Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 64(4) November 2014

Book review

“DOCTOR! DOCTOR!  Tell it like it is”

by William McClymont.
Published by Minimalist Books.
2014. £9.99.  160 pages.

book coverThis is a “painful read”, the story of tragedy and triumph, which ought to be read by Final Year Medical & Nursing Students, and Junior Staff, as well as Seniors. An addition to the title, inside on the fly-leaf, sets the tone: “in Britain’s toxic health service.” The author’s daughter, Camille, is the subject. Born in Scotland by Caesarean Section in 1990, she was intubated for a short time at birth, but suffered badly with Cerebral Palsy and needed a drainage tube for hydrocephalus a year later. We don’t realise, until near the end, that she has died in her early 20’s after a life of suffering at the hands of NHS health staff, but enjoyed as well, with the help of her family and many others, including some good health staff.

The key problem is the lack of information given to the parents at the outset, and the lack of honesty from then on. The family soon go to France for a time, where care is better. There is a general background of “mystery” about it all, because of the lack of information, and one can see how festering suspicions develop over the years. Much is made of a “thumbprint on the chin” at birth, perhaps a result of the intubation process. One feels there is on-going legal action, and I wonder if a sequel may appear.

Not unreasonably, Mr McClymont has periodic “rants” about the health service, and doctors in particular, and this is what we need to read. I just hope it does not put off too many from taking up the gauntlet, and trying to set out on what should be a rewarding, satisfying, but demanding career. It is so difficult to keep the balance between burdening patients/families with our fears, or failing to give them enough information, coupled with the fact that we often know so little of what the future holds ourselves.

Review by Dr Steve Brennan