BMJ 2003;326:605 ( 15 March )
The Cheating Classes: How Britain's Elite Abuse their Power
Simon & Schuster, £17.99, pp 259
ISBN 0 684 85130 X
Trevor Jackson, assistant editor.
Frank Cunningham was an 18 year old mechanic in Manchester when he crushed his
left leg while motorcross riding. Doctors x rayed the bone, confirmed that
there had been a break, put the leg in plaster, and sent Frank home. It would
take time to mend, they said, but there was nothing to worry about. Several
months and many operations later, Frank had to have his leg amputated just
below the knee.
What had gone wrong? Sue Cameron claims that Frank was a victim of the cheating
classes, those who are among the most privileged members of society, such as
doctors, lawyers, bankers, and politicians. Cameron says that few of these
people think of themselves as cheats, but nearly every day some of them inflict
injustices, great and small, on ordinary men and women.
In Frank's case, a clot had formed after the fracture, cutting off the blood
supply to his lower leg. But when Frank had complained of a cold, consuming
pain, Cameron reports that a doctor had told him, "It's October. I'm not
surprised your toes are cold with the weather like it is today." Days passed
and complications set in.
What follows is a disturbing tale of one man against the medical, legal, and
bureaucratic establishment as Frank pursues a negligence claim. Eventually,
after losing at the first hearing and failing to find a solicitor to take it
further, Frank is forced to argue the case himself in the Court of Appeal.