Posted by: Footler PJ11 NOV 2009
My colleague Merlin recently described the way in which finger and palm print records might provide markers for impaired fetal development and how both fingerprint whorls and a narrow palmar angle could be associated with hypertension in later life (PJ, 17 October 2009, p427).
Merlin also wondered whether pharmacists should be reading the patient’s palm as part of a medicines use review.
This brought to mind my own long-held belief that all pharmacists should possess a crystal ball.
Crystal balls have been used at least since medieval times, although fortune-telling as such has a much longer history. The ancient Greeks made use of oracles that were often associated with the cults of various gods. The Romans practised augury, whereby special priests or augurs sought guidance from natural signs and omens. These people were among the most powerful in ancient Rome.
More recently, former US president Ronald Reagan’s wife Nancy was reported to have employed psychics to help plan her husband’s policies.
In some cultures priests studied the entrails of sacrifices for signs of a successful future. King Nebuchadnezzar was said to have “looked in the liver” before going into battle. Indeed clay models of sheep’s livers inscribed with omens in cuneiform characters have been discovered among the ruins excavated in Babylon.
And, of course, legends tell us that King Arthur sought the advice and prophecies of another Merlin.
Crystal balls were formerly made of beryl (beryllium aluminum silicate), a transparent natural gemstone, but nowadays rock crystal, a form of clear quartz, is used.
(Incidentally, the largest flawless quartz sphere in the world is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. It weighs 48.5kg and is 32.7cm in diameter. This is clearly the high definition, wide screen model of the crystal ball.)
Imagine how useful it would be to have a crystal ball when seeking a suitable medicine for those vague symptoms often described at second or third hand by someone who finishes with: “Well you are the expert. You should know what he wants!” We would never again be stumped by an illegible or incomplete prescription and be able to anticipate any new professional role or regulation.
Perhaps we could erect “Gypsy Rose”-type consultation tents in our pharmacies to attract more clients. They might indeed cross our palms with silver and so cut out all that paperwork. Patients could pay locum pharmacists direct for carrying out medicine use reviews. — No, on second thoughts, I cannot see that ever happening.