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There's nothing I can do, I'm only a doctor

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 08 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:759

“I just popped in to see how Kathleen was.” It could have been a routine visit in my practice, but it wasn't. The couple involved weren't my patients but friends I knew socially. Kathleen had had a myocardial infarct the night before last and had shaken her husband rigid. He was the smoker; his knees wearing with the extra weight from a copious supply of single malt and precious little exercise. His usually jovial face was altered by his ordeal, and he struggled to control his voice as he started to recount the story.

She had noticed some chest pains coming and going for a couple of days previously. The registrar at the local GP surgery had diagnosed angina and was arranging an outpatient appointment with the cardiologist. That same night, however, the pains had started again. After 20 minutes their initial concern had turned to fear as the pain worsened instead of easing, as earlier in the day. The fear was enough to overcome their hesitancy about calling the GP, and, as Mick was keen to point out, it was the first time they had called out of hours in 30 years. “The …

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