Monday, March 28, 2011

When doctor's prescription becomes injurious to health!

When doctor's prescription becomes injurious to health!


Appeared on The Hindu March 27

        Warning: Doctor’s prescription can be injurious to health!

              In many of the celebrity writer Dan Brown’s novels, the famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon would be summoned to decode a symbol, the meaning which only he can unearth in the earth. But he too will have to meet his Waterloo when it comes to deciphering some of the doctors’ prescriptions.
             Why do doctors prescribble? Hand writing itself is on the verge of extinction. But we find that most of the prescriptions are hand written if not hand scribbled. A prescription usually contains two parts. The first part contains some notes about the disease and the patient .Next come the names of drugs per se.
             Doctors usually like to keep some facts about the patient as secret even though the latter fully deserves to and invariably is curious to know them.Of course the doctor and the patient never tell the whole truth to each other.  
           Once I worked under a doctor a decade ago. He used to write something like EO or AOO in his prescriptions. Even after referring many international medical journals I was not able to decode them .So I dared to ask the doctor himself and came to know that the secret code stands for his fees. Alphabets represent numbers and thus EO becomes fifty and AOO, hundred rupees.
          Many times doctors mystically write something to mask their limitations. I have heard patients saying that they suffer from a serious disease called NYD fever or NYD chest pain while in fact NYD stands for Not Yet Diagnosed!
        Regarding drugs, essentially they have to be written in capital letters and any ambiguity can cause create serious problems. Unfortunately some write in such a way that only a particular pharmacist, usually of the same hospital, can understand the drugs prescribbled. Probably the doctor might have a noble ambition of getting his name included in the Forbes list of billionaires. 
          Some are too busy to spend more time on writing legibly. But that cannot be taken as an excuse when it causes damage to a patient’s health. But some are habitual poor hand writers and they can better switch to type writing or hire a ghost writer . Once a pharmacist, failing to understand a particular drug substituted another drug. On cross checking with the doctor the patient was informed that it was not a drug name but was his own name.
        All doctors might have the experience of being aroused in the midst of a sleep and scribbling something in a trance state.Such somnambulistic errors  may cause the danger of sending the patient to unwakeable sleep. 
           A study by The Royal college of General Practitioners  found that about  3-5 %of doctors prescriptions contain errors mostly harmless(grade D) but sometimes lethal(grade A).Stringent guidelines have been laid down but needs to be followed more vigilantly.
                       Interestingly a doctor wrote a romantic letter to his lover. It was pre-email era and hence was hand written. The poor girl cannot identify even a single word .But she was very clever that she went to a pharmacist and got the letter read though at the expense of their privacy
             There are many ways to take care of a patient and prescribing legibly is certainly one of them. Luckily I just have to e-mail this article instead of writing!

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