BMJ Published 19 February 2000Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:523
My partner and I don’t socialise much together. It isn’t that we dislike each other but rather because we don’t feel the need. We have been watching each other’s backs for so long now we can hardly remember what we look like from the front, and the bonds between us run much deeper than mere sex.
You can choose your friends, but you are stuck with your relations and, in the same way, having a partner is almost as good as having a real friend.
A relationship like this does not even need words anymore; we can be both supportive and adversarial (without offence) to each other as each case demands. On a practical level I can read his notes and he can read mine, no matter how hasty or ineligible; we also need to be able to follow the mental gymnastics behind the notes, no matter how subtle or cryptic.
There is still a place for sporting one upmanship. Making an obscure diagnosis is all very well but true tactical gratification comes from starting a kid with flu on antibiotics after my partner had seen him a few days before and given only good and academically impeccable advice.
By now, of course, the kid is getting better on his own, but the credit will go to me and my astutely prescribed antibiotics, and my local prestige will rise a notch.
Paediatric otitis media (middle ear infection), in particular, is the medical equivalent of kicking for touch. It keeps the parents happy by giving them a definitive diagnosis and treatment, and no one can call you a liar; it requires an oroscope to view the tympanic membrane (ear-drum) and by the time anyone else has checked it, why, it’s got better precisely because of the antibiotics you prescribed. Anyway my anecdotal experience is that viral illnesses actually do respond to antibiotics; take that, Science!
Because if we don’t do it, and we end up referring the kid, the hospital will start antibiotics as soon as he hits the doors, so it’s better we screw each other than have the hospital screw both of us; it’s always better that these unpleasant things are done by someone you know and trust.