I rang my diabetes clinic a week or so ago and asked to be discharged from the Diabetes Pre-Conception Clinic. I don’t see the point in continuing to attend a clinic that falls on a day that is inconvenient for me and has a purpose that no longer applies to me.
The lady who took my call sounded bored, in a slightly off-hand way, and distracted from the conversation from the very start.
“I can’t discharge you. You have to see the doctor for that” she sighed, after I’d made my initial request.
“I’m sorry, but that just seems like a waste of everyone’s time” I replied, in my very best, polite voice.
“But you might still need to be seen” came the response. “I can change your appointment, but you’ll have to wait a while as the clinic seems pretty busy.”
“Which is my point. I’m trying to be one less patient to be seen, because I don’t need to be seen.”
“But you need to check with the doctor. You might still need the appointment.”
I’ll freely admit that I had a pretty low tolerance on this particular phone call. Of course I’d rather not be making it. I’d rather be progressing through the pre-conception clinic to the pregnancy clinic and out the other side. I don’t really need anything making these bitter little jobs any harder than they already are.
“No” I said, more firmly this time. “We’re not going to be getting pregnant, or having a baby.” I paused to push back the tear that had begun to form at the corner of my eye. “We’re infertile and it isn’t going to happen. Why would I possibly need to be seen in a pre-conception clinic when I cannot conceive? I know you have policies, but I just want to cancel my appointment and not make another one. I want to return to the same clinic I have been seen at for the past fifteen years instead.”
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line. I could hear the tapping of keyboards in the background.
“Well maybe you should just keep trying until you see the doctor to check.”
It was my turn to sit in a stunned silence for a moment before I gave up, muttered my thanks (for nothing!) and hung up.
Of course, what I should have said was along the lines of “How dare you? Just because I have a medical condition does not mean I give up rights to my body and my life and what I do with it. It’s bad enough that I have to wait for the medical green light before trying to conceive, although that is with good reason. But I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to stop trying.”
Suppose I had been calling in as a bereaved woman, or a woman facing a different acute health problem that had forced thoughts of conception in to the background?
And I’m still astounded at the waste of NHS resources that will arise from me not being able to simply remove myself from an irrelevant clinic. I suppose it’s a safeguarding measure, not allowing patients to decide for themselves that they no longer need a particular service. But the clinic aren’t there holding my hand every day and making sure I’m actually taking the insulin I rely on to keep me alive. By opting out of healthcare altogether, I would harm myself in the long term. But if I want to give up on life, that, ultimately, would be my choice too.
I suspect that she wasn’t really paying full attention to me and what I was saying. I expect she answers the phone all day long to a public that I know only too well can be rude, difficult and demanding. But what she said still stung me. Not only was it lacking in common sense, but also in common decency and empathy.
Infertility is often regarded as trivial in comparison to many other health issues, because the prevailing wisdom says that having children is a “lifestyle choice”. Even if you believe that to be true it doesn’t follow that people facing infertility should be treated with such blatant indifference.
We’re still people, after all.