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ss triple helix - spring 2006,  Doctors as Patients (Book Review)

Doctors as Patients (Book Review)

Doctors as Patients - Petre Jones - Radcliffe 2005 - £24.95 Pb 216pp - ISBN 1 85775 8870
This is a courageous and overdue book written by doctors with mental illness. All look back over their illnesses and describe their experiences with remarkable honesty and clarity. Following diagnosis and treatment, most of them continue to practice, some with knowledge of the cyclical nature of the illness with which they have to contend.

Jones, a major contributor himself, has done an excellent job of making a coherent whole from twenty-four contributors. All are members of the Doctors Support Network, a secular self-help group for doctors with mental health problems ( Thirteen of them have bravely written under their own names and revealed their field of work.

In Part One, they tell their own stories, out of which Part Two 'What It's Like' is culled. Unsurprisingly, the first chapter in this section discusses stigma and discrimination. I suspect it will make uncomfortable reading for those of us prepared to recognise our lingering, deeply ingrained prejudices. The relevant chapters of this section should certainly be read by everyone who comes into contact with, or has to make career and financial decisions affecting, doctors who are also patients. This chapter should be read by every member of the General Medical Council (GMC), especially as its function is under scrutiny for other reasons. The NHS might improve if managers and politicians also took on board some of the experiences and reflections recounted in this useful book.

Part Three 'Dealing with It' has practical advice on dealing with sick doctors for doctors as patients, for medical staff treating them, for colleagues, Occupational Health Services, and the GMC. The final chapter on resources is well set out and likely to be useful for sick doctors, and for those helping them in any capacity. An unusual feature of this book is the inclusion of poetry; sometimes nothing else adequately describes the largely indescribable.

The book can be read straight through, for it is well thought out, or parts can be cherry-picked from the contents, index, or the clearly boxed summaries at the end of many chapters. These boxed summaries, which also occur elsewhere, would be a good place to start for those simply wanting an overview of this neglected subject.

Ruth Fowke

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