At Least He Told The Tooth

, , , | Healthy | April 18, 2018

(I study dentistry in France, where you work at a dental clinic starting on your fourth year. Every half day, you’re in a different service. For example, on Tuesday mornings, I take care of cavities and the like, and on Friday afternoons I remove teeth. To remove a tooth, you obviously have to anesthetize the patient locally, and, for medical reasons, you cannot do that if the patient has taken drugs recently — especially cocaine — or you could cause them to have a heart attack. Although it is a rare occurrence and most likely wouldn’t happen anyway, we still can’t knowingly inject a drugged patient with adrenalin, which is part of our anesthesiant. A patient I know from a different service comes to have a tooth removed. Since I’ve already seen him and his file, I know he is a drug addict. On this particular day, he is acting very “twitchy.”)

Me: *after five minutes of chatting about the treatment I already performed on him while we set up the operation table* “So, have you taken any drugs lately?”

Patient: “You have to be more precise; I’ve been on drugs my entire life!”

Me: “Hm, how about that last week?”

Patient: “Sure.”

Me: “What have you taken?”

Patient: “A bit of everything, really.”

Me: “What about cocaine?”

Patient: “Oh, yeah.”

Me: “In the last three days?”

Patient: *more or less jokingly* “Are you the police? Why are you questioning me?”

Me: “Well, sir, I can’t anesthetize you if you’ve taken cocaine recently; that could cause you to have a heart attack. I personally don’t care; it’s for your sake. So, when’s the last time you’ve taken cocaine?”

Patient: “Hm… Half an hour ago.”

(I resisted the urge to face-palm and informed the patient that I could not legally or ethically remove his tooth. He told me that he had come plenty of times, been anesthetized and never had any issue, but I still refused and sent him away. I told him to come back clean after the weekend and wrote about the incident in his file, warning the next student to check whether he is clean or not. He will probably come back high as a kite and just lie about having taken anything, but at least it will not be my responsibility, then.)

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