Published: 22nd August 2020
Is your handwriting critical to success in the age of computers and text messages?
How much trouble can bad handwriting get you into and for how long? Monteiro ponders over it in his recent column
“You tell the doctor, that y’are ill And what does he, but write a bill,
Of which you need not read one letter, The worse the scrawl, the dose the better.
For if you know but what you take, Though you recover, he must break.”
Mathew Prior (1664-1721), English poet
Before we go begin, let’s take a closer look at Prior’s poem. In it, the word ‘bill’ stands for prescription rather than, as per current usage, bill for payment by cash or cheque. The subject is resurrected after 300 years of Prior’s death in the Orissa High Court. But first, the facts as reported in the media on August 13, 2020.
The Orissa High Court judge SK Panigrahi expressed dissatisfaction that while verifying the medical documents put up for the perusal of the court, it was found that the prescription by the doctor was of pathetically poor legibility and far beyond the comprehension of any common man or even for the court.
Continuing, the judge said: “Such illegible handwriting in medical records has the propensity to have adverse medico-legal implications. This court feels that it is imperative that the entire physician community needs to go the extra mile and make conscious efforts to write prescriptions in good handwriting, preferably in capital letters. The digital era could also throw open several options to make prescriptions and the diagnosis more patient-friendly.” The court noted that such illegible scrawls composed by doctors could create unnecessary nuisance for patients, pharmacists, police, prosecutors and judges who are bound to deal with such medical reports.
“Prescriptions of physicians, outdoor patient department slips, post-mortem reports and injury reports, perforce, are required to be legible and fully comprehensible. A medical prescription ought not leave any room for ambiguity or interpretation,” the judgment pointed out. It also quoted a notification of the Medical Council of India (MCI) issued on September 21, 2016, which directed physicians to prescribe drugs with generic names and preferably in capital letters.
All of this aside, we wonder which other areas in our life are impacted by our handwriting. Beyond prescriptions and diagnostic reports, how important is handwriting as, for instance, in writing answer papers in exams and in other areas of academic pursuits? Can it still determine how far or wide your journey in life will be? That indeed is the question in an age of computers and text messages.