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No amount of metaphorical urine will enable one to mark a larger piece of territory in the long run.

This is no fun at all. New Year’s Eve 1997, 7pm in the evening. Still holed up in SMA Office trying to finalise our letter to the press by the end of the day. We have been here for 6 hours. Lunch was a hurried affair in the Council Room, interspersed with going over related materials regarding PSS’ recent press conference. More pressing, was of course, coming to terms (or is it grief?) with their latest reply to our inquiries, which we have received at about noon today.

1st Vice President was sitting there pensive. Our residential wise man was in his element quietly dissecting the issues, which strangely reminded me of an unwanted pregnancy. A pregnancy which the SMA was not responsible for in the least, but thrust into unwillingly.

The President himself was working like a new high-speed Pentium, blazing away with counter arguments to what he saw as vacuous rhetoric. And me? I was just plain tired. And still I was going to have 2 parties to attend later in the evening to annotate an awful year. Of course, I could not have known that my friends would open a Pichon Lalande Longueville 1982 and Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1990 later in the night....

I decided to take a step backwards and look at the whole thing again. Why? Why are we stuck here on New Year’s Eve nailed with vexation? Don’t we have better things to do, like catching up on sleep?

What prompted PSS to throw a press conference and say the things it did? What had emboldened them to stand fast on such a stance in their reply to us today? Not one, but the prestige and public images of TWO grand old professions are at stake. High stakes indeed. Fortunately, the current SMA is used to high stakes.

Is it in the name of medical or pharmaceutical progress? Or is it patient education? enlightenment and empowerment? Lowering healthcare costs? Consumer rights? Many slogans I can think of that would be similarly politically and socially correct. After all, we all know how the game is played. As my boss has sagaciously warned me many times in his inimitably poignant and pungent way, “all stupid men have died”. I conclude that we must be dealing with very intelligent people who want to play a high stakes game. I can accord them no less respect. To do otherwise, would be plain stupidity and thereby, courting destruction. “All stupid men have died”, the sentence bellowed again in my mind, in Cantonese and THX digital-sound quality, no less.

But it is one thing to dwell on polemics and loud rhetoric, and it is another thing to face the utter truth. Dollars and sense (good common sense) will prevail in the end. No amount of metaphorical urine will enable one to mark out a larger piece of territory in the long run. Besides, more territory does not translate into more wealth, as some big but poor countries will testify. Territorial diabetes insipidus is a pathological condition.

A really meaningful presentation of the relevant issues, one with the complete interest of the patient in mind as basis for discussion, if needed. Not obtuse rhetoric, irrevelant allusions and bewildering juxtapositions. After all, simplex munditis (Latin: elegant in simplicity).

I hope SMA members and fellow doctors had a more tranquil and joyous New Year’s Eve than the 3 of us huddled in the SMA Office chewing dessicated crossiants.