Fillers A memorable patient

The dead fairy sign

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 08 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:396
  1. Graham Lewis, general practitioner
  1. Hampton, Middlesex.

    Insight is reflecting on the words of others. In medicine this means listening to your patients. My memorable patient was a little old lady, who remarked towards the end of a long Monday morning surgery, “Oh, doctor, you have just killed a fairy.” Wondering if my ears needed syringing, I was creating a list of possible psychiatric diagnoses as the patient continued, “Didn't your mother ever tell you, every time you sigh you kill a fairy?” I was forced to admit that she had not.

    This was surprising because a childhood spent in Cornwall had given me a healthy respect for, and knowledge of, the unworldy. I had recently bought my wife, whose family was full of such odd sayings, a copy of A Dictionary of Omens and Superstitions. This book provided no reference to sighs, …

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