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Latest Posts

Decreasing Jail Time, Treating Drug Abuse As A Public Health Issue

A couple of years ago, I served for several weeks on a grand jury for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Mine was designated a RIP (Rapid Indictment Protocol) jury, assigned to efficiently hand down indictments for small drug-related offenses. These cases usually involved undercover officers posing as customers making purchases from street dealers, or uniformed police stopping suspicious vehicles and searching them for drugs. Although rarely we heard testimony about defendants caught with thousands of dollars of contraband, the vast majority of offenses were possession of small amounts of marijuana, heroin, or cocaine for “personal use.” Many of the latter defendants had multiple such offenses, which had resulted in probation, “stay away” orders (court orders to avoid certain neighborhoods where drugs were highly trafficked), or brief stints in jail. Few, if any, had received medical treatment for their addictions.

After a few weeks of hearing these cases, my fellow jurors and I grew increasingly frustrated with this state of affairs. We felt like a cog in a bureaucratic machine, fulfilling a required service but making little difference in anyone’s lives. A young man or woman caught using drugs would inevitably return to the street, violate the terms of his or her probation or “stay away” order, and be dragged before our grand jury again for a new indictment. We openly challenged the assistant district’s attorneys about the futility of the process. They would just shrug their shoulders and tell us Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Common Sense Family Doctor*

Conference Covers Topics About Psychiatry And Law

Regular readers know that every year I tweet and blog from the conference of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law. This group of forensic psychiatrists consists of about 1800 of the country’s practitioners. Topics are quite diverse and sometimes rather unusual. It’s a lot of fun. Here’s just a small smattering of factoids I picked up last week:

  • The “sovereign citizen” defense can prompt a competency eval, but is not a delusion. The sovereign citizen movement is a recognized subculture of people who believe the government has no jurisdiction over them.
  • Of 200 defendants cleared by DNA, one-fourth had confessed to the crime.
  • According to FBI uniform crime reports, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

When Public Health Legislation Is More Effective Than Physician’s Advice

Last month, my family was involved in a scary traffic accident en route to the Family Medicine Education Consortium‘s North East Region meeting. I was in the left-hand eastbound lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike when a westbound tractor trailer collided with a truck, causing the truck to cross over the grass median a few cars ahead of us. I hit the brakes and swerved to avoid the truck, but its momentum carried it forward into the left side of our car. Strapped into child safety seats in the back, both of my children were struck by shards of window glass. My five year-old son, who had been sitting behind me, eventually required twelve stitches to close a scalp laceration. Miraculously, none of the occupants of the other six damaged vehicles, including the truck driver, sustained any injuries.

Family physicians like me, and physicians in general, like to believe that the interventions we provide patients make a big difference in their eventual health outcomes. In a few cases, they do. But for most people, events largely outside of the scope of medical practice determine one’s quality and length of life, and Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Common Sense Family Doctor*

Attendee And Speaker Summarizes The Mayo Clinic’s Health Care Social Media Summit

I’m back from my pilgrimage to Rochester, MN for the Third Annual Health Care Social Media Summit at the Mayo Clinic, presented by Ragan Communications.  I had a great time, and want to share the experience with you.  So please take a look at the archived #mayoragan tweets, my presentation on health care social media and the law, and my blog posts about the pre-conference and the summit itself posted at HealthWorks Collective.  Here are some excerpts:

Mayo Ragan Social Media Summit Pre-Conference:

A recurring theme in my hallway conversations [today] was that it is impossible to transplant a successful program from one location to another without taking into account myriad local conditions (social media program, heart transplant program – same problem).  As I always say to folks Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

New Jersey Attempts To Outlaw Cosmetic Botox For Minors: Will The Legislation Work?

TRENTON — Minors in New Jersey wouldn’t be able to get Botox injections unless a doctor says it’s medically necessary and documents the reason, under a bill moving through the Assembly. The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approved legislation Thursday to clamp down on doctors injecting people under 18 with botulinum toxin for cosmetic purposes. The Federal Drug Administration already bars anyone under 18 from getting Botox for cosmetic reasons. The new state legislation would go further by requiring doctors to document in a patient’s chart the noncosmetic medical reason for performing the procedure on a minor. Botox is used widely to smooth out facial wrinkles, but also can be used to treat headaches and spasms.
Source: app.com/article/20110520/NJNEWS10/305200023/Botox-regulations-minors-pass-NJ-committee
?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

This prospective law in New Jersey would make Botox injections illegal in minors without a doctor’s statement that it is medically necessary. Unfortunately this is not to say such a law would have the desired effect. There are docs who will write those “permit slips.” Watch how many of these Botox-using minors get headaches.

I am not really a fan of laws restricting the flow of medicines. I do not believe they work well. Then again Read more »

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

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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