It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody (including patients) lies. The only variable is about WHAT (emphasis mine). I don’t ask why patients lie, I just assume they all do” Dr. Gregory House, in HOUSE, M.D
Often, most patients walk to the hospital, limping in pain and distress only to lie through their teeth. They withhold very essential diagnostic information; this is without an iota of thought that those lies or half-truths can jeopardize their already dwindling health status. So deft at it as though telling lies is a hobby, they lie about everything; from duration on their malady, to any home or self-interventions they had tried before reporting.
Patients’ lack of openness about their medical condition can be attributed to a lot of things; fear of being judged, blame, dislike, considering health workers as ‘super humans’. Despite the lies, we should be able to predict what’s wrong with them at a glance; after all, we know everything. They assume we are a bunch of magicians trained to just look at people and tell what is wrong with them. After which we administer magic potions (drugs). Drugs more potent than the potions Zeddicus Zul Zorander used in Legend of The Seeker to heal their ailments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
From experience, patients lie mostly when the issue is about their sexuality or abuse of substances. Statistics has it that younger patients tend to lie more than the middle aged and the aged.
Most patients forget that diagnosing and treating a patient involves a constellation of events and processes. That one lie can initiate a cascade of negative outcomes.
You let me tell you a story
“Doctor, take it out, I’m not pregnant”; those were the words of the 24-year old banker who was once a patient of one of my bosses, Dr. “name withheld”
The Dr. is a general practitioner who’s clinical and surgical skills are near perfect. He could not miss the tinniest capillary vessel in the human body in the surgical theater; let alone miss a spot diagnosis.
Due to his exceptional clinical acumen and love for details, one is always alert whenever he was on the floor of a case discussion; you have a great deal of learning to do.
He narrated a story to buttress a seemingly controversial point about patients who give false information to health care providers.
It was about a 24-year old banker who once walked into his consulting room. Dressed in an elegant blue-black suit, nails neatly fixed artificially, she had a Toyota car key in hand. A well-informed patient so to speak.
After she was welcomed, she sat down starring at Dr. “name withheld” waiting for the ‘magic’ to begin.
Her presenting complaints were mild intermittent lower abdominal pains and fatigue of three (3) days duration.
After further interrogations and direct questioning, he (Dr.) had a provisional diagnosis in mind. And as usual, requested for a few laboratory investigations with a Pregnancy Test included.
When the laboratory requisition form was handed to her, she went outside. She took her time and perused it as though it were a balance sheet.
Quickly, she returned to the consulting room, face frowned and she posited, “Doctor, Me I am not pregnant; take it out” pointing to the Pregnancy Test.
One controversial caveat all medics are told in the course of practice is that never trust a woman who says she is not pregnant. With that in mind, Dr. tried calmed her down to explain things to her again; but she won’t listen.
She succeeded, the pregnancy test was removed and she proceeded to the laboratory.
When she came back her results were reviewed and treatment was commenced.
Upon discharge, Dr. gave her his number to call in case she doesn’t feel well after taking the medications. Though that is against the professional codes of conduct, she also took it.
Barely 24hours after the discharge, a strange number called Dr. “name withheld”. It was the banker. Apparently, she had started bleeding per vaginam with associated severe lower abdominal pains. She reported that all these starting after taking the pills earlier prescribed.
The doctor, thinking his drug had caused the problem asked for directions to her home. He drove all the way to meet the lady and brought her to the hospital. I guess you are wondering why a doctor will do all that innit? That was obviously out of benevolence and sacrifice.
At the hospital, a pelvic ultrasound was taken and it was revealed she had a ruptured right adnexal ectopic pregnancy. And she was bleeding gradually into the abdominal cavity. This means she could have died in a short period from extreme blood loss.
“An ectopic pregnancy is pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus; such as in one of the fallopian tubes” WebMD.
Immediately, she was rushed to the operating theater for an emergency surgery and blood transfusion to save her ‘poor’ life.
When she recovered after the surgery, she narrated a truer version of her story.
She took an emergency contraceptive pill, so to her there was no way she could get pregnant; also because the pill had never failed her. To cap it all, she ignorantly added she did the pregnancy test herself two(2) week ago and it was negative.
The doctor asked why she didn’t say all that initially despite being asked and she responded “I am sorry Doctor”
The rest is history.
My concluding remarks:
Dear patient (bearing in mind anybody can be a patient),
Never under any circumstance lie about your medical condition; it is deleterious and you can die.
When you visit the hospital, be truthful as much possible to avoid being unfortunately misdiagnosed and given a wrong treatment.
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Note that, just as Garbage In, Garbage Out applies in ICT, Economics or Finance, it’s applicable in medical practice; when you misinform your Doctor or Nurse, you go home with false diagnosis and false medications. And that can harm or kill you. You will become a vegetable.
Thank you for reading. Share and Keep your critique coming.
Story By: Kojo Tordjo
The writer is a Clinician and a Public Health Enthusiast
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