Saturday, June 17, 2006


We have been having a mini-heat-wave in England with temperatures in the eighties. I had to spend a couple of days in Holland, where it was cold and wet. An interesting event on the plane home. I flew in a turbo-prop with only 27 seats, but the flight attendent calculated that we had 22 passengers instead of 21. She had a roll-call instead and found two passengers with exactly the same name who had been allocated the same seat. Somehow they had been assumed to be the same person when they were booking in.

There was a similar story in one of the medical journals last week. Sitting in an out-patient clinic the doctor asked for the next patient. When he came in he was accompanied by another man who sat silently beside him throughout the whole consultation. The doctor thought this a little strange, but knowing today's society assumed that this was his 'partner' with whom he had had a lover's tiff.

At the end of the consultation the patient left the room, but the other man stayed on. "Did you want to ask me something about the consultation?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," replied the man. "When are we going to talk about my case?"

It transpired that this man and the other patient had the same name and both had entered the clinic room when the name was called.

When I was much younger I had two patients with the same name. Their surname is the commonest in England, and both being children of the Victorian age, they had been named after the Queen's late consort. They had also been both born on the same day, though in different parts of the country. Strange to say, they had both at one time lived at the same address, one had sold the house to the other. Finally, they had both had a prostatectomy from the same surgeon.

There the resemblance ended. One was short and fat and the other tall and gaunt. One had CLL and the other polycythemia. I had been seeing them for several years at staggered three monthly intervals when I realized that they had been given the same hospital number and were sharing the same set of hospital notes.


Vance Esler said...

It is not rare for patients to have the same or similar names. Thus "name alerts" are often seen on hospital charts when sound-alikes or look-alikes are on the same unit at the same time.

But what are the odds you would find two patients with the same name AND the same birthday AND have the same doctors?

On second thought, maybe it isn't so odd they would have the same doctors if they were working from the same chart, because they would tend to stay within the same referral pattern.

Anyway, such happenings are both curious and scary, aren't they?

It is hard enough to keep patients straight when they are ostensibly unique...

Anonymous said...

Good story for astrology believers :-)