I didn’t really expect this day to come, the day when a doctor consulted via the standard GP / consultant route would actually say “The shock of coming off Nitrazepam” was the most likely cause of my neurological functional symptoms and resulting disabilities. Yesterday, I consulted with an NHS neurologist and the consultation was the sort of conversation I would expect with any competent doctor. He was kind, he listened, he was honest and he told me what I have known since early 2014. I forgot to ask if he would put his opinion in writing to my GP. I certainly hope he will. A medical student was present during the consultation, I hope she learned something useful. Over the past 3.25 years, I have consulted with 5 GPs, an NHS psychiatrist, a private neurologist, a neurophysiologist and finally, an NHS neurologist. One GP was genuinely puzzled and that is okay, two made no comment but I took their silence to mean they agreed with my assessment of my symptoms, two GPs were defensive and, I believe, dishonest, either in their words or by their silence. The psychiatrist was either ignorant or dishonest or both and has since retired. The private neurologist was defensive, uncommunicative and I believe, dishonest.
Yesterday was not a victory, simply an acknowledgement of the harm done to me as a result of medical advice. This acknowledgement is crucially important for patients thus harmed. To fail to make this acknowledgement inflicts further psychological and emotional harm to pile on top of the physical damage already caused. Today, I feel very low. I still have to live with the knowledge that my life has been ruined by a prescription drug. I wonder how many other lives have been devastated in this way by NHS doctors. I imagine the numbers would be staggering. If the norm is to conceal the truth, we will never know and we can pretend that there is no need for change.
I was fortunate enough to have informal confirmation of the harm done to me by a leading UK specialist in benzodiazepine withdrawal, a GP outside the UK, consulted privately and a former colleague and friend, a practising GP. Many patients do not have the strength or the will to fight for several years or the necessary knowledge or skills to seek out relevant medical specialists, nor do they have friends in the medical profession. They should not need any of these things, they should be told the truth by the doctors responsible for their care. I have published a number of letters in the BMJ and the BJGP and have received support from some doctors, I have had unfailing support from the online patient support community, without these things I would undoubtedly have lost the will to live. “First do no harm” has a very hollow ring to me now and for many other patients in the prescribed harmed community. The power of the pharmaceutical industry is such now that no patient is safe when consulting a doctor. Perhaps it was always so, I was just too naive to realise it.