Liam Farrell: A prescription for catastrophe

A prescription is much more than just a little piece of paper; it has many fathers - some noble: 'This is to show How Much I Care', some less so: 'This consultation is over, finished, finito, now scram.'

A prescription is convenient, the medical equivalent of handy for the buses and close to the shops. And to the experienced eye, a prescription tells a story, like a great novel, implying much more than is simply written on the page, demanding that the reader employ both imagination and intellect. A prescription is something very special, something to be cherished and valued.


‘I lost my f***ing prescription,’ said Joe.

‘I’m sure you don’t need a prescription for that,’ I said. ‘There are more conventional methods; you meet a nice girl, send her flowers, buy her perfume, ask her out, take her to a movie, go dancing, and then, your sturdy yin to her slander yang, who knows what magic the night might bring?’

I was only being partly whimsical; a prescription for sex was probably Joe’s best chance as long as he continues to live with his mammy. After all, if we can prescribe exercise, drugs, diets… though I accept it would present a formidable challenge to our pharmacy colleagues.

Joe simply losing his prescription was a relatively plausible excuse. Joe’s prescriptions seem to be a jinx, a herald of dire calamity for all who dare to approach them.

If a house burns down, Joe’s prescription will be in the midst of the inferno. In a multiple-vehicle motorway pile-up, Joe’s prescription will inexplicably be sitting on the bonnet. If a rabid dog is on the rampage, the first thing consumed by its slavering jaws will be Joe’s prescription.

I must point out that I’ve never actually observed any of these catastrophes myself; it’s what Joe tells me, and is my job to call him a liar, to be the cold and unattractive hand of reality, to be a Man from Porlock on his wild imaginings?

‘No,’ said Joe, uncertain whether I was being serious or not. ‘I actually lost my prescription. Can I have another one?’

If you love something, let it go; if it comes back to you demanding another prescription for antibiotics, you don’t want it.

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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