The New Yorker magazine is known for its cartoons, and I am always on the lookout for cartoons poking fun at dentists (a regular occurrence). But it is not often that a dentist is the subject of a feature. So imagine my surprise when I saw that the August 6 issue contained an essay by Mark Singer called “Marathon Man: A Michigan dentist’s improbable transformation.”
This fascinating essay is about a Michigan dentist named Kip Litton who has a history of cheating in marathons. He was disqualified from several marathons and admitted that he invented another marathon. He is apparently a person who is not who he says he is. Singer treats Litton as a mystery marathon runner because no one has been able to determine how he was able to fake his winnings although it is certain that he did fake winnings many times. Singer says Litton is “at the center of one of the strangest controversies in amateur sports history.”
The essay’s title “Marathon Man” comes from the 1976 film of that name and which features a sadistic Nazi dentist. In the film the marathon runner played by Dustin Hoffman is the good guy who is tortured by the dentist. Singer is having fun with his film allusion.
So does it matter that Litton is a dentist? I have thought a lot about this and think that yes, it does matter. If he is in fact unable to separate truth from fiction, if he is deceitful in one area of his life, then we need to question how truthful he is in his dental practice. Can his patients trust him? Is he psychologically stable? The state dental ethics committee needs to do an investigation.
Read more about Litton at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/08/06/120806fa_fact_singer.