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Dr Daniel Fink
'Nobody really knows why doctors should be so bad'
 real 28k

Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Illegible doctors sent back to school
Prescription
The prescription which led to the US court case
Scrawling US doctors are being helped to smarten up their handwriting at evening seminars amid fears of litigation.

Around 70 doctors have so far attended the classes, run by handwriting experts, at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles.

Tempted by the promise of a buffet, the doctors were taught how to make their unreadable script more acceptable to nurses, and other doctors.

There has already been at least one legal case in the US following the death of a patient caused by an illegible prescription.

Dr Daniel Fink, who works in the medical records department at the practice, helped organise the event.

He said: "Doctor's handwriting is illegible on many occasions - and it does cause a problem

"Nobody really knows why doctors should be so bad - doctors are busy, but so are other people.

"I like to put it down to the first lecture we ever attend as medical students - we are told how very important the information we are about to receive is.

"Then they lower the lights and put on the first slide, and we are left scribbling in the dark."

Proved the worst

Recent research published in the British Medical Journal confirmed that doctors' handwriting was indeed far worse than other healthcare workers.

Researchers used character-recognition software to scan the text.

A US jury awarded a total of $450,000 following the death of a patient in which poor handwriting was implicated.

Texas-based cardiologist Dr Ramachandra Kolluru wrote a prescription for an anti angina drug called Isordil.

The pharmacist interpreted his script as Plendil - a high blood pressure drug, which was then given at twice the daily dose.

In many UK practices, computer-printed prescriptions have replaced the hand-written variety.

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See also:

19 Jan 00 | Health
Litigation: Next NHS crisis
25 Sep 98 | Health
Doctors fail handwriting test
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