Medical life

A friend calls to tell me of strange goings-on at the General Medical Council, the doctors' disciplinary body. You would think they dealt chiefly with doctors who can't keep their hands off the booze, the drugs or their patients – and in the main they do. But occasionally a case comes along out of left field.

One of the strangest involved a doctor who arrived at work, phoned his secretary and told her he would not be available to see patients – a list of 30 was waiting – because he was "no longer in this world". His secretary asked if there was anything the matter. "Don't worry," he replied, "my body is here, but my mind has gone to another plane."

The police were called and their first instinct was to section him under the Mental Health Act. This was ruled out on the grounds that he did not pose a threat to himself or others. So they arrested him for a breach of the peace.

Under questioning he admitted to having smoked cannabis the night before, which he had grown himself. The police suspected he might be suffering from a drug-induced psychosis and called a couple of psychiatrists to assess him. Both found no sign of mental illness. The case eventually came before a GMC Fitness to Practice committee, which found the doctor guilty of misconduct for growing and smoking cannabis. The committee applied the only sanction it felt was possible in the circumstances – a condition on his registration that he desist from growing and smoking cannabis.

In the meantime the doctor had taken a Tibetan name by deed poll, which translates as "nameless one", and divested himself of all his possessions. It was, my friend acknowledged, an unsatisfactory outcome.

If the nameless one is still seeing patients, they may find him dispensing some surprising advice.