Did you know that technically I'm already dead. This may come as a surprise to you. It certainly came as a surprise to me. How did I die? I honestly don't know. How do I know I'm dead? Because the doctor told me. I always presumed that when the doctor tells you that you are dead, you realise. I always presumed that it wouldn't be too much of a shock. I always assumed there would be some sort of clue - an illness, an accident, a bad pain in the chest. Sadly for me, I got none of these. Let me tell you what happened.
Back in 1988 I was having some trouble with my ear. I hadn't been to the doctor for a while, so I thought (niavely) that I'd pop into the doctors on the way back from work. At the time I was registered at the Burnt Oak practise. In I went and asked if I could make an appointment. They asked my name and I replied. No they said "You are not registered". I replied "Yes I am, I've always been registered here". The receptionist insisted "I'm afraid you are not and so we can't help you". I said "look, I've been coming here for years, you are clearly mistaken". After a debate, my Doctor came out. I said "ask her, she knows me". The doctor smiled and said "oh yes, I know him". The receptionist said "Well you must have de-registered as you are not on the system". I then said "I've not deregistered. I think I'd know". The receptionist said "Many of the people who come here are a bit old and forgetfull". I was affronted "I'm 26 years old. I don't think I'm old or forgetful". At this the receptionist smiled and said "We'll you've clearly forgotton this". The doctor said "Look, there is clearly a mistake here. We will check our records. If you moved elsewhere, we will write and inform you". At that she walked off. The receptionist said "We will inviestigate and we will write to you". I said "How long will that take". She responded "I don't know, but you can't see a doctor if you are not registered". I asked what I should do about my ear. She replied "Go to A&E at Edgware General (you know, that fine hospital, shut down by the Tories).
So off I went to Edgware General. After a 5 hour wait, a doctor saw me "You have a minor ear infection. You should have gone to your GP". I said "I tried, but they said I wasn't registered". The Doctor said "You should have registered when you moved to the area, not waited until you were ill". I said "I was registered, they have lost my details" The doctor said "Well you shouldn't come to A&E for minor problems, we have REALLY SICK people here". I asked what I should have done "I told you, you should have made sure you were registered with a GP". At this he wrote the prescription and sent me on my way with a parting shot of "If it doesn't clear up, go back to your GP".
Anyway, the earache cleared up. Two months later, I got a letter from my GP. It was addressed to Mr R M Tichborne (deceased). I read it. Dear Mr Tichborne (deceased), We have investigated your complaint about your lack of registration at the practice. After an exhaustive search of records, we have found that you were de-registered as a patient when you passed away. We are sorry to hear of your loss. What do you say to such a letter (paraphrased). So next day I went down to the surgery and said "I got this letter". The receptionist replied "Oh yes, you are the dead person aren't you". I then said "Look I'm clearly not dead. I'm at my doctors and I want this mess sorted out". She retorted "We checked this thoroughly. The paperwork is correct. People will do anything to get registered with a doctor these days". I responded "The Doctor recognised me". She responded "Well even if you are alive, we are full. We have no vacancies for patients". I asked "So I've been coming here for 26 years, you've cocked up and now I can't see my own doctor?". She responded. "Look, even if we had a space, you are technically dead, so we couldn't register you". I hit upon a brainwave. "Look, there are seven doctors on site. As you are saying I'm dead, and I think I'm alive, maybe we could get the opinion of an expert. Ask one of them". At this she responded "I'm afraid I've had enough of your attitude. You'll have to leave now". So I did.
I went around to see my mum, in a foul mood. "What's the matter" She asked. "I went to see the doctor", I replied. "Oh, I hope everything is OK. What's wrong with you? Nothing serious I hope". I responded "Yes actually it is. In fact it couldn't really be any worse". She looked shocked "Oh my God, what did they say?" I broke the bad news "We'll technically I'm already dead" I said. She looked horrified "Is it cancer?". I said "Nope, it's nothing I'm actually dead". She looked puzzled "What do you mean. You clearly aren't". I said "Yes that's what I said, but they insisted". I then explained. She then said "That surgery has gone downhill since Dr Cookson left. Go to Millway. Dr Carswell is very good".
So the next day, I went to see the Millway Surgery. They gave me a form and told me I had to see Dr Carswell, to run through my medical history. One of the questions was "reason for changing doctor". I put "Death". When I saw Dr Carswell, he was puzzled "What do you mean by this?". I told him the sorry story. He said "Here we tend to check the pulse before we de-register a patient as dead". He then gave me a check up and said "Well Mr Tichborne, I'm very pleased to tell you that contrary to medical opinion, you are quite definately alive".
I asked him if he had any idea how they'd decided I was dead. He said he'd try and find out. A couple of weeks later, he called to say he'd got to the bottom of it. The previous year, my father had died. The Burnt Oak practice, had received the notification and processed the death using my records. So they had one alive Mr Tichborne who was dead and one dead Mr Tichborne who was alive. I asked Dr Carswell "Shouldn't they take a bit more care?" He replied "oh yes". He then chipped in "If you were in the USA you could have sued them for millions". I replied "Nope, actually I'm just glad to be alive".