On The Case

Doctors, detectives, and common sense

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7531.1495 (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1495
  1. Alexander McCall Smith (jan.ppw@blueyonder.co.uk), emeritus professor of medical law1
  1. 1University of Edinburgh, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL

    A detective story by the former chairman of the BMJ ethics committee, now a well known novelist

    Mma Ramotswe, only begetter and proprietrix of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Botswana's only private detective agency for the problems of ladies (and others), rarely had cause to consult her general practitioner. This doctor was called Dr Leonard Modisapodi, a man of modest tastes and quiet demeanour, who lived in a small house just off the Gaborone end of the Tlokweng Road. Mma Ramotswe attributed her robust health—and the resultant infrequent contact with Dr Modisapodi—to her good fortune in coming from a line of long lived women. Even though her mother had died at an early age, that tragedy had been the result of an accident involving the Francistown train and was nothing to do with her genes. These genes were good: her aunts, of which she had several, were all in their eighties or, in one or two cases, beyond. Precious Ramotswe realised, of course, that one could count on nothing in this respect, but she had always enjoyed good health and saw no reason to assume that she would not continue to do so. So, the only time that she saw Dr Modisapodi—other than those occasions when she spotted him walking about town on Saturday mornings with his two young sons—was when his receptionist summoned her to his surgery for the annual check-up that he gave all his patients.

    This examination was the cause of mild stress—or irritation, perhaps—for Mma Ramotswe. Ever since Dr Modisapodi had instituted these appointments, she had been obliged to endure the ordeal of standing on the scales that he produced from under his consulting couch. And every time that she had stepped on to their unforgiving platform, the doctor would draw in his breath sharply, …

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