This is a light-hearted short story about an attractive, middle-aged female hypnotist who has a minor respiratory infection and visits the doctor. At first she hypnotizes the nurses so that they will put her in the examining room without a wait, and convinces them that her vital signs are different from what they had originally measured.

After this initial, good-natured experiment, the narrator waits a full 45 minutes for the doctor. He is abrupt and impersonal. Out of frustration, she hypnotizes him, and learns that he is afraid to be warm with patients, and is afraid to take time with them, because he needs to maintain control. She has him undress, put on a gown, and then leaves him to shiver in the exam room. She tells him that he will never forget what this humiliating experience feels like.


This story plays out every patient's fantasy of letting the doctor REALLY know what it feels like to be a patient. One can explore other ways that patients can constructively encourage doctors to treat them more respectfully. Finally, it raises issues particular to women's vulnerability as patients and the unequal treatment they may receive.

Primary Source

Vital Lines: Contemporary Fiction about Medicine


St. Martin

Place Published

New York




Jon Mukand

Page Count