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In the lead up to The People’s Book Prize 2016 we caught up with author Dr Sarah Myhill to talk about her non-fiction book
When did you start writing?
I started writing books in 2013, although I had been writing hand-outs for my patients and, later on webpages for my website, for a number of years before that. In many ways, writing the hand-outs and ‘single’ webpages were like an apprenticeship for me in how to convey some quite complex concepts and ideas in an easy to understand manner.
As an Author, what influences you the most?
The General Medical Council. By 2013 I had become the most investigated doctor in the history of the General Medical Council. Between 2001 and 2012 I faced 30 separate prosecutions. All of these came from either other doctors or the GMC itself and all were eventually dropped with no case to answer. Not one single complaint came from a patient. My practice, as detailed in “Sustainable Medicine” was deemed ‘heretical’ and the GMC conducted a witch hunt against me. I conducted my own defence. At one point I was suspended from the GMC because “I lacked respect for my regulatory body, the GMC”. I took the GMC to the High Court, but before the hearing could take place the GMC restored my license to practice medicine. I thought it was worth writing the book “Sustainable Medicine” to make public my so called ‘heretical’ medical practice so that others may decide just how ‘heretical’ I actually am! It is sub-titled “Whistle Blowing on the Medical Profession” because it details how disconnected much of modern medicine has become from a scientific logical approach to modern diseases.
Where did the idea for this book originate?
From my patients. By 2013 I had spent over 30 years in National Health Service General Practice and private medical practice. During that time, I evolved a system of medicine which followed a logical path:
- First one looks at the symptoms – these are clues
- Then one considers clinical signs and having recommended certain tests, one takes into account these test results
- It is then possible to ascertain the mechanisms by which the symptoms have arisen
- Having established these mechanisms, logical treatments follow.
I have always refused to ‘symptom-squash’ with prescription medication as this merely masks what is actually going on and one never finds the underlying cause to treat! Indeed, at my first GP practice, I was hauled up before the senior partners for not prescribing enough! Because my prescription drug costs were so low, they thought that I could not be effectively treating my patients! Much of this work of hunting down disease mechanisms from symptoms and tests was done with my patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and culminated in my first book “Chronic fatigue syndrome – “Its mitochondria not hypochondria” which was shortlisted for a prize by the British Medical Association in 2015. Latterly my private practice became overwhelmed with requests to see me. I soon realised that I had to write more widely about general medicine so that my ideas would be accessible to anybody wishing to take control of their health.
My goal is to empower patients through my writings.
The People’s Book Prize nominees are voted for by the readers, how important are your readers to you?
My readers are all of vital importance. Effectively they become my patients and all doctors should learn from their patients. Medical practice is called such for a very good reason, we are constantly trying out new ideas. Even now I have patients regularly send me research papers or case histories which shed light on areas that I am still exploring and these papers and histories often change my practice.
We like to think there’s a voice for everyone in Publishing – what is your opinion?
I don’t think I fully understand this question! However, I do think that in the medical publishing world, there is a tendency to favour the Establishment view and therefore some authors find it difficult to have their work published. I am very fortunate to have found a publishing house which is both progressive and at the same time very exacting in its standards.
What book influenced you most as a writer and what are you reading at the moment?
That must be Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. This great book really woke me up to how Western Agricultural practice is eroding the health of the planet and, of course, as a direct consequence, eroding the health of us humans too. She really made me think about how doctors are adding to our toxic load with prescription drugs. My practice of medicine is to conventional medicine what organic farming is to genetically modified foods! I am currently reading CJ Sansom. His historical novels based in the reign of Henry VIII with Master Matthew Shardlake as the central character are wonderful books. Not only is there a great story but one learns so much history at the same time.
What can we expect from you in the future? What are you writing at the moment?
When patients consult me I talk more about diet than all other subjects put together. The dietary approach to medicine is absolutely vital to treating all conditions and indeed preventing others. The cure is in the kitchen! The major drivers of modern diseases are sugars and other carbohydrates. Therefore, I wrote a book about metabolic syndrome and diabetes – these are conditions driven by modern Western diets. This was published in May 2016. You can expect more on diet and its effect on health from me!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Huge thank-yous to my editor Craig Robinson for his encouragement and literary skills, to my editor Georgina for her thoroughness and to my patients for their generous feedback.