Doctor: Good morning. What seems to be the trouble?
Patient: How do I know? You’re the doctor.
Doctor: True, but you bounded in here apparently full of beans, so I think it’s reasonable that I ask what you believe is amiss with you.
Patient: I may appear to be sprightly enough but who knows what might be lurking beneath this facade? For all I know there may be some ghastly malignancy consuming me as we speak.
Doctor: Possibly. However, most of my patients call because they have symptoms of some kind, whereas you haven’t mentioned any.
Patient: Well, that’s where your expertise comes in, doesn’t it? I mean, after all the training you’ve had, you should be able to diagnose illnesses at a glance. What do you suspect might be wrong with me?
Doctor: My dear sir, this practice is based on my curing ailments as soon as I have established what they are.
Patient: Hah, that’s what’s wrong with our so-called medical service. You should be working on prevention, not cure. Your business is similar to the police service and it falls short in the same way. The constabulary ought to be forestalling crime rather than merely detecting it.
Doctor: Thank you for the social critique, but let’s concentrate on you. Now, in order to let the dog see the rabbit, as it were, a pointer from the patient concerned is usually helpful. What do you think I can do for you?
Patient: I’d say you should give me a good going over. See if you can find out if there’s anything about to overwhelm me.
Doctor: Look, I have an average of about five minutes for every consultation. A thorough examination will take quite a while and other people are waiting to see me.
Patient: There’s another thing. Why are you rationed to five minutes per patient per visit? You shouldn’t have to rush through your work in that way. No wonder we keep hearing about people who’ve slipped through the net because of this casual attitude to appointments. If you were to give everyone the attention they needed in the first place, you might find that you’d uncover the nasties at an early stage and that would save a good deal of misery later. Also, if you picked things up at an initial visit, you wouldn’t need to see people as often and that would save a lot of your time.
Doctor: Very kind of you to tell me how to do the job I’ve been doing quite successfully for many years. Perhaps you’d like to take over here.
Patient: Worse things could happen. I could sit there and refer patients to hospitals, as you do with any problems that are beyond you, which seems to be most of them, or I could write prescriptions for placebos and medicaments that don’t work. You general practitioners are nothing more than an obstacle in our health service. They are the best-paid office drudges in the country.
Doctor: Heaven preserve us from amateur medicos. One thing I’m fairly sure of is that there’s very little wrong with your chest. I mean, you’ve just got a lot off it, so you can’t have much left there. However, I have an idea. Take my stethoscope and this reflex hammer, examine yourself to your satisfaction, let me know what shape you think you’re in and we’ll see if I agree. For what it’s worth, I can give you a start point, which is that you have an overdose of gall and probably a touch of apoplexy.
Patient: Rubbish! I want a second opinion.
Doctor: Okay, I’ll give you one. You’re a hypochondriac. Forget the self-diagnosis and scram.
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