An awkward patient

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 16 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1440
  1. Isidore W Crown, semi-retired general practitioner
  1. Forest Hill, London

    In 1964, I was working in partnership in south east London. My partner had such a friendly personality that, even though I was the senior partner and had founded the practice, he attracted patients to him. I was therefore not surprised one evening to hear a deaf elderly woman loudly demanding to see him. However, I was surprised to hear her response when the receptionists had shouted that it was my partner's half day and that only I was available: “I don't want to see that bleeder Dr Crown, he's bloody useless.”

    I was shocked. I knew this patient well and had visited her regularly at her home, a stone's throw from the surgery, over the years. She was a cantankerous old dear and as deaf as a doorpost, but we had always been on friendly terms, and I had never quarrelled with her.

    After considerable argument, she eventually shouted to the receptionists that, although she was dissatisfied and hated me, she had no choice and would see me because she required urgent attention.

    Despite the fact that no one in the premises could have failed to hear her comments, and the patients in the waiting room were splitting their sides with laughter, I felt obliged to pretend that I had heard nothing when I ushered her into my room with a large smile. She greeted me with the words, “I hate you, I do. Do you want to know why? You kept my old bugger alive you did.”

    It was then I understood. Her poor husband had had a heart attack eight weeks previously, and my treatment had saved his life.

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