Saturday 30 June 2012


My hands have done some pretty amazing things - they've held my newborn children, built furniture, cured diseases, and even saved a few lives. But no matter how much I want them to be, they are just not magical. I can not use them directly to cure pain, a fact that many ER docs fail to grasp.

I received a call from the ER earlier asking me to see a patient with abdominal pain. This is the most frequent call I get, so that didn't make it unusual. This could be appendicitis, gall stones, a bowel obstruction, pancreatitis, diverticulitis...or the dreaded "other". The ER doc explained that this patient had been to the ER numerous time recently with the same vague generalised abdominal pain. Her blood work today was all completely normal, an ultrasound of the abdomen was normal, and a CT scan of the abdomen was also normal.

So...what's the problem?

"I can't find anything wrong with her, but I'm just wondering if you can lay hands on her before I discharge her."

Let me get this straight - you want me to confirm, with my bare hands, what the blood work, ultrasound, and CT scan have already shown you...that there is nothing wrong with her that a surgeon can fix?


Am I supposed to have the power to touch the patient and magically make her pain disappear? Instead of yelling at the ER doc (which was my first inclination), I went to see the patient. I indeed touched her abdomen, and after talking with her for 2 minutes, I confirmed that she had eaten some bad sushi.

I'm sorry, but not all pain is surgically correctable. There are some things I just CAN'T fix.

Like stupidity.


  1. Your blog never fails to entertain me Doc; you lead one of the most wonderfully interesting lives! This particular post made me wonder, though. I've heard the phrase "lay hands on him/her" many, many times throughout my life, and if it's one thing I've learned, it's that this is a common thing for Christians, Catholics, and other religions who pray to God to say. My guess is that the person who said it was requesting that you pray over her, which is an odd request if they don't know your religion, if any. I know I always feel put on the spot when people say that to me, but that's just me.

    If I'm wrong, completely 100% disregard everything I said.

  2. I'm sure the "lay hands" thing was just their way of saying "I don't like the fact that I can't pin this down. I don't have anything specific to ask from you but you're a smart guy & you might see something I missed - could you review this case for me?" Sometimes life is too short to say everything you mean.

    Either that or (s)he thinks you are the second coming.


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