This is my church, this is where I heal my hurts


God is a DJ so the song goes, not so in Bighospital where God is the NHS. The faith that patients and their relatives place in my colleagues, in me and in the institution is exactly that, blind faith. I have lost count of the number of times people have said “I know that we are in the best hands” when in fact they don’t know this at all. Sometimes they are in far from the best hands and if only they had perforated their colon yesterday when the Professor of colorectal surgery was on call they would be in with a much better chance of coming out of this alive.

Nobody questions us though, they don’t ask if we have done lots of these, they assume we are the best person for the job. They nod and agree when I tell them that their father won’t survive an operation or that I must operate immediately on their pregnant wife. Like the Catholic faithful they accept that this is the word and thanks be to God and the NHS.

I wouldn’t be so accepting, so gratefully unquestioning. My only experience with the NHS as a patient is having children and I was under the best obstetrician in the hospital (as all doctors in Bighospital are) not that he was there when they were hauled out or flew out of me; that was the midwives and a nervous registrar on call for the one that needed some help. However, if I had been for an elective caesarean he would have been my choice.

Not many priests encourage their congregation to question the faith, but that is what patients should do if they want the best and most appropriate care for themselves.

The painting is by Salvador Dali, it hangs in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.


2 thoughts on “This is my church, this is where I heal my hurts

  1. Interesting. I am not a medic buy when I was hospitalised with severe sepsis which they insisted on treating as meningitis, they got very shitty with my when I refused to allow any more UV anti-virals on the grounds that they were causing horrific side-effects including terrifying hallucinations. A nurse said “you’re not a doctor and they are. You must do as they say and not argue”. Turned out I was right and they officially stopped AVs that afternoon. I also only found out weeks later that I had a questionable shadow show up on my CT scan (I am a cancer patient). Apparently the doctors didn’t think I’d understand the potential explanations for it. Some medics really do seem to believe patients should shut up and do as they are told.

    • Hopefully the way that nurse responded would not be the norm in most hospitals. I think that the paternalistic attitude persists and that we sometimes avoid or delay information because of that. An example from my practice last week; I had a girl with likely mestastases in her liver on ultrasound and waited until I had the CT scan which confirmed it before I told her. I said the scan had been helpful because it showed she didn’t have gallstones but that she now needed a CT. I couldn’t tell her it might be cancer but she’d have to wait 1 or 2 days to get her CT to know for sure. Paternalistic? Yes, but I thought it was right. Thanks for your comment and reading my blog.

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