I heard a good piece by Jenny Murray on women’s hour about an Asian mother’s-in-law. Apparently this woman has been jailed for keeping her daughters in law as slaves.
When I was in general practice back in the late ‘70s it was not uncommon for young, recently married Asian women to turn up at my surgery complaining about mistreatment almost as bad as the situation described by Jenny. Of course they usually said they had a cold or a headache.
I used to subtly arrange for these beleaguered women to come back to see me on Wednesdays, which at the time tended to be light days. I could take longer with the patients, but also by asking all these women to all come on the same day I was able to create an informal support network so that they at least did not feel alone.
The other important thing was to remember to give them a prescription, because mother-in-law would ask to see it as proof that the visit was genuine.
I remember saying to one of them, “Why don’t you go to night school and get some qualifications?’
She just laughed. ‘My mother in law would never let me,’ she said. ‘We all know what happens at night school.’
I have to say that was a surprise to me, I thought people studied to get on rather than get it on. I should have listened more carefully, several years later my wife went to night school, with encouragement from me and of course ended up having an affair with the teacher, and ultimately leaving me.
It seems to me this is absolute evidence that doctors should listen to their patients.