As early as the age of 5, everyone in my family, neighbourhood and school knew that I wanted to become a doctor. While I maintained excellent marks in most subjects at school, one subject remained very poor – handwriting. However, people weren’t bothered because they believed in the myth that doctors don’t write legibly. The only person who didn’t accept this theory was one of my elder sisters.

Aunty Laitan is an architect par excellence with that typical calligraphic handwriting. When I was about to begin JSS1, she asked me to go and get a “2d” exercise book and she started teaching me how to write legibly. May Allaah reward her. My handwriting has gone through different changes over the years and it may not be one of the best out there, but I can say it’s good enough.

Having a bad handwriting is not part of our profession. We’re never taught to intentionally write illegibly. In fact, medical students have failed exams because of poor handwriting. Doctors have been sued for same. Pharmacists and medical record officers don’t tolerate illegible prescriptions and documentations respectively.

Many people think that doctors don’t write prescriptions legibly because they don’t want to disclose the name of the drug(s). If this is so, it is indeed, a great aberration. Every patient has the right to know what drug is being prescribed and why. You have the right to refuse or accept. Unfortunately, most people don’t know their right, so, they accept whatever the doctor (aka demigod) does/writes.

Having said that, we need to spare a thought for doctors whose handwriting are constitutionally wishy-washy. It’s not because they’re doctors; it’s just their fate. Many doctors also write poorly when they’re burnt-out. Imagine a doctor who has been on his toes for 24hours and he needs to write a urgent prescription while awaiting another doctor to take over. You just have to give him that excuse.

I did a brief literature search and found that no study has been able to affirm the claim that doctors have less legible handwriting than other professionals. The world is fast becoming paperless and medical documentation is not left out. This will help to minimise the problem of errors due to misspellings and careless writings.


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