Tuesday, 13 January 2009

"You can learn a lot by reading newspapers"


“Why do you read newspapers Daddy, they’re so booooring,” I asked as a seven-year-old, one Sunday morning.
“Because you can learn a lot by reading newspapers,” my father replied without looking up from the broadsheet.
“But it’s so boooring!”
He fixes me with a look. “It’s not boring, son. It’s important to keep up to date with current affairs and what’s going on in the world”
“But why? Can we go to the park?”
“If you’re good, we might go the park later”
“Yay!” I whoop and run off to put on a Road Runner cartoon that we’d recorded on VHS.

My father, of course was right. You can learn a lot by reading newspapers. As boring as they were to a seven-year-old me, I can assure you they’re nowhere near as boring as watching a surgeon operate. So, I’m sitting in theatre, reading a newspaper and doing my best impression of the clich├ęd anaesthetist, when I come across this article. Now, it’s not often I learn something genuinely new and relevant to my work in the press, but this was the exception. Of course, I’d heard about this survey, but I wasn’t aware that the results had been published. It made interesting, and reassuring reading. Later on, I found out that this news had made the press here and here as well.

As a medical student, one of the doctors on the firm I was attached to took the piss once because of something I’d said. “Do you learn all your medicine in the newspapers?” he asked me. I wanted to check that I hadn’t somehow missed the boat entirely with this and was reassured that the results of the survey had indeed only been released the same day.

To be honest, the results haven’t really come as a surprise to me at all. As a doctor, indeed, as a human, I see the risk through the lens of my own experience. I’ve been studying and practicing medicine for many years now and I’ve seen first hand what happens when things go wrong. I’ve seen first-hand, the complications of things that doctors do.

I’ve seen renal failure caused by diuretics and deafness caused by antibiotics. I’ve seen chest infections and would infections, deep vein thromboses and pulmonary emboli after surgery. I’ve seen a tension pneumothorax caused by a central line and I’ve seen a man have a brain haemorrhage after being given thrombolysis. I’ve seen what can go wrong with anticoagulants and what can happen if a surgeon puts a stitch in the wrong place.

I’ve seen all of this, and much, much more.

I have never seen a patient come to serious harm because of an epidural or spinal anaesthetic.

The 3rd National Audit Project of the Royal College of Anaesthetists backs up my own personal experience with some hard facts. Like I say, this is very reassuring news indeed and my father was right, you can learn a lot by reading the newspapers.

1 comment:

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