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Showing posts from September, 2012

Institute of Medicine Issues Report on Waste in Medicine - Why Whistleblower Readers Should Care?

It was recently discovered that Fareed Zakaria committed plagiarism in an essay he wrote for Time Magazine on gun control.  He confessed and apologized.  I think he could have been fired for this as plagiarism, aka theft, is a cardinal offense for a journalist and a news magazine where trust is a central pillar.  This was not a matter of an indiscretion in his private life or an offense that doesn’t threaten his profession’s central mission. This was dishonesty in a job that should demand honesty in every syllable.  Zakaria is a Harvard graduate and a Yale trustee.  How would these institutions have ruled on a student who admitted committing plagiarism?  CNN and Time ‘suspended’ him.  Was Zakaria too big to fail? I’ve devoted several posts in this blog to professional integrity and personal ethics.  Medical plagiarism is a serious ethical wound in the medical world and all of us must hold our academic colleagues, medical students and practicing physicians accountable. In Sep

Are Organic Foods Healthier?

In American society, packaging trumps contents. Look at both the Democratic and the Republican presidential nominating conventions we all just endured. In the old days, these conventions had a purpose – to select nominees. Now, they are scripted, grandiose infomercials that insult our intelligence more than they inform us. They are coronations. I heard great oratory, decent rhetoric and pabulum. The spectacles wasted tons of money that could have been devoted to charity or some other worthy cause. As marketing and political folks understand well, packaging sells products. Think of this the next time you are choosing a bottle of shampoo off the shelf. Are you really buying the sleek bottle? Are you voting for the sleeker and more likable candidate? Except for Mitt Romney, it seemed that every other speaker was raised in a log cabin. Lincoln would have no advantage if he were running today. There’s plenty of packaging and fluff in the medical universe also. Complementary and altern

Medical Complications and Medical Negligence: What's the Difference?

The day before this writing, a patient who was minutes away from his colonoscopy, asked me how many colonoscopies I had performed. Before I could answer, he quickly followed-up asking if any of my patients developed perforation of the colon after the procedure. I satisfied his initial inquiry when I informed him that I have intruded into at least 20,000 colons in the past 2 decades. With regard to his second and more ‘penetrating’ question, I told him, yes, there have been a few perforations. I continued the dialogue in order to place the issue in context for him and his wife so he wouldn’t be spooked before his procedure. We didn’t want a panicked patient leaping off the gurney and high-tailing through our waiting room in a flapping opened-back gown to the parking lot. Fortunately, our discussion accomplished its purpose and his procedure proceeded calmly and uneventfully. Sure, complications matter, but numbers can deceive. Our most highly experienced physicians have likely had m

How to Take a Medical History: A D-Day Approach

One of the joys of being a physician is learning the patients' histories. A joy, you say? Isn't taking the history simply part of the doctoring routine? You've all been there. When did the pain start? What made it worse? Did it move around or stay in one place? I agree that inquiries like these are not intrinsically joyful, but this is not my meaning here. I refer to history here in the conventional sense. I am interested in who the patients are as people, what they did and what they saw. It is amazing how many seemingly ordinary folks have extraordinary tales and vignettes that they are quite willing to share, if they are asked.  I have a sense that they are a reservoir of wisdom that we must actively draw from, as they may not volunteer their advice. I recall a science teacher whose prior occupation was serving as a commander of a nuclear submarine. Even years later, his secrets remained tightly held, despite my gentle entreaties. He was, to borrow a phras

Medical Device Approval Process Under Fire

All parents have heard their kids complain that but for 1 or 2 percentage points, they would have achieved a higher grade. “This is so unfair! My average is 89.9999 and he is still giving me a B+!” Every kid should receive an A, of course, since psychologists are now professing that every kid is a prodigy in some new measure of intelligence. Academic intelligence, the conventional and obsolescent notion, has been sidelined to make room for other types of smarts, such as musical intelligence, existential intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, spatial intelligence and many others. I agree that there’s a lot more to being smart than conquering number theory and linear algebra, but I wonder whether this effort to broaden the definition of intelligence is simply so more parents can have smart kids. Personally, I think that the conventional definition of intelligence is too rigid and we should be open to where rigorous research leads. Fortunately for me, I did not discover that th