Fillers A memorable patient

An expensive lesson

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7317.849 (Published 13 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:849
  1. William S Haubrich, clinical professor of medicine
  1. University of California, San Diego, USA

    In the year 1947 I was in my final year as a medical student, serving a clinical clerkship at our university hospital. One of my duties was to interview and examine patients newly admitted to the indigent medical ward. As a senior student, I thought I knew nearly all I needed to know. Then came a patient who taught me a lesson.

    He was an elderly man with thinning white hair and a ruddy complexion. He did not seem ill and was in no apparent distress. He smiled pleasantly when I introduced myself. I asked what problem had brought him to the hospital. His reply was unexpected. “I'm fine,” he assured me. His speech was somewhat slurred and raspy. I noticed a slight tremor …

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