March 3, 2014
Should transhumanists have children?
(Huffington Post) – Transhumanists are people who desire to use science and technology to improve the human being. While the international movement of transhumanism is rapidly growing and diversifying, its most important goal remains the same: overcoming human mortality. Many experts believe some sort of indefinite sentience for individual human beings, whether via age reversal or by mind uploading into computers, will be achieved around 2045. Such incredible advances will change the way the species views itself. Procreation, the foundation of human civilization, will be one activity that is dramatically affected.
February 25, 2014
A morbidly obese patient tests the limits of a doctor’s compassion
(Washington Post) – The patient is large. Very large. At more than 600 pounds, he is a mountain of flesh. “My stomach hurts,” he says, his voice surprisingly high and childlike. It is 10 p.m. in the emergency room, and I am already swamped with patients I’m trying to move through the ER before my shift is over. Asked if he’s ever felt this kind of pain before, he says, “No, never. At least, not like this.” “Well, what’d you expect?” the unit secretary mutters, only half to herself.
February 24, 2014
IVF treatment: Better, but not yet good enough
(Forbes) – On the occasion of the CDC’s yearly release of IVF clinic success rates, I remind myself and my old colleagues that we should always strive to do better. Every baby, whether conceived by in vitro fertilization or dropped by a stork down the chimney, is a miracle. As a reproductive endocrinologist, I had a unique opportunity to make small contributions to some of these miracles. But as I constantly reminded myself and my colleagues: the miracles are the babies, not the procedures. That is still true today. Assisted reproduction as it exists in the year 2014 is still a pretty primitive set of procedures and tools.
Is genetic testing humans playing God?
(CNN) – “It’s a miracle,” she told me. “We can now have a baby that won’t have Huntington’s disease. I thought I’d never be able to have any kids — because of the disease.” Her father had died from this disorder, which results from a gene mutation. She feared that she might have the mutation, too. But she was too scared to undergo testing for it. She also worried that if she had it, she might pass it on to her children.
February 20, 2014
The lies that doctors and patients tell
(New York Times) – The doctor-patient relationship is ideally an intimate partnership where information is exchanged openly and honestly. That is seldom the reality, however. Deception in the doctor-patient relationship is more common than we’d like to believe. Deception is a charged word. It encapsulates precisely what we dread most in a doctor-patient relationship, and yet it is there in medicine, and it often runs both ways.
February 19, 2014
House calls to the homeless
(CNN) – In the homeless camps and in the alleys, I found people who had suffered extremes of weather, violence and prejudice. Many were older, confused people; some were war veterans holding on to the last shreds of their dignity; others were simply people who had fallen on hard times and lost hope. I saw hideous leg ulcers and cancers that were untreated. But mostly I saw human beings who had minimal access to loving, effective services.
February 18, 2014
I never wanted to be a cancer expert, but then my wife got sick. A caregiver’s tale.
(Washington Post) – It was my wife’s first colonoscopy; it turned out to be the only one she ever had. She was 53. Whether Cheryl would have lived longer if she’d had the exam earlier I’ll never know. She died in the fall of 2013, in her sixth season with cancer. Cheryl had exhibited no symptoms prior to the test. Absent a family history of colon cancer, the standard protocol is to have the test after turning 50. Needless to say, we were shocked when the doctor showed us the scans indicating that the test was positive for cancer.
February 12, 2014
Opinion: The real crisis in America’s ERs
(CNN) – If you doubt there’s a dental health crisis in America, walk into any emergency room. Every day, thousands of people without access to a dentist are looking for dental care in our ERs, most of which cannot provide the care these patients need.
February 10, 2014
The cost of IVF: 4 things I learned while battling infertility
(Forbes) – That’s when I found out I would be one of more than 85,000 women in the U.S. annually who undergo in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, as a way to create a family. Utilizing IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD, the team of doctors and embryologists at our infertility practice would be able to create embryos, and then biopsy those embryos to ensure that only those not affected by Tay-Sachs were among those selected to create a pregnancy. As I began researching IVF, I also dove into the financial details of the treatment.
February 6, 2014
At 90, this doctor is still calling
(New York Times) – Catherine Hamlin, an Australian gynecologist who has spent most of her life in Ethiopia, is a 21st-century Mother Teresa. She has revolutionized care of a childbirth injury called obstetric fistula, which occurs when the baby gets stuck in the birth canal and there is no doctor to perform a cesarean section. As many as two million women (and often young teenage girls) worldwide suffer from fistulas. The babies die, and the woman is left incontinent with urine and sometimes feces trickling through her vagina.
February 3, 2014
Stem cell donation: Make a friend, save a life
(The Guardian) – If a stranger saved your life, wouldn’t you want to meet them? Many stem cell recipients do – and forge lasting friendships with their donors. Somewhere in London is my perfect match. He is well-built, a year older than me, popular with my friends and family – a real hero. We’ve never met.
January 31, 2014
Richard Smith: Medical research – still a scandal
(BMJ) – Twenty years ago this week the statistician Doug Altman published an editorial in the BMJ arguing that much medical research was of poor quality and misleading. In his editorial entitled, “The Scandal of Poor Medical Research,” Altman wrote that much research was “seriously flawed through the use of inappropriate designs, unrepresentative samples, small samples, incorrect methods of analysis, and faulty interpretation.” Twenty years later I fear that things are not better but worse.
(Aeon Magazine) – One doesn’t have to work in a hospital long to experience or observe some form of disrespect. This is hardly a secret. The bullying culture of medicine has been widely written about and portrayed in popular media. In one study, published in 2012 and conducted over the course of 13 years at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, more than 50 per cent of medical students across the US said they experienced some form of mistreatment. Behind closed doors, we share advice on whom to hang around and whom to avoid.
January 23, 2014
Why you should be angry about changes to NHS patient data policy
If you live in England, a leaflet entitled “Better Information Means Better Care” should land on your doormat some time this month. It’s from the NHS and announces changes to the way that health officials will handle confidential medical records. Health policy nerds may also know it as “care.data”. From the spring, medical information about you that was previously only kept to help understand you as an individual – information from consultations, notes on prescriptions – will be uploaded to a central database to become one of the world’s most complete health databases. Our records are being connected to make them stronger. (The Guardian)
January 22, 2014
Don’t rush to rehabilitate Hwang
As readers will see, the article is not a show of support for Hwang’s research. Nor is it an attack. It is the story of a rare event: a scientist attempting with some success to dig himself out from the depths of ignominy. It is a journalistic exercise, not a scientific endorsement. And it was commissioned to mark the ten-year anniversary of the first paper — now retracted — in which Hwang claimed to have created cloned human embryonic stem-cell lines. (Nature)
‘I can’t watch her go through this pain’: a male view of IVF
Much has been written about the experience of IVF from a woman’s point of view, but what’s it like for a male partner? In the second of four pieces on his five-year journey to parenthood, Adam Conway explains. (The Telegraph)
January 16, 2014
My dad was a sperm donor. My lack of identity reflects his
In the UK, the reality is that donor-conceived people born before 2005 have no right to know the identity of their donor. All I know about my father is that, one day in August 1971, he went into an office in Harley Street, masturbated into a bottle, was paid and left. In all probability that is all I will ever know. Not for me the chance of asking for his details, as would be the case if I were adopted. The doctor who facilitated my conception is now dead, and in any case he claimed, when contacted years ago, that all his records had been destroyed. (The Guardian)
January 14, 2014
What patients don’t tell their doctors
Every family has a tortured soul in a closet whose door doesn’t quite close. The demons inside are all too visible to friends and family, neighbors and doormen, even the staff of the emergency room. To the outside world, though, not a hint of a problem displays, and that includes colleagues, clients and always, especially, the doctor. (New York Times)
January 7, 2014
Will U.S. kill kids in name of compassion?
Belgium is on its way to allowing doctors, with parental consent, to kill children deemed to be afflicted with “constant and unbearable physical suffering.” The kids must also sign off on this, as if a child has the capacity to reason like an adult. We are on the malignantly slippery slope to becoming a society like that envisioned by Nazi Germany, one in which “undesirables” are disposed of like used tissue. (Forbes)
January 6, 2014
‘Every cell has a sex’
It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that men and women are different, but it will take sex-specific research to better understand how cellular and molecular differences in males and females affect every aspect of our health. The phrase “every cell has a sex’’ captures the essence of how fundamentally different men and women are when it comes to health. (The Boston Globe)
When it’s time to go, let me go, with a nice glass of whisky and a pleasing pill
It would be unfair to blame doctors or health professionals for our longevity, which may be attributed to causes other than surgical ingenuity and pharmacological innovations and deadly life support machines, but it is not surprising that many of us feel gravely disappointed by the help and relief on offer to us at the end of life. (The Guardian)