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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Most patients are as anatomically correct as Action Man

Despite expert patients programmes and bucket loads of online material, Joe and Jo Public are just as bad at knowing where their organs are as they were in the 70s. Although, thanks to the growth in some unadvertant 'medical education' men are better at finding one part of a woman's anatomy...

Despite expert patients programmes and bucket loads of online material, Joe and Jo Public are just as bad at knowing where their organs are as they were in the 70s. Although, thanks to the growth in some unadvertant 'medical education' men are better at finding one part of a woman's anatomy...

When I was a carefree med student I came across an old research paper from the 1970's. People were shown diagrams with various internal organs shown in a variety of locations.

The pancreas, for example, was shown in its correct location alongside three other pictures placing it in the chest, by the left collar bone and in between the shoulder blades.

When asked to choose the anatomically correct diagram Mr & Mrs Public scored poorly, with an overall success rate of around 50 per cent. Patients who suffered from conditions affecting the organs in question did better, but not by much.

This cheered me up no end and informed my default "all patients are astonishingly stupid" position for the ensuing decades.

It didn't cross my mind that someone might repeat the study forty years on. If it had, I might have done it myself. Surely, after forty years' worth of education and information, surely in the age of the "Expert Patient" the results would demonstrate a substantial improvement over the Neanderthal Seventies.

Well, someone did repeat the study.



And the results were no different. Only half the patients in the renal unit could locate the kidneys, well under half the general population knew where to look to find their gall bladder, pancreas, thyroid or ovaries.

It seems to me that the only advances in anatomical knowledge seem to reflect the growing availability of hard core pornography with the majority of men now able to find the clitoris without a torch and a road map.

So step forward, among others, Messrs Ben Dover and Seymour Butts to accept acclamation for work in the field of medical education. They may have missed out in the Queen's Birthday Honours this time around, but surely their day will come.

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