(20 November 2001) There is a quite extraordinary trial going on at the moment in the High Court, in which a Mr Jason Cortisone is suing the National Health Service for stealing a hospital trolley from him.
His unlikely story is that... but perhaps an extract from the proceedings will explain it better than I can.
Counsel: Your name is Jason Cortisone?
Witness: It is.
Counsel: That is an unusual name, is it not?
Witness:I don't think so. I have met many people called Jason.
Counsel: It was your surname I was thinking of. Cortisone. I take it that that is your own name?
Witness: I think so. It may be someone else's. I don't know. They've never asked for it back.
Counsel: What I meant was, that is the name you were given at birth?
Witness: No. I got it a few weeks later, when I was registered.
Counsel: Is it not unusual to be named after a drug?
Witness: Most. It never happened to me. My father was of Italian extraction and his forebears came from a small hill town in the Dolomites called Cortisone.
Judge: Excuse me, Mr Forrester, if we are going to spend all this trial discussing surnames, we shall never come to an end. You have done an excellent job of establishing Mr Cortisone's name, but you may proceed now.
Counsel: Thank you, my Lord. Now, Mr Cortisone, I believe you are not a man who likes being in hospital?
Witness: I hate it.
Counsel: You are a hypochondriac?
Witness: This is a condition which has been diagnosed in me. Along with all my other ailments of course.
Counsel: Quite so. Will you tell the court what precautions you took earlier this year to ensure that any enforced visit to hospital might be more comfortable?
Witness: Well, I had heard that you were lucky to get a bed in today's NHS, and that most people were forced to lie on a trolley for days until a bed became available. So I decided to buy a hospital trolley and practise lying on it at home.
Counsel: The idea being to get used to life on a trolley in case you had to go to hospital for one of your many ailments?
Witness: Yes. So I bought a National Health trolley...
Counsel: Excuse me. Where did you get an NHS trolley from?
Witness: You can always get NHS things if you want to. They're so desperate for cash they're always flogging stuff off. That's why they're so short of beds. They keep selling them. I actually got this at a Hospital Boot Sale. I started practising life on it immediately.
Counsel: Did it become more comfortable as you went on?
Witness: Not much. They're very narrow, too, so you're always afraid of falling off in your sleep.
Counsel: I believe this did actually happen to you on 17 July last?
Witness: Yes. I was doing a practice sleep on the trolley when I fell off and became entangled in its lower half. An ambulance was sent for and I was taken to hospital.
Counsel: Still attached to the trolley?
Witness: Yes. I actually heard one of the ambulance men say, "Might as well take the trolley - could come in useful."
Counsel: Were you seen to immediately at the hospital?
Witness: No. I was left for a long time on my trolley. Well, under my trolley, really, as I was still entangled with the lower infrastructure.
Counsel: Did anyone deal with you?
Witness: No. But someone climbed on my trolley.
Counsel: Another patient?
Witness: No, oddly enough. I banged on the upstairs bit from below and said: Hey! You up there! And the bloke on top said, 'Please – I'm trying to get some sleep.' It turned out he was a junior hospital doctor who was knackered due to long hours and decided to have a kip on my trolley. Thing was, he didn't know I had brought my own.
Counsel: Did he stay long?
Witness: He slept until he was awoken by his mobile phone. In his sleepy state, he dropped it over the edge and, trying to grab it, he fell off and had an accident
Witness: Yes. The phone was completely ruined.
The case continues. More some other time, perhaps.