The general public are worryingly ignorant about general medical conditions, according to a study published in the online open access journal BMC Medicine. Surprisingly, those with university degrees, a medical background or personal experience of an illness are only slightly better informed.
Lucas M. Bachmann from the University of Zurich, Switzerland and colleagues devised a scale to measure people’s minimal medical knowledge (MMK) of heart attack, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and HIV/AIDS. This included questions such as: “How can one protect oneself from HIV infection?” and “What are the symptoms of a heart attack?” It was tested on 185 adults.
The average score was just 32%, and no one scored 100%. The fact that having a university degree, a medical background or personal experience of an illness only slightly improved individual scores is a particular cause for concern, the authors say, and may occur because people prefer to take health-related advice from trustworthy figures in positions of authority, rather than actively seek it themselves.
Below are some of the shocking revelations by medical staff on how ignorant patients can be.
1. I had a 20 year old female patient who did not know that having sexual intercourse would lead to pregnancy. She simply had no idea.
2. A lady has to have foot amputated and is given waiver forms to sign pre-op. Her companion asks if she needs time to think about it. She’s very nonchalant and doesn’t seem to care much what they do. Her companion gets suspicious and probes a bit as to why she’s not more concerned. She says she gets that they have to operate and it’s OK because the foot will grow back.