Monday, June 10, 2013

SPECIALIZATION - Humor in Medicine



Clinical Diagnosis versus Evidence Based Diagnosis

Now-a-days SPECIALIZATION is the buzzword. 

Here is a story for all you who believe only in Specialists. 

This story is about doctors but the moral of the story is equally applicable universally in all professions.


When I was a small boy living in Pune in the 1960s, if you fell ill you called your family doctor home and he checked you up.

Every family had their own family doctor, a General Practitioner (GP), who was like a member of the family. 

He knew all about your medical and family history and you had explicit faith in your family doctor and you had a mutually rewarding relationship.

If you were sick, your family doctor would come home to see you.

After a thorough physical examination to diagnose what was wrong, your family doctor either gave you medicines or an injection then and there.

Then, the GP asked someone to come over to his clinic to collect medicines which were mostly mixtures of ground tablets or liquid concoctions prepared by the compounder and given to you in bottles with dosages indicated by stuck paper strips.

My doctor friend tells me that this approach is called Clinical Diagnosis

Surfing the internet I found that clinical diagnosis is a diagnosis based on a study of the signs and symptoms of a disease (The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary 2007) or a diagnosis made on the basis of knowledge obtained by medical history and physical examination alone, without benefit of laboratory tests or x-ray films (Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition, 2009, Elsevier).


Nowadays GPs seem to have vanished and you have to go to a specialist if you fall ill. 

There no such thing as a family doctor and the specialist will not come and see you at home.

You have to go to his clinic or the hospital where the specialist practices and wait.

Then, the specialist sends you for a series of laboratory tests – blood, urine et al.

You run around to the lab, get the tests and investigations done and report back to the specialist who then studies the reports and prescribes medicines accordingly. 

My doctor friend tells me that this is called Evidence Based Diagnosis.

In a lighter vein let me share with you a humorous story, surely apocryphal, that my doctor friend narrated to me on this subject.


A woman brought her unconscious pet parrot to a veterinary doctor (vet).

The vet physically examined the lifeless bird and told the woman that her pet parrot was dead.

The distressed woman wailed, “Are you sure…?”

“Yes. I am sure. Your parrot is dead,” the vet said.

“How can you be so sure that my parrot is dead? You did not do any tests or investigations on my parrot,” the distraught woman said.

“Madam. There is no need for any tests. I am sure that your parrot is dead,” the vet said.

“I don't believe you. You are just an ordinary vet. I want to show him to some good specialists. I want a specialist opinion,” the woman demanded.

The vet nodded his head and said, “Okay...”

The vet then turned around and left the room.

The vet returned a few minutes later with a dog – a black Labrador retriever.

As the woman looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the parrot from top to bottom. 

The Labrador then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head. 

The vet patted the dog on the head and the Lab went out of the room wagging his tail.

The vet again left the room.

A few minutes the vet returned with a cat. 

The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the parrot from head to foot. 

The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head and meowed softly.

The vet lifted the cat and sent it out of the room.

Then the vet looked at the woman and said, “I am sorry, but as I said, your parrot is definitely dead.”

The vet then went to his desk and wrote out his bill which he gave to the woman.

The woman, still recovering from the grief of the death of her beloved pet parrot, was totally stunned with disbelief when she saw the bill.

“What…!!! Two Thousand Rupees…?” the woman protested in bewilderment.

“Yes. The bill is 2000 Rupees,” the vet said nonchalantly.

The woman was furious and shouted at the vet, “You are charging me Rs. 2000 just to tell me that my parrot is dead? This is ridiculous!”

The vet shrugged and said, “I am sorry but it is you who wanted to show your parrot to specialists. If you had taken my word for it, my bill would have been just Rs. 50. But you were not satisfied with the diagnosis of an ordinary vet like me and you insisted that I refer your parrot to specialists and get some tests done - so the Lab Report cost Rs. 950 and the Cat Scan a further Rs. 1000 so that along with my fees of Rs. 50 totals Rs. 2000.”

In the Navy, our health was looked after by General Practitioners who were very competent doctors.

But even in the defence services, the trend of specialization is taking root. 

For good health-care what the country requires are good GPs but we tend to be producing more and more specialists, many of whom seem to do the job GPs are supposed to do. 

So, whenever you are tempted to go to a specialist for a minor ailment, do remember this story of the Lab Report and Cat Scan

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
2. No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright. 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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