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If only patients were preoccupied with the right sort of detail

‘Well I was cutting a pair of chocolate breasts out of their mould and the knife slipped.’

This was the response to my question ‘how did you cut your hand?’ as I was suturing up this particular patient’s laceration in A&E as a junior doctor.

It would be nice if this preoccupation with detail would extend into more useful areas

Top marks for honesty, but more detail than I needed.

Over the years I’ve collected lots of memorable stories of patients’ injuries. It always strikes me how innocently honest patients can be with doctors and share information with us they would probably not dream of disclosing to anyone else.

I was once treated to an eye-watering account of how a patient’s scrotum had become the shape and colour of a badly stuffed haggis. He’d been sitting on a wooden toilet seat and realising it was split and the two edges separating, had hovered half way through his business and slapped the two split edges back together not realising his scrotum was neatly bridging the gap in the cracked seat. Ouch.

Then there was the patient with neat linear cuts on their upper inner thighs which it transpired had been sustained while the patient had been using a small mirror with sharp edges to inspect their own anus.

The childlike unabashed ease with which patients sometimes reveal very personal and embarrassing details to us is on the one hand flattering. Despite the best efforts of the Government and media to destroy our reputation, the public on the whole still hold us in high esteem and clearly trust us with very intimate details about themselves.

It would be nice though, sometimes, if this preoccupation with detail would extend into more useful areas like realising turning up at 9.10 for a 9am ten-minute appointment really does mean you have missed it and when a doctor asks how long you have had a symptom the answer should start with a number.

Most of all though (and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking I may one day need ECT to cure me of the pathological level of irritation it causes me) learn the difference between prostate and prostrate!

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London