ME is a great diagnostician and recognizes esoteric syndromes fairly frequently, and we generally come away with the notion that his diagnostic skills are exceptionally good. Nonetheless, sometimes he gets a diagnosis wrong or misses it entirely. No doctor can diagnose everything correctly, but he is loathe to admit a mistake of any kind. In this he is not all that different from most doctors in general who can sometimes go off in the wrong direction and even have blinders on when it comes to certain medical conditions. When ME gets a diagnosis wrong, though, he blusters and blames others rather then accept his mistakes. Let’s see how many of the mistaken diagnoses I can come up with:
Water contamination source, not pool and not the village water service but Bert’s bottled water. Later his dishwasher is the cause of stomach problems in the village. There are contaminants due to his having hooked up the dishwasher incorrectly, but he blames the young substitute receptionist for serving tea to his patients.
Peter Cronk’s injury following fall. He dismisses Peter’s abdominal discomfort and Louisa’s concern as overreacting. When it turns out that Peter becomes very ill and Louisa calls him in the middle of the night to come to the Cronk house, he realizes Peter’s spleen has probably ruptured. This time he starts to apologize but gets cut off by police arriving.
Danny Steel’s mother’s dementia turns out to be dehydration. At first ME suspects nothing wrong and figures Danny is overreacting just to place his mother in a home. Once she’s in the home, he notices that she hasn’t been taking her medicine and that she resists drinking fluids at night.
The students at school come down with what looks like impetigo to ME and he wants them all to stay home because it’s very contagious. It turns out to be erysipelas instead, which is not contagious.
Old man (Mr. Cook?) with stench doesn’t have a hygiene or health problem, he has a dead bird in his bag. (Surprising that Martin doesn’t check the bag that the man carries with him at all times.)
Caroline doesn’t have a drinking problem, she has diabetes; Dennis doesn’t have a drinking problem, he has Parkinson’s. Both of them slur their words and have trouble driving properly, but the suspicion that they have been drinking to excess is wrong. ME treats them properly once he knows what the problem is, but never apologizes for assuming they were over-imbibing.
Phil Pratt’s wife Helen. She’s much sicker than he suspects and he doesn’t notice her labored breathing, her diaphoresis (or perspiring), or weakness because he’s irate that he’s had to make a housecall and he’s irritated about Louisa’s relationship with Danny. Helen dies while he’s calling an ambulance and he compounds his rather restrained reaction to her condition by having very little compassion for her husband. When Joan arrives and tries to smooth things over, M still shows no sympathy.
Mrs. T’s neck and her need to use a cervical collar. When she takes it off, it turns out she has a prolapsed disk problem. He also misses her Erotomania and falsely accuses Louisa of having it.
Delph, Allison’s daughter acts out of control, but ME just thinks she’s naughty. Finally, after Delph takes a nasty fall through the glass door of a shop, ME realizes there’s something very real wrong with her. It turns out she’s really hyper due to diet pills.
Mrs. Selkirk is mourning the loss of her husband and hallucinates that he’s talking to her. ME assumes her hallucinations are due to grieving, but later discovers she has Lyme disease and that accounts for her symptoms.
At one point, ME examines a man for testicular problems. This mistake is due to examining the wrong patient because he’s been given the wrong notes. Even though it’s Pauline’s mistake, he should have checked the name.
Al has gone to Uganda and had a terrible trip. He can’t seem to shake the fatigue and difficulty getting back to a normal routine. He talks to ME about it but ME considers his symptoms inconsequential. Then Al faints and ME discovers he’s been bitten by a tsetse fly and probably gotten East African sleeping sickness.
Woman has swollen ankles and dark complexion with joint aches. ME thinks she’s been spending too much time outside, but it turns out she has too much iron in her system.
Mr. Moysey is having a variety of symptoms including dizziness. When he comes to the surgery to get his prescription refilled, he has a bloody nose. He gets his prescription although ME does a cursory exam. He returns after having more symptoms but ME still isn’t concerned. Ultimately Mr. Moysey falls in his home and Ruth calls Martin. Now he finds skin lesions when he opens Mr. M’s shirt and realizes he has scurvy from following a diet low in nutrition since his wife died.
Malcolm, a hypochondriac, complains of skin problems and seems to be breathing poorly. ME suspects possible asbestosis, although because Malcolm is a hypochondriac it’s easy to dismiss his complaints. Asbestos poisoning is eventually ruled out and, when Malcolm uncharacteristically misses an appointment, Morwenna finds him blacked out in his yard. It turns out that Malcolm keeps pigeons, which everyone except ME seems to know about, and he has gotten pigeon fancier’s lung from the fecal matter.
Then, in the last episode, ME vaccinates a woman for rabies, although she complains of headaches. We might forgive him for being distracted and not paying proper attention to her since Louisa is getting ready to leave; however, when he realizes his mistake, he is not apologetic. He tells her she should be all right and may experience some nausea and other symptoms. But she should be fine. She finds this poor consolation.
If I’ve missed any other examples, I’m counting on anyone reading this to help me out. I wanted to review these mistakes because it’s so easy to merely think of ME as a “wonderful doctor” and forget the times when he goes awry. I’m glad these examples are included because it keeps things much more real. Luckily, most of the patients end up doing well after these missed diagnoses, with the notable exception of Helen Pratt. (Truth be told, Martin probably would not have been able to save her even if he had tried to do something. Still, trying would have meant something to Phil.) It would be nice to think that happens in the real world too. In addition, ME clearly hates to be wrong and has a problem admitting when he’s wrong. Showing sympathy is also hard for him. Most of the time his lack of sympathy is funny. On the other hand, when there is evidence of honest sympathy, it has more significance. This is true for the times when he admits that he’s been wrong as well.
Originally posted 2014-03-13 20:42:24.