Informed consent (and a flutter in Vegas)

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 20 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:973
  1. David Rowbotham, runner (and consultant gastroenterologist) (
  1. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, London

    “I need your consent for this. Now as you know, even after transoesophageal echocardiography, there's still a small risk of stroke.”

    Stroke. That word seemed louder than the rest. She carried on talking, but I heard nothing else. Stroke? I had to be strong for my wife (and she was feeling just the same towards me). So there we were, being silently strong together.

    Let me backtrack. A short trip to Las Vegas had been unexpectedly complicated by an immediate flurry of ectopic beats after I had rapidly drunk an ice cold beer. Now, that's not unusual. I get ectopics most nights if I lie on my right side (although the left side is fine—I have never been able to work that out). But ectopics after a cold drink? This was new. The ectopics persisted throughout the day, uncomfortable and irritating. Then, that night, I awoke with a start. Something was wrong. I clutched at my carotid pulse. I was in atrial fibrillation. But how could this be? I'm young and …

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