Thursday, 23 September 2010

Churchill and smoking

A beautiful early autumnal day yesterday and a first visit to Chartwell the former home of Sir Winston Churchill.  The lovely grounds and the stunning views over the Weald of Kent were matched by the fascination of walking though the house where Churchill spent so much of his time.
Chartwell looking across the croquet lawn

Churchill is of course most famous for his leadership during the second world war, but he also had proved himself a perceptive judge of future possibilities,  particularly when he had continuously warned of the danger of Nazism throughout the 1930s.

In Lord Moran's somewhat controversial diary account of the life of Churchill between 1940 and 1965, he records an entry,
February 24, 1953 Yesterday the PM spat up a little blood, so this morning I packed him off, vigorously protesting, to be X-rayed. I am sure nothing will be found, for he is just now in terrific form.
PM.: 'What is this they are saying about smoking and cancer of the lungs?'
Moran: 'It is not proven'
PM.: 'You always give me a careful answer'
Moran: 'You have smoked all your life, and I have never tried to make you give it up.' 
A smile lit up his features.
Lord Moran we regarded as one of the most eminent physicians of the day. He was clearly unimpressed by the work of Sir Richard Doll who in 1950 had published a large study in the British Medical Journal with the conclusion, "The risk of developing the disease increases in proportion to the amount smoked. It may be 50 times as great among those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day as among non-smokers." 


Fortunately Sir Richard Doll persisted and published again,  four years later in 1954, the British doctors study, a study of some 40,000 doctors over a 20 year period which confirmed his previous suggestion, based on which the government issued advice that smoking and lung cancer are linked.

Perhaps Lord Moran should have listened to his formidable patient. As Sir William Osler had noted decades before, 'listen to the patient, they are telling you the diagnosis'.
Post a Comment

The Long Walk

It's always a bit chancy to give someone a book. A little like recommending a restaurant. Will others like it? Will the service be as go...