It is so important to do no harm while healing. As stated in my profile, I have always been a bit at odds with the medical profession. In the early years of my training I could see the point of the discipline and order but not of the lack of personal involvement with the patients. The only time we got to talk with them was while giving a bed bath.( What’s that? I hear some of you say.) Now it is frequently a bowl of lukewarm water plonked on their table and the curtains pulled round.
Patients were usually too intimidated to talk to the doctors during ward rounds unless asked a direct question. When I was training for my General nursing at Charing Cross Hospital, London, being a teaching hospital it would sometimes be difficult to get all the doctors around the bed because there were so many of them.
I don’t want to be all negative so I will say that one good thing that used to happen was that whenever anyone was prescribed antibiotics they were always given a Vitamin B complex. It was known that antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in the gut and that this can lead to diarrhoea or a sore mouth and that this simple action can prevent those side effects. Why don’t they do this now, when antibiotics are even stronger? Vitamin B and Acidophilus protects the immune system.
Over the years there have been some memorable, personal occasions where I have lost faith in the safety of prescribing. At one time I was feeling very unwell and my GP prescribed Premarin (an oestrogen taken from horses urine – more on this in another blog!). She said she thought I was in early menopause due to having a hysterectomy several years before. When I went back after 1 month, not feeling much better, she doubled the dose. This started to give me some bad side effects, one of which was extremely lumpy and painful breasts – for which my GP prescribed Tamoxifen (an anti-oestrgen drug). I looked at her in disbelief and then suggested that it would probably be best if I just stopped taking the oestrogen – she didn’t agree but I did it anyway.
A much more serious error occurred when my mother was prescribed Methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug) by a Consultant Rheumatologist. Folic Acid is essential for many functions within the body and it is well known that it has to be given to people who are on Methotrexate to prevent serious side effects but the Consultant omitted it from the prescription. This was not noticed by her GP or pharmacist for over a year and it certainly contributed to her death from heart failure.
OK, we can’t always know if we have been prescribed incorrectly but we know if we are feeling worse rather than better and if this is the case we should clearly tell the doctor. If we suffer side effects we should ask if there is an alternative and not accept even more drugs to disguise the side effects.
Always remember that the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors states that “they should do no harm” and this should apply to all medical and health professionals.
Confession: For three years I persuaded my mother to take Echinacea for a couple of weeks whenever she was flying over to visit. Every time she developed a severe cough and felt unwell and we thought that she easily picked up viruses on the plane. Then on one occasion it did not resolve and she was admitted to hospital in the UK with breathing difficulties. They diagnosed Pulmonary Fibrosis and a young, Chinese Junior doctor, who had taken her history pointed out that anyone with Auto-immune disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, should not take immune stimulants like Echinacea because it makes their condition worse. I didn’t know this and neither did any of the other doctors but I have since researched it thoroughly and found it to be true. Sorry Mum.