When doctor's prescription becomes injurious to health!

March 26, 2011 11:42 pm | Updated March 27, 2011 03:09 am IST

In many of the celebrity writer Dan Brown's novels, the famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon would be summoned to decode a symbol, the meaning of which only he can unearth on earth. But he too will meet his Waterloo deciphering some of the doctors' prescriptions.

Why do doctors pre-scribble? Handwriting itself is on the verge of extinction. But we find that most of the prescriptions are handwritten if not hand-scribbled. A prescription usually has two parts. The first part contains some notes about the disease and the patient .Next come the names of drugs per se .

Doctors usually like to keep some facts about the patient secret even though the latter fully deserves to and, invariably, is curious to know them. Of course, the doctor and the patient never tell each other the whole truth.

Once I worked under a doctor a decade ago. He used to write something like EO or AOO in his prescriptions. Even after referring to many international medical journals, I was not able to decode them. So I dared to ask him and came to know that the secret code stands for his fees. Alphabets represent numbers and thus EO becomes Rs. 50 and AOO, Rs. 100.

Many times doctors write something mystically to mask their limitations. I have heard patients saying that they suffer from a serious disease called NYD fever or NYD chest pain while, in fact, NYD stands for Not Yet Diagnosed!

Regarding drugs, essentially they have to be written in capital letters and any ambiguity can create serious problems. Unfortunately, some write in such a way that only a particular pharmacist, usually attached to the same hospital, can understand the drug names pre-scribbled. Probably, the doctor might have a noble ambition of getting his name included in the Forbes list of billionaires.

Some are too busy to spend time on writing legibly. But that cannot be taken as an excuse when it causes damage to a patient's health. But some are habitual poor in handwriting and they can better switch to typewriting or hire a ghost writer. Once, a pharmacist, failing to understand the name of a particular drug, substituted it with another drug. On cross-checking with the doctor, the patient was informed that it was not the name of a drug but was his own.

All doctors might have the experience of being woken up in their sleep and scribbling something in a trance-like state. Such somnambulistic errors may cause the danger of sending the patient to unwakable sleep.

A study by The Royal College of General Practitioners found that 3-5 per cent of doctors' prescriptions contain errors mostly harmless (grade D) but sometimes lethal (grade A). Stringent guidelines have been laid down but they need to be followed more vigilantly.

Interestingly, a doctor wrote a romantic letter to his lady love. It was the pre-email era and hence was handwritten. The poor girl could not identify even a single word. But she was very clever that she went to a pharmacist and got the letter read though at the expense of their privacy.

There are many ways of taking care of a patient, and prescribing legibly is certainly one of them. Luckily, I just have to e-mail this article, instead of writing!

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.