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J R Soc Med. 2001 November; 94(11): 608.
PMCID: PMC1282263

Involving patients and the public—is it worth the effort?

Professor Ruth Chambers (August 2001 JRSM, pp. 375-377) says that many people use the word ‘involve’ as an umbrella term. My interpretation is cover-up.

There is a saying, ‘The doctor who treats himself is dealing with two stupid people’. In clinical practice we take a history, conduct an examination and then request special investigations when indicated. This enables us to advise patients about the diagnosis and treatment. Such advice is based on current knowledge—often limited—which needs to be expressed in words that the individual patient can understand, not easy when we are steeped in medical terms. The advice we give is occasionally wrong; only the insightless are invariably right. The patient has to decide whether to take the advice—in total, in part or not at all. Some years ago a patient with cluster headache, having been given the correct diagnosis by three consultants told me that they had not convinced him. I had not previously considered this aspect of a consultation and remain puzzled by the means with which we convince patients. Any ideas?

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