BY dR. DAVE HEPBURN | NOVEMBER 28, 2012
Diagnose disease, predict the future and win the lotto
A prophet is without honor/humor in his own country...well no wonder. “Piss prophets” (“PP” for short) were once the cream of the medical crop, the original whiz kids so to speak as, back in the good old days, urine was the number-one way to diagnose disease, predict the future, win the lotto etc. Piss prophets diagnosed illness by subjecting urine to the five senses: touch, vision, smell, taste and retch.
“Evaluating the urine,” Galen, the primo doc of old, stated, “was the best way to see whether or not the body's four humors (blood, phlegm, bile and George Carlin) were in balance.” But it was English physician Thomas Willis who, in 1674 championed the infamous taste and gag tests and noted that the urine of diabetics “tasted wonderfully sweet as though imbued with honey." He died in 1675.
Since gazing into the murky deep of the chamber pot proved deeply murky, they poured the liquid gold into a matula, a clear flask whose shape approximated that of... a bladder. The idea was that urine, free to spread out in a shape similar to that of its natural environment, would show it’s true color, and when swirled professionally and allowed to breathe, would demonstrate a lovely bouquet, a hint of oak and....sorry... went a little sideways there.
Like their medical counterparts, uromancers swirled, studied and even tasted people's urine in the hopes of providing them with a peek into their future. “Hmm, I’m not sure what your future is, but mine involves a large porcelain device and tic tacs.” Every practitioner had his or her own way of predicting what lay in store for the client. Some simply held the flask up to the light and made up fantastical stories from there; others had people pee into pots and then "read the bubbles."
Urine examination was also used as a way to identify pure evil. As the witch hunts of Europe reached a fever pitch in the 16th and 17th centuries, self-proclaimed witch-hunters determined the guilt of countless "witches" based on whether or not the cork popped out of a bottle containing a combination of their urine and metal objects like pins and nails.
In subsequent centuries the urologist (piss profits) replaced the outdated "piss-prophet" and the phrase came to mean a quack. (Personally, as a quack I take this as a slight, and not a slight slight. We Wisequacks are a sensitive duo and work hard to establish ourselves as quacks. And we seldom need Tic Tacs.)
But in many ways today we doctors are still piss prophets. Visit us and we often send you to the washroom, usually after you’ve already donned the three-sizes-too-small gown of shame. We then summon our long suffering Medical Office Assistant (MOA) who gathers your wee prize and tests it in search of: diabetes, jaundice, cancers, infections, dehydration (the sample cup is empty) liver disease, pregnancy, drug abuse (“I have no idea how that showed up doctor, I have never even heard of amphetamines aka speed/uppers/footballs/black beauties/dexies/crank.”) and of course a host of kidney diseases.
It’s one of the many thankless jobs for these hard working MOA’s so perhaps this Christmas, if you’ve had a good year, got some good prescriptions etc., don’t just remember the doctor with Lady Godiva Chocolates 32 piece Classic Deluxe Assortment please, but also remember these girls. I’m thinking a nice box of....mints.
Dr. Dave's book The Doctor is In(sane) is now available for those with a sense of humor and half a sense of health.