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Class dismissed

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Aaaargh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

That is the sound of me reading the Times newspaper yesterday morning. It sent me into eye-bulging, temple-pulsating, molar-grinding fury.

Not the headlines about the CQC encouraging people to complain about their GPs. After all, hate-crime against a persecuted minority is exactly what you’d expect from an organisation whose ‘intelligent monitoring’ was once responsible for destroying the morale and reputation of an excellent practice (mine).

No. What actually had me hurling my anger management manual at the wall was another doctor-bashy story on the very same page as the CQC one. Not the story itself – the sad case of a woman who was diagnosed with, and died of, bowel cancer in her 20s – but one word within it.

And that word was ‘dismissed’. As in, ‘…her GP dismissed her symptoms as irritable bowel syndrome’. I know nothing about the details of the case, of course (and nor does anyone else, because the point of the story was that the patient’s records have gone AWOL). But I do know that the word ‘dismissed’ is an absolute staple of journalists, ensuring that the phrase ‘The GP dismissed his/her symptoms as…’ is employed every single time they want to highlight some perceived medical incompetence.

It perpetuates the soul-destroying lie that misdiagnosis is an act of haughty arrogance

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I can forgive journalists for not knowing that, to use this example, bowel cancer is vanishingly rare in this age group whereas IBS is grindingly common. I can forgive them, too, for implying that a diagnosis of IBS is an irrelevance and treated as such by doctors. But what I can’t forgive them is that word ‘dismissed’.

Its use and reflex repetition perpetuates the soul-destroying lie that misdiagnosis is an act of haughty arrogance from doctors who enjoy frogmarching timewasters out of the building rather than a simple human error by people doing their best. It’s wrong, it’s lazy and it’s damaging, and I. Hate. It.

So come on journos: other words are available, ones which don’t have the drip-drip effect of denigrating doctors and undermining public confidence.

Otherwise, the acute hypertensive crisis caused by reading what you claim I’ve ‘dismissed’ this time will finish me off as a twitching, cerebrally haemorrhaged heap. And I will haunt your dreams forever.

And if you care to dismiss this as the over-reaction of someone not worthy of the profession, well, you know who you can complain to.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex