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Bad Idea
by William 'Cully' Bryant

The patient stopped taking his diabetes medicine because his cousin told him she had heard it was “bad for him”. I inquired as to his cousin’s qualifications, and evidently she was married to a gentleman that had a friend in New Jersey who had read “on the Internet” that it could cause brain cancer, or liver disease, or schizophrenia. He wasn’t quite sure, but he was certain that he would not take it ever again. He did tell me he had done some “research” of his own. He handed me a ragged pile of paper with a gleam of satisfaction on his face. I looked through the fruit of his labor. Evidently, he too had discovered how to access the glorious World Wide Web and his detective work had unearthed a heretofore hidden case of a shepherd in Wales who had contracted syphilis from taking the very drug in question. I don’t recall the document’s source, but I was surprised to see that it was not The National Enquirer.

I tried to convince him of the benefits of treatment. I reviewed with him the mountains of careful, unbiased, well-controlled trials that showed that he would almost certainly benefit from treatment. But alas, I am only his doctor. In the end, I failed. I patted him on the back, wished him luck, and asked him to let me know if ever I could help him.

Of course, the nature of life being what it is, it didn’t take long for him to develop a small infection on his toe. Given his raging diabetes, it rapidly worsened. When he ended up with gangrene in the foot, we worked feverishly to try and salvage the situation. (I found it odd that, by that point, any objection he had previously had to pharmaceuticals seemed to have faded). Later, we would both recall how the pungent aroma of blue cheese that accompanied the gangrene was both nauseating, and yet somehow simultaneously stimulated the appetite; if you concentrated on thoughts of crispy crackers and wine instead of rotting flesh.

Ultimately, the antibiotics and careful wound care failed, and his lower leg was amputated just below the knee.

His cousin, the aforementioned bastion of sound scientific principles, came to visit. It was quite humorous to watch as he hopped around the hospital room on his good leg, holding his stump out for her inspection. “Look at this you moron!” He shouted. I just stood there with my hands in my pockets, staring at the floor and trying not to laugh.

A few months later, as we were trying to find a well-fitted prosthetic leg, he made quite an astute observation. “Doc”, he said. “I don’t think syphilis would have been quite so bad.”