Signing My Life Away

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When I first started my medical practice, a nurse asked me, “Can I have your John Hancock?”, while holding a piece of paper in front of me. Do you want my what??!!

I looked at her confused, not understanding what she wanted. Being a fresh migrant, and not knowing much of American history, I don’t know what she meant. Later on I learned that she was just asking for my signature.

John Hancock, a prominent merchant and statesman, had the most flamboyant and recognizable signature in the United States’ Declaration of Independence of 1776. In fact, his name is now used in America, as a synonym for signature.

John Hancock signature in Declaration of Independence

Since then I have been affixing my John Hancock on several documents and forms everyday. These includes medical records, physician orders, prescriptions, statement of disability, different forms of certifications (including death certificates), medico-legal documents and physician’s statements among others.

Before, I felt that I am special, for they required my signature to authorize something. Now, I felt different. I think that not all of these medical documents that I am obliged to sign were really that important. But they just compelled someone to be held responsible, if something bad happened. Somebody that they can sue!

Since I was still in college, that was when I determined how I would sign my name, and up to this day, I think my signature had deteriorated quite a bit.  Before, you can still make out some of the letters of my name in my signature. Now, it really looks pathetic, like a couple of chicken scratches. Well, if you need to sign your name more than a hundred times a day, I think it would degenerate to something that you can stroke the fastest. Besides, I may not want them to recognize my signature, so they can put the blame on somebody else.

Few days ago, when I checked my medical records that were required to be completed in the hospital, I found that I had 134 different records that I needed to sign. One hundred and thirty-four! How did they generate so much documents in such a short period of time was beyond me. For I thought I had just completed my medical charts not much more than a week ago. At least those just need an electronic signature, so I completed them fairly quickly.

When I had lunch, I used my credit card, and had to sign the receipt. At least I was having something in return, food that is, for that signature.

When I arrived at our office clinic, I was handed a folder of more than 20 documents that I needed to sign by hand, and not electronically. More chicken scratches! Then I also had 32 records in our clinic that I signed electronically, and 3 signatures that the drug representatives asked, in exchange for medicine samples.

There was also in my desk, a survey form from a company that was asking me on how can they improve their medical services, that I needed to complete and sign. That one went into the trash……. without my John Hancock.


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