Filler A memorable patient

The “Chinese room” argument and patient education

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 14 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:365
  1. Gérard Reach, diabetologist
  1. 1Avicenne Hospital and Paris 13 University, Bobigny, France
  1. gerard.reach{at}

    Consultations with Mrs L are difficult: sometimes, she comes without her diabetes logbook, or forgets to have the requested HbA1c assay. Above all, she comes either alone or accompanied by someone who, like herself, speaks nothing but Chinese. All I can do, in order to understand her repeatedly high HbA1c levels, is to look at her logbook and try to understand the documented insulin doses and the blood glucose concentrations.

    Recently, I admitted her to hospital. Firstly, we verified that the technical aspects of blood glucose determination and insulin injection were perfectly correct. I also told her that I needed an interpreter. A Chinese neighbour who was fluent in French came with Mrs L on the …

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