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Doctors And Thought Control

Here’s my column in the March issue of Emergency Medicine News.

Second Opinion: Be Smarter Than Your Brain

“Everyone is a drug seeker. Why does everyone want to be on disability? I’m so tired of lies. Great, another lousy shift. I wonder who will die tonight? I’m so sick of suffering. I’m so weary of misery and loss. I hope this never happens to my family. I’ll probably get sued. Being sued nearly drove me crazy. This job never gets easier, only harder. I have to find something else to do; I can’t go on this way. I think I’m going crazy. I don’t have any more compassion. People hate me now.”

These are only a few of the wonderful thoughts that float through the minds of emergency physicians these days. Sure, not every physician has them. But I know our specialty, I know our colleagues, I hear from doctors around the country and I see that fear, frustration and anxiety are common themes.

Older physicians fantasize about career changes, and younger ones are often blind-sided by the hard realities of practice outside of their training programs (where their work-hours and staffing do not necessarily reflect the world beyond).

We are crushed by regulations and overwhelmed by holding patients, often put in situations where we are set squarely between the devil and the deep blue sea. “Spend more time with your patients; see them faster. Don’t let the ‘psychiatric hold’ patient escape; why are you using so much staff on psychiatric patients? See chest pain immediately; why didn’t you see the board member’s ankle injury as fast as the chest pain?”

In all of this mess of emergency medicine, we often find ourselves frustrated and bitter. But is it only because of our situations? They are admittedly daunting. But is our unhappiness merely the result of the things imposed on us? Or could it be more complex than that? Lately, I have come to wonder if our thoughts are perhaps worse enemies than even lawsuits, regulations, or satisfaction scores. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Selecting Targeted Therapies Online: The Future Of Personalized Cancer Treatment?

The word cancer comes from the greek word for crab “karkinos,” so named by Hippocrates who visualized the tumor and its surrounding vessels looking like a crab, dug stubbornly into the sand with its legs. We know far more about cancer today than the ancient Greeks, but the vision of an entrenched opponent, almost impossible to extract whole, appears to be vividly prescient.

What we have realized over the last half century is that removal of the visible tumor is not enough. Even as we learned how to do bigger and more destructive surgeries, the cancer still managed to sneak back in, growing later at different locations. The crab’s legs are still embedded in the patient.

Thus the discovery that certain chemicals could extinguish these rogue cells opened the modern era of cancer therapy and led to the first “cures” from cancer. Many of these compounds were exquisitely toxic. Early experimenters even used nitrogen mustard, quite literally a poison, as Siddhartha Mukherjee tells in his excellent history of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies.”

To many, the battle looked grim. For the founder of CollabRx, who himself was living in the shadow of advanced melanoma, this was the signal to take his expertise in internet information technologies and apply it to cancer. Thus a “biomedical software company” was founded, with the mission:

…to save lives by using information technology to personalize cancer treatments and accelerate research.

The rapid proliferation of knowledge about the molecular underpinnings of different cancers, has brought hope for a new age of “targeted” therapies. These drugs are designed to find and destroy cells with aberrant biochemical pathways, while bypassing the normal body tissues. Immense hopes rest on them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

Do Patients Have Clinical Judgment?

I used to think they didn’t, but they do.

Clinical judgment is the application of individual experience to the variables of a patient’s medical presentation. It’s the hard-worn skill of knowing what to do and how far to go in a particular situation. It’s having the confidence to do nothing. Clinical judgment is learned from seeing lots of sick people. Good clinical judgment is when the gifted capacity of reasoning intersects with experience. Some doctors have better judgment than others.

Aristotle called this phronesis – or practical judgment.

Patients have practical judgment. We often can tell when something’s amiss with our own body. Things feel different or look different. Taking action on these observations is how we exercise judgment as patients.

Parents of children with central venous lines, for example, can often identify the early signs of infection before fever has ever appeared. They know the subtleties of their child’s behavior. The same goes for children with epilepsy. People with diabetes increasingly have the latitude to apply judgment to the management of their disease. This tends to be quite defined, however, with fixed variables and limited options for intervention. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Liposuction-Related Death And Finding A Safe Doctor

From the Chicago Tribune:

A 35-year-old woman who wanted to resculpt herself for the new year with liposuction and a buttocks enhancement is dead from apparent complications of plastic surgery, her husband and lawyer said Thursday. Miami customer service representative Lidvian Zelaya died Monday, hours after the operation began at Strax Rejuvenation and Aesthetics Institute, a busy cosmetic surgery practice in Lauderhill. Zelaya went to Strax to have fat suctioned from her back and belly, and to have the material injected into her backside, family representatives said. She chose Strax because she got a good deal. Aronfeld said the operation was to be done by Dr. Roger L. Gordon. He was disciplined by the state in connection with two plastic surgery deaths in 2004.

This is getting ridiculous. Liposuction deaths have been frequent in the media as of late. And this surgeon, Roger L. Gordon, M.D., is a real, board-certified plastic surgeon as per the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

Then again, plastic surgery IS surgery and therefore has risk associated with it. Was this an unfortunate accident or something else? How can a potential patient choose well to limit the risk of cosmetic surgery? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Truth in Cosmetic Surgery*

Becoming A Savvy Healthcare Consumer: A “Difficult Science”

Dr. Kent Bottles is in the midst of a very thoughtful multi-part blog post under the heading, “The Difficult Science Behind Becoming a Savvy Healthcare Consumer.”

Part I examined “the limitations of science in helping us make wise choices and decisions about our health.”

Part II explores “how we all have to change if we are to live wisely in a time of rapid transformation of the American healthcare system that everyone agrees needs to decrease per-capita cost and increase quality.”

Both parts so far have addressed important issues about news media coverage of healthcare. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

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