10 June 2012

Patient follow-up

A patient came in complaining of a cough, shoulder pain, and vertigo. She was having difficulty walking and sitting up straight. I took some of the patient's history, and she complained how the last doctor refused to give her cough syrup with codeine, which is a heavily-regulated mild narcotic.

Although she was a bit dramatic and rubbed the doctor and me slightly the wrong way, her story seemed credible. The doctor prescribed her the codeine and wrote a note excusing her from work.

An hour later, I took my lunch break and walked to a restaurant a few blocks away. There, I spotted the patient (without her seeing me). She looked like a new person, ambling about in no apparent distress.

Long before I started my medical school applications, I knew that as an aspiring physician I would encounter lots of drug seekers. I did not expect the extent to which they would dim my view of humanity. No one likes feeling that they've been had. Drug seekers undermine the doctor-patient relationship, and they make doctors less likely to prescribe pain medication to those who truly need them.