Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

I SEEM to have an adverse effect on my patients. Far from making them feel better, I make them feel worse. For example, only the other morning I saw one of my patients walking down the street armin-arm with a friend, enjoying a jolly good joke.

Alas, this happy situation was not brought about by any treatment of mine, quite the reverse. She has only to appear in my consulting room to be at once crippled by pain and crushed by depression so deep that she is almost speechless with misery.

It is true that my view of our earthly existence is not altogether a sunny one, but surely I do not communicate my darker thoughts so unequivocally by my very manner of being that people who encounter me are at once thrust into the abyss of despair, not to mention neuralgia and a host of other symptoms?

Could there be, perhaps, another explanation of the contrast between my patient's happiness on the street and her misery in my consulting room? Reader, there could. My patient used to be a nurse who worked .on a geriatric ward, but one day slipped on the hospital corridor which was being mopped by a cleaner without any notice to the effect that wet stone floors are slippery.

One man's negligence is another man's opportunity, of course. The prospect of early retirement on full pay with a nice lump sum into the bargain danced before my patient's eye even before she hit the ground. No more medicine time, no more tea for fractious geriatrics to drink up for their own good; henceforth her time would be her own.

Only one problem remained: to convince enough doctors that her injury was severe and permanent. …

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