This is a slightly shortened version of the article:
An abscess flared up on one of my front teeth. Talking was difficult and sleep impossible. My dentist said there was nothing wrong. So I went to the Dental Hospital. The pain - sudden, acute, accompanied by swelling, most severe when biting - was exactly characteristic of an acute abscess. But the pain was discounted and the abscess not treated.
When you have toothache you chew in strange ways to avoid exacerbating it. This puts unnatural pressures on teeth and it is easy to crack them. This happened to me. A cracked cusp, a separate agony, went untreated. Tooth-brushing was an ordeal and could not be as thorough as before the pain. Decay started, causing further severe toothache. This also went untreated. It was almost a year before the abscess was treated. It was over two years before I obtained treatment for all the dental disorders causing the toothache!
If consulted by a man with an abscess and weeping in agony, surely the most negligent dentist would take note of the signs and symptoms and would treat the abscess in its acute phase, ending the pain. In a full year of many attendances at the Sheffield Dental Hospital I was constantly insulted and left in agony. One consultant called me 'You Fat Depressives', plural, instead of using my name. It was clear that he habitually addressed suffering women in this way.
I eventually found a dentist brave enough to try to put things right. He dealt with the gross infections, etc but tragically much of the pain had by this time become chronic, which often happens when the cause is not dealt with promptly.
I heard from other women who had had their pain derided or been told that it was 'nerves' or 'all in the mind'. One Rotherham woman had endured agony from trigeminal neuralgia for 13 years before someone (a neurosurgeon in private practice) took her pain seriously and operated. The pain then stopped. Trigeminal neuralgia mainly attacks women and its only symptom is pain. It is not uncommon for people to kill themselves because of severe toothache or because of trigeminal neuralgia, so intense is the pain.
Thirteen years of needless agony. Why does such cruelty flourish? The answer is many-faceted, of course. It includes ignorance and arrogance. Pre-eminent, however, is the health professional's demeaning attitude towards women, coupled with the scandalous fact that in this country doctors and dentists are accountable to no-one, not to the patient, not to the hospital, not to the NHS.
Women are sub-human, second-class citizens whose voice need not be heeded. Everyone knows, don't they, that whatever a woman complains of, the 'real' cause is usually psychological, and instead of investigation and treatment all she needs is a brusque injunction to pull herself together and a prescription for tranquillisers and anti-depressants. That'll settle her!
In my desperate efforts to obtain the treatment I needed I turned to every health agency. All pretended that negligence does no occur. No-one insisted that my teeth be examined and my agonising toothache dealt with. The health agencies and the people to whom complainants must address complaints are financed by the DHSS or the NHS and by definition not impartial. The Complaints Procedure routinely adds to the difficulties of complainants rather than dealing with their complaints of negligence.
Why are the legislators not moved to effective remedial legislation? There are many reasons, I suppose; laziness, fear, the myth of medical infallibility, the desire to keep in with medics and their retinues, the fact that most MPs use private medicine rather than the NHS and that when they do use the NHS they get preferential treatment. Surely, also, a lack of imagination - failure to comprehend the scale of the suffering, the profound and terrible difficulties of damaged victims - trapped in pain and distress and worry, trapped in misunderstanding, trapped in bewilderment that those to whom they turn for help and from whom they have been led to believe they will receive it, adopt a confrontational stance. There is no-one in the entire edifice of the Health Service from whom victims of medical negligence can be assured of receiving help. They do not know where to turn.
In the Sheffield Star of August 20th 1986, the Administrator of the Sheffield Family Practitioner Committee is quoted as saying of complaints that most of them 'were dealt with amicably, although in some cases the patient was struck off'. Dealing with complaints is clearly thought of as a matter of smoothing ruffled feathers or of placating/punishing the complainant, rather than of examining faults that need to be put right. If you made a complaint about trains, you would not consider it resolved by being forbidden to travel by train any more, would you? Why should a complaint about a doctor be considered resolved by crossing the complainant off his list?