Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

What “The King’s Speech” Teaches Us About Stuttering

The film “The King’s Speech” won the Academy Award for Best Picture [on Sunday night.] The movie has come in for some criticism for its depiction of the political machinations surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII  and Britain’s appeasement of Hitler. The British-born writer Christopher Hitchens, unsparing and deliciously eloquent as always, puts the politics of  George VI in a far less favorable light than the movie does.      

But ”The King’s Speech” has won almost universal praise for its portrayal of the reluctant monarch’s stuttering, a speech pattern that includes involuntary repetition of sounds and syllables and “speech blocks” that cause prolonged pauses. Many young  children who stutter grow out of the problem, but perhaps as many as one in every 100 adults are affected by the condition, 80 percent of whom are men. Stuttering clusters in families, so researchers have been searching for inherited genes that might cause the condition. Last year, in The New England Journal of Medicine, NIH researchers reported some success with results showing an association between three mutated genes and stuttering, although those mutations are probably responsible for a very small minority of cases. 

It’s been said that ”The King’s Speech” will do for stuttering what “Rain Man” did for autism: Plant a sympathetic view of a disability in the public consciousness. One danger of such a quick infusion of awareness, however, is that it can harden into a fixed, if largely favorable, stereotype. We are finding out — or are being reminded — about all the famous people who have stuttered (many of them writers). First-person accounts are popping up all over the place because of the film. The best I’ve come across is by Philip French, a British film critic, who describes vividly what it was like to listen to the radio broadcasts of the real King George VI, wondering if he would make it to the end “like a drunken waiter crossing a polished floor bearing a tray laden with wine glasses.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Fix Healthcare Soon Or The Patient Will Be Beyond Saving

The top vote-getting answer on my poll about what people feel about the election: Different lunatics, same asylum. We are getting jaded by our system. Being the “flaming moderate” that I am, I find it hard to hear the substance of the rhetoric on either side, just the shrillness and rancor of the voices.

From the physician’s perspective, it is very hard to know who to favor in this election. The democrats seem to love lawyers and hate tort reform, and they also favor an expansion of government. The republicans love big businesses and “free market,” accepting the bad behavior of insurance and drug companies as “the market working itself out.” They both seem hell-bent on sticking it to the other party at the expense of getting anything done — and this in a time of crisis for our industry.

The results of this playground brawl between the two gangs of bullies is that all of us wimpy kids (the ones without power) end up lying bloody in the dirt. Here are the facts as I see them about healthcare in our country:

1. It costs far too much. The top item on the agenda needs to be cost control. The only way to control cost is to stop paying for things that are unnecessary or for which there is a cheaper alternative. I know that’s not simple as it sounds, but so much of the discussion is about coverage and how things are paid, while the real issue is not who pays, it’s what and how much gets paid. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

How Will Today’s Elections Affect Healthcare Reform?

All eyes are on today’s mid-term elections and how they’ll play out across the country. The results are likely to affect the recently enacted healthcare reform legislation, Politico reports. Although repealing the legislation would be difficult, Republicans may be able to challenge its implementation if they gain control of the House. Attempts to modify the law could require a delicate balance since, as noted by the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, some of its provisions, such as coverage for dependents age 26 and younger, are individually popular.

Reuters has published a Q&A on what the election results could mean for the healthcare reform law. The Wall Street Journal is asking readers to weigh in on whether the legislation is affecting their votes. (Politico, Washington Post, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Paralysis As Criminal Punishment?

CAIRO — A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals in the country whether they could damage a man’s spinal cord as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver and paralyzing him, the brother of the victim said Thursday.

Every time I think my country is screwed up, I read this sort of thing and feel better about it. And kudos to the hospital that (apparently) just said, “No.”

SOURCE: “Saudi judge considers paralysis punishment” – World News – Mideast/N. Africa – MSNBC.com

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

Read more »

How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

Read more »

See all book reviews »