Bollocks to the Hippocratic Oath

Doctors Can't Help You

By Dr. Mona Moore

Disclaimer: Some of you might remember this column from a few years back when we still lived at Viceland. When we moved to VICE.com, though, it disappeared, so now we've dug it up. Enjoy.

Photo by Out.Of.Focus

Hey, you rapidly decaying protoplasmic sacks of calcium and shit, my name is Dr Mona Moore. Obviously, that is not my real name, but I am a real doctor. Don't feel bad for me, though, because it means I will always have a job, an apartment ten times bigger than yours and the right to tell you what to do simply because I will always know better. Enjoy my column!

BOLLOCKS TO THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH - DOCTORS CAN'T HELP YOU

You think doctors know what they’re doing? Well, it’s a myth. A lot of the time I have no idea what is wrong with my patient. The higher I progress in the medical profession, the more I realise that half of being a doctor is saying things with authority and hoping my patient doesn’t die – which most of the time works. The ones that do die would probably have died no matter what I did.

You expect me to be omniscient. You expect to show me your gammy rash and for me to tell you without a thought whether you have syphilis or it is just a spot of carpet burn, you moron. You present your little finger to me forlornly, tell me it hurts and wait for me to explain your pain away. Yes, sometimes I know what is wrong and can fix it, but other times the body just doesn’t work properly. I can give you a medical name for it if it will make you feel better, but often a diagnosis is just good speculation.

I have just done a set of exams, which means for my next job I am qualified to take a higher position. Other doctors will turn to me when they don’t know the answers. But I don’t think I want the responsibility. Medicine is an imperfect science. Sometimes a chest infection can look like fluid on the lungs and vice versa. Except for one you give more fluids and the other you take fluids away. It can be a matter of life and death. When I don’t know what to do, I can ask someone more senior. What do I do if that someone more senior is me?

I would never let it show on the hospital floor, but often I am shit scared about what I do on a day-to-day basis. Often I feel I am a little girl playing make-believe. Or that a fancy-dress nightmare has led to me being mistaken for a doctor and at any moment the terrible truth will emerge that I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing. Everyone in the ward will turn around and point and laugh at me for thinking that I am actually competent enough to practice medicine.

Deep down I know I haven’t actually been mocked and thrown out of the hospital. I haven’t actually killed anyone. I haven’t actually made any deadly mistakes. I’m actually a shit-hot doctor. My colleagues praise my skills. I pass all my exams. I am offered a choice of good jobs. And I am not the only doctor who has moments of self-doubt. The irony is that the better doctor you are, the quicker you are to acknowledge that you don’t know what is wrong. Arrogant doctors make rash, cocksure decisions, which lead to more mistakes. Junior doctors want to prove themselves by diagnosing a problem immediately, at the expense of further investigation. The most skilled doctors admit when they are unsure and therefore are most thorough. In A&E it is all about stopping someone from dying for long enough that you can figure out why they’re dying. Each patient is like a puzzle full of clues, some misleading. The joy of the job is solving the puzzle. But it’s hardly the Sunday crossword. The Sunday crossword won’t come back and sue you. And if you can’t do it, you don’t have to tell the Sunday crossword’s mother that it’s dead.

Previously - Things I Have Fished Out of People's Butts

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