Sunday, April 01, 2007

Secondhand consultation

One of the disadvantages of being a doctor is that non-medical friends and colleagues like to ask you about their relatives’ medical problems, somehow thinking you are a better source of advice about their aunt’s odd rash that you’ve never seen than the consultant dermatologist their aunt saw last week.

Sometimes they casually mention that their granddad has been ill for the last month and their mother wants to persuade him to see a doctor. They think their mother is worrying unnecessarily and want you to advise. They describe granddad’s symptoms: a bit of back pain, weight loss and indigestion. This has happened to me a few times and I’m faced with trying to persuade them that granddad really should see the doctor sooner rather than later but without sounding too alarmist. It could be something bad like cancer of the stomach or pancreas but it might not be and I can’t make a diagnosis based on secondhand symptoms. I don’t say what I think it might be and I don’t know if anybody else in the same situation would but I do encourage them to make sure their relative sees the doctor. Dr Shroom also sees similar patients in A+E where I imagine the pressure to come up with a likely diagnosis is greater. It’s difficult knowing when to talk about something that is only a suspicion and when to avoid worrying somebody unnecessarily. Whichever end of the experience you’re on it isn’t nice.


At 20:04, Blogger Funky Mango said...

Unfortunately for me it's not just doctors who experience this first aiders / Johnnies have the same problem!

At 17:13, Blogger Dr K said...

Hi funky mango

It can sometimes be difficult to handle these situations can't it

At 12:04, Blogger Funky Mango said...

Ohh it can! At least I have the "I'm not a doctor so I can't give an opinion" defence, so it's easier for me than you.


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