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Don’t read the label

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 06 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1092

My brother was a heartsink patient, I am sure: addicted to alcohol, unemployed, moving often, depressed, and vulnerable. At times of binges he could be utterly unreasonable and downright abusive. And yet, when he was able to control his drinking (most of the time), the real man emerged. Quietly spoken, respectful, intelligent, and insightful, he was honest about his “demons” and quick to apologise. Of these two polarised characters, he was firmly labelled with just one.

The words “hopeless,” “self induced,” and “time waster” were never used directly, but they didn’t have to be. A rushed, curt, and dismissive consultation spoke volumes, and he was on the receiving end of many of these. He was well aware of his label; and although accepting his responsibility for it, he was dismayed by the lack of willingness of some doctors to listen to him in a non-judgmental, open minded way, and this compounded his own sense of hopelessness. His mood was transformed by a …

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