Real Patient

Visited my grandmother’s former mentee and close friend who’s living in a really nice apartment in Guangzhou with his wife and two children. Coincidentally, he was diagnosed with cataracts last year and has been hesitating about getting cataract surgery. We’re discussing his situation and for the first time I’m hearing a real patient tell me about concerns that come up all the time in the literature: he’s worried most about the quality of surgery, fearing to come across a trainee doctor who messes up his eye and makes him blind. “I’m an engineer,” he tells me again, “I need to read maps, so my eyesight is very important to me.”

But concern over quality isn’t the only issue. He asks me if surgery is the only way, if there’s no medicine or eye drops that can cure it. He tells me that his doctor actually prescribed him a medicine for the cataracts—an act I’m having a little trouble understanding. After all, I’ve been told time and time again that surgery is the only cure for cataracts. Has everyone at the largest eye center in China been lying to me (unlikely), did my grandmother’s friend misunderstand the doctor and erroneously think the medicine was a cure, was the doctor simply ill-trained and didn’t know better, or did the doctor have an incentive to prescribe medicine even knowing it wouldn’t work?

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