Much healthier than expected

‘He’s given up, I tell you. If she doesn’t come straight away, it will be too late.’ And so, seizing my car keys and leaving Mrs Wheeze in mid-peak flow, I fled the surgery and headed to his aid.

It took a while, as I have the directional sense of a deaf bat, so by the time I got there I feared the worst. Gasping for breath I rushed through the hall.

'Good morning doctor,' said he. 'What on earth are you doing here?'

Mr Moribund was, at this point, rather less moribund than I. He was, it's true, bed bound and 90, but apart from a UTI he felt no worse. When I suggested that his carer felt he was moribund he replied: 'No I wasn't, I was pretending to be asleep. It's the only thing that shuts her up.'

I decided to be charitable. After all, being asleep and being moribund can look similar in a 90-year-old, especially viewed from the doorway in a dim light - so I prescribed trimethoprim and returned to Mrs Wheeze, to find that 12 attempts at a peak flow had left her gasping on the carpet.

I would have thought no more about Mr Moribund had not the care agency (who had not, incidentally, stuck around for my visit) phoned to ask why I hadn't admitted him.

I explained he had been as well as could be expected, all things considered.

'I knew it,' said the carer, 'he was faking again.'

'Oh dear,' said I sympathetically, 'does he do this to you often?'

'Yes he does,' she said crossly. 'He's moribund, I tell you, he could be dead by now. He's just faking being well when you turn up. It's what they all do. If you won't admit him now I'm going to call you out again.'

As you can imagine the rest of the conversation went very well and I await the formal letter. Still, if all our moribund patients could fake good health equally well, how simple life would be.

- Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk. You can write to her at

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