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Whether it is owing to their charming personalities, their bedside manners or that they are just lucky, some doctors are favoured by the number and value of the gifts they receive from their patients.
Lacking all those attributes, I can give you a complete list of the gifts I received during a 50-year medical career in the short space available here.
Let’s start with the smallest. I remember the package arriving one morning. I cut through the paper and tape, to reach a layer of tissue, and inside a tiny, glittering object, which has brought great joy in the 30 years since.
A patient had visited me at home and the door handle had come off in his hand. He blamed himself, rather than my inept home maintenance, and made good with exactly the right kind of screw to reattach it.
The screw was only slightly larger than the piece of grit I removed from the eye of a friend of a friend, who called me in much distress on a Sunday morning. A bit of local anaesthetic and eversion of the lid took me less than 30 seconds, and so the six bottles of vintage wine pressed upon me for the service equates to my best ever hourly rate.
The most valuable gift I’ve received is a painting worth several million pounds, depending on fluctuations in the art market and whether the ‘Co…’ I can make it on the signature in the corner is really that of John Constable, as I’ve always fancied.
In reality, the painting, a rustic scene which has hung in the lounge since I was left it in a will, is more likely to have been painted by a police constable.
Patients might occasionally like to relate their gifts to the specialty of the doctor concerned but my experience would suggest no thanks, you’re fine with the wine. I’m thinking of my antique guillotine egg opener, which is charming but has never really asserted its place on the breakfast table.
I owe this particular fortune to having somewhat inaccurately compared making a section to reach a cataractous lens with topping a boiled egg. The patient took me literally.
Perhaps my patients were simply keeping me out of trouble. Medical defence organisations urge caution and the GMC, while not banning the practice, says no gift received should affect the care you give.
If I were still on the register – I took voluntary erasure after retirement – this is one area where I really would have nothing to fear.
Peter Docherty is a retired consultant ophthalmologist from Derby
What is the strangest gift you have ever received from a patient? Use the comments section below
Five antique copper Bull Rings
A shillelagh is a short length of wood from a tree, including a section of branch to use as a handle and a thicker and heavier section to be used in beating the brains out of your opponent. This is a traditional rural Irish weapon, and thus it is now inevitably Guinness black, with a garish green shamrock painted on the 'business' end, and is sold in huge quantities to would-be Irish folk (everybody wants to be Irish) from all over the planet. Whilst the genuine article might be as long as your forearm, and every bit as thick, I was gifted a version no longer or thicker than my little finger. The object in question was thickly coated in dust and the 'sticky' of ages from decades in the possession of a chain-smoker, who had come to our diabetes erectile dysfunction clinic. I have an Irish name, so given that I had trained him and his missus in the technique of intracavernosal injection, they returned, all smiles, to assure me that they had enjoyed a wonderful weekend. With tears glistening in his eyes, and with his wife beaming behind him, he dug in his pocket and proffered this gift from a long-ago trip to Dublin. It was clear that the gift held sentimental value for them, but that they wished to trade for the gift they perceived I had given them. Strangely moved by this odd offering, I was close to glistening as much as my patient, as bereft of words, we clapped each other on the shoulder in as manful a manner as we could manage before heading our separate ways. But at least we both got wood.
I was given a DIY lamp stand. The stem was made out of ten whisky bottle screwcaps, and on the base were the words "It is nice to be important, but it is important to be nice." He was an appreciative patient.
Andrew Crowther retired GP Tewkesbury
Hand made Batman cloak for my 4 year old and a mug with a picture of a syringe - reference to depot antipsychotics.
Fresh pork chops brought to me in the out patient clinic when I was a Registrar by a patient who was a butcher.
Geriatricians don’t generally get gifts from grateful patients - gifts tend, rightly, to go to the ward nurses in the form of boxes of chocolates or biscuits. In my forty year career i remember three gifts. An outpatient once gave me a bottle of sweet sherry: I stuck the label in the Compliments and Complaints section of my Appraisal folder. The other two were given after visits to patients in farms of rural Aberdeenshire. One was half a dozen freshly laid eggs - so fresh they were still warm. On the other occasion the patient’s husband said he had put some tatties in the boot of my car. On opening the boot on my return to the hospital I found it completely filled with two large sacks of potatoes. John Scott Retired. Geriatrician
My husband, and obstetrician, received from a patient's husband some clothing vouchers for our awaited baby. The provider was on welfare and was also an IVDA. The reason for the gift, "You treated me and my wife as human beings and I'd like to say thanks."
It was without doubt a treasured gift
An angler used to see me from time to time and on his way out of my consulting room would nod and say "there's a brace and a half of trout for you" which he had left at reception. Very good they were, already gutted, wrapped in foil and frozen. (He didn't care for trout himself!)
(anonymous, retired GP)
Sitting in BMA House, trying to eat some soup for lunch. Made all the more difficult when I read the "shillelagh" tale.
I doubt anyone can compete with the 'shillelagh' story, but one of my favourite presents was from a patient who was an IVDU with mental health problems who presented me with a box of chocolates with receipt, to reassure me that he hadn't nicked it, and another who gave me a opened box of Mr Kipling mini Battenberg cakes with 2 missing.
My favourite was one fresh egg ,
Other things : painted little stone ,embroidered table cloth ,hand painted greeting cards cards ,hand made bag, ,tickets to attend trooping of the colours which sadly I could not go to.
a half drunk bottle of brandy!
One young man, after a consultation regarding a badly sprained ankle, pulled a generously sized lump of hashish out of his pocket with the words : "Here, doctor, that's for you!"
Consultant Anaesthetist, Plymouth
A fisherman came in to Casualty when I was working in Plymouth Royal Eye Infirmary. He had terrible iritis. I wanted to admit him because I didn't believe he'd get the drops in regularly during his dangerous job out on the high seas. His fisherman son assured me it would be okay but I was terrified for days. When he came back in, the eye looked perfect. He brought me two soles which my husband de-boned, being better at surgery than me, and they were delicious. I was absolutely thrilled.
A black bin bag with fifteen large brown trout. The patient was an excellent fisherman and recovered from depression using fishing as therapy.