parent.” 


“For instance, the one patient with a severe stomach ulcer who not only kept drinking, but who denied to me that he was drinking.  After all, had he admitted it, all I could do would be to try to persuade him that, in his condition, alcohol might be lethal.  But he acted as if I had the power to punish him if I found out he was disobeying.” 


“Of course there are children who deny any pain as soon as they step into a doctor’s office.” 


“And even some adults,” Lapius added.  “One fellow complained of headaches when, in reality he had a urinary infection.  I guess there is some hope that, by denying the symptom, it will go away.” 


“Then why go to the doctor in the first place?” 


“In the hope that he will find the real cause of distress, Harry.  It sounds illogical, but that sometimes happens.   


“Why did Nixon, after all, release the condemning tapes with a speech to the people that once they read them they would understand that he had been telling the truth all along? “Things are getting more and more curious, aren’t they?” 


“Probably not,” said Lapius.  It just may be that it is harder now than ever before to keep curious things secret.”