Intended for healthcare professionals


How (not) to be a good patient

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 19 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:471
  1. Daniel K Sokol (, doctoral candidate in medical ethics
  1. department of social science and medicine, Imperial College, London

    Last Saturday, as I leapt in the air, salmon-like, to head the winning goal for the local football team, a clumsy defender bashed his head against mine. The impact of his forehead created such a deep, unsightly dent over my right eye that the other players, visibly repulsed by the wound, called for an ambulance. When the ambulance finally arrived, several interminable minutes past the government's eight minute target, the two paramedics waltzed in, sprightly and cheerful, in their green and yellow overalls. I was bothered by their apparent indifference to my plight—the alarming possibility of death or of life as a vegetable—but I mustered the inner strength to answer their questions: “How did it happen?” “Where were you hit?” “Where does it hurt?” and so on. I was trolleyed into the ambulance and taken to the hospital. The ambulance did not howl on the way there, which angered me further. Was my potentially life threatening injury not serious enough to warrant …

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