|Home | About | Journals | Submit | Contact Us | Français|
In recent months, much has been written about the UK government's efforts to undermine doctors, to reduce us from autonomous professionals to tick-box automatons. With the forced implementation of the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS), the government has begun to succeed. But there are some things that it cannot eradicate, much as it would love to.
Five years ago June and her husband were both diagnosed with cancer within a year of each other. They both underwent treatment, and June has just been given her five year clean bill of health. Her husband was not so lucky. Three years ago last weekend he died, a few days short of their 40th wedding anniversary. June has been heartbroken ever since, but has marched on through life and copes well. She lost all her faith in the medical profession the day her husband lost his battle and blames his doctors for her loss.
In July the erratic weather conditions caused flash floods in the village, and June was trapped in her home by rising water levels. My neighbour asked me for my help, as June was refusing to leave her home, and all her memories of her husband. “You're a doctor,” my neighbour said, “you'll know what to do.” Unconvinced, I agreed to go and see June and try to persuade her out of her house to stay with her family until the water levels dropped.
After wading through waist-deep water, with all manner of flotsam and jetsam flowing around us, we reached June's back door and paddled in. June was upstairs, and my neighbour, who knows June well, introduced me by name. I had a long conversation with June about the necessity of her going somewhere warm and dry, to return when it was safe to do so. But she was distraught and would not listen to reason. I cajoled and pleaded, occasionally thinking I was making some headway, but it always came down to her refusal to leave all her husband's things behind—her reminders of her previous happiness.
I was beginning to despair of ever helping June to safety and was clutching at any persuasive argument I could summon, but to no avail. It was getting increasingly dark and cold, and June was starting to shiver from being in her wet clothes too long. And then I heard myself say it: “Trust me, June, I'm a doctor.” Quietly she nodded and started packing an overnight bag. My neighbour and I helped her to safety through the flood, and when she was dry and warm, with a mug of hot sweet tea and a stiff gin and tonic inside her, she went to her daughter's home willingly.
June is an ordinary person with an ordinary experience of ill health and loss. But she gained extraordinary strength from the fact that I was a doctor, and she trusted me. That makes it all worth while. And whatever the government does to my career in the coming months and years, it can't take that away from me.
Competing interest: I have been unsuccessful in the recent MTAS lottery and am grasping at anything resembling hope or goodwill.