Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

It is well known that patients swear blind that they have never been told a thing by their doctor about their illnesses and treatment immediately they leave the consulting room. Is it that the doctor mesmerises them as a stoat mesmerises a rabbit? Many studies have shown that patients either do not listen to or do not absorb what their doctor says to them. Perhaps it is just that we doctors are very boring.

Being charged by the police also often produces such a state of amnesia in those who are so charged. If you ask them what they are charged with, they knit their brows, think hard, writhe in their chairs a bit with the effort and sometimes say that they can't remember. One might have thought that being charged was a tolerably memorable experience, but of course for some it has happened so often that one episode just runs into another. Their criminal record is a seamless robe. Is it burgs this time or domestics? Who can say?

Last week, I asked one young remanded prisoner what he was in for. He thought for a while, ground his teeth and breathed heavily like the average school-leaver round here when asked to multiply six by seven in his head, and then looked relieved when the answer came to him.

'Attempted law,' he said.

Attempted law? What on earth could that be? More than one person has given the same answer. I asked him what the attempted law actually involved.

'Well, see, my ex wouldn't let me see the babby because I'm seeing my ex. But she's seeing her ex as well, so I don't see why she should be like that. …

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