Blame culture gone mad

Posted August 6th, 2009 by Rachel

These days it seems as though there has to be a reason for everything, and someone has to be to blame for everything in life that goes wrong. Fall over in the street? Sue the council because the pavement was uneven! Minor road accident with a dented bumper? Sue the other driver for post traumatic stress!

There are always going to be cases where someone was negligent, where if things had been done differently injury could have been prevented, or where there’s been criminal behaviour/action, and in such cases it can be right that the injured party’s compensated, but these days there are so many ambulance chasers eager to persuade anyone who’s suffered an injury or bad experience and persuade them it’s their right to be paid for everything in life that goes wrong that you can’t switch on the TV without being bombarded by the message. The TV’s full of adverts for injury claims lawyers telling you they’ll get you cash and it doesn’t cost anyone anything (except of course everyone’s insurance premiums).

On the forum I used to run, a medical support forum, I used to see it too. People can’t accept that sometimes things just happen – there invariably had to be someone to blame, a doctor should have diagnosed it sooner, a doctor shouldn’t have prescribed whatever medication it was that was suspected to have caused the condition, someone should have warned them, etc. etc. Looking for reasons is always part of the process of accepting a diagnosis of a serious condition, but so many these days take it to extremes.

Last Sunday there was a Panorama programme, “The Trauma Industry” (Fri 31 Jul 2009, 1.05, BBC1) looking at post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the legal process involved in compensation claims. A condition that was first given a name in the aftermath of the Vietnam War (though earlier veterans of the First and Second World Wars had suffered the same symptoms, but it was known as “shell shock” or veterans were diagnosed as having problems with their “nerves”) has now morphed into a condition that results from minor traffic incidents.

TV reporter Allan Little, a war zone correspondent who’s seen war zones first hand and experienced the death of a colleague in a war zone spoke to veretans, doctors, psychologists, lawyers, and some victims of PTSD.

One is a Falklands veteran who was shot in the head during the conflict, and suffers from PTSD. Understandable. I should imagine that recovering from such an injury and trying to return to normal life after something like that is going to have a major impact on anyone.

According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) though, the NHS is treating an estimated quarter of a million people a year for PTSD, more than twice the number of people in the British army. That’s a hell of a lot of traumatised people! A PTSD specialist on the programme quite openly said he thought it was “a money spinner.”

The programme featured a number of cases, including a woman who’d been involved in a car accident where the car had been shunted 15ft. From this she’d apparently developed PTSD, and of course was suing for damages. The conclusion of the programme was that the legal process that compensation claims go through can actually hinder someone’s recovery from PTSD. After all, if someone’s suffering from PTSD and are involved in a legal process to get recompense from it, it’s not in their interests to actually recover from it.

As the programme points out, online you can find lists of the symptoms of PTSD in various places…often followed by advertisements for these injury lawyers and advice on how to claim.

Headaches, flashbacks, insomnia…they’re not the sort of symptoms you can disprove. I’d imagine they’re symptoms thousands of people have experienced at times, or after bad experiences – they’re symptoms I’ve had myself (hmmm…maybe I’ve got PTSD…?), but what people who do experience these sort of symptoms need more than anything else is treatment. Again though, if they’re in the middle of a legal case about their symptoms, it’s not in their interests to recover from them.

For everything these days there has to be someone to blame, whether it’s the politicians, doctors, scientists, the public, young people, old people, bankers, foreigners, nationalists, the other political party, voters, those who didn’t vote, etc., etc., and last week the latest group to be blamed was weather forecasters. Yep, weather forecasters!

Earlier in the year the Met office predicted that it was “odds on” for what the media are describing a “BBQ summer.” Of course the forecast heatwave hasn’t materialised (no mention of the fact that if it had, after three days everyone would be complaining that it was too damned hot), so now it’s the weather man’s fault. Thousands have apparently decided to forego a foreign holiday this year and chosen to holiday in Britain on the strength of the Met office forecast (nothing at all to do with the recession then). The BBC news showed waterproof covered after waterproof covered pensioners sitting dejectedly on the sea front, teenagers battling their way along the promenade with umbrellas.

What everyone has failed to notice is that whatever we want it to do, the weather will do what it damned well pleases – it’s something that’s not under our control. I’ve never quite understood the fabled British obsession with the weather anyway – it’s something that happens whether you complain about it or not, and it’s just too big for us to have any influence over.  We live in a country on the edge of a continent next to a rather large expanse of water and have a maritime climite. Unsettled and unpredictable weather comes with the territory. The other rather large thing that everyone failed to notice is that what the Met office said was that it was “odds on” for a good summer, not that it was a certainty. As everyone knows, there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes (and at least a trio of crap songs, one of them by Cliff Richard, battling over the Christmas number one, but I’m not sure if that counts). What the Met Office predicted, which of course the media failed to make a big thing of, focussing instead on the soundbite, was a 65% chance of a good summer…that means that there’s a 35% chance that it won’t be a good summer. They’re good odds, but not great.

No matter how good computer modelling is, which is largely what the weather men use these days in predicting weather, along with data from historical records, it’s an inexact science. A prediction is just that; a prediction. It’s not certain, it’s not guaranteed to happen, and I wouldn’t bet my last tenner on it. Is it the weather man’s fault if the predicted weather doesn’t materialise? No, but as a higher celestial being isn’t handy to blame, someone else has to take the rap, and the weather forecasters are an easy target. Having a maritime climate where the weather’s so unpredictable no-one, unless they’ve got a crystal ball, can say with certainty what the weather can do, and even then there can be a complete difference in weather in a very small area. I’ve been at work in town and it’s rained heavily during the day, yet at home, only a couple of miles away, nothing.

If you get wet though because it rains and you haven’t got an umbrella, someone (the weather man) has to take the blame. Not having the forethought to have taken an umbrella with you even though it was overcast and cold doesn’t come into it.

PTSD, the recession, whatever, someone has to take the blame. No-one can accept these days that life’s tough and sometimes shit happens and you just have to accept it and move on. Life sucks. Deal with it.


2 Responses to: “Blame culture gone mad”

  1. JackP responds:
    Posted: August 8th, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Yeah, the thing is though with this ‘blame’ culture where things can’t just ‘go wrong’ from time to time, and people always have to have someone to blame and frequently sue… well it’s all your fault.

    :-)

  2. Mrs Yates responds:
    Posted: December 8th, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Yes we have to blame something/someone to get the compensation we “deserve” don’t we? Rats!!
    Almost as obnoxious today is the demand for apologies, why demand apologies for what happened hundreds of years ago, for what was a random act of fate? Mind you I wouldn’t mind a few “sorries” from any bankers who feel bad about what they started with their toxic debts.
    I won’t hold my breath.


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