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Teens Respond To Suicide Crisis: Talk To Me! T-shirts

I wish every teenager in America would wear a t-shirt that says “Talk to Me.” In fact, I wish the t-shirts would say “talk to me, touch me, connect with me, help me change our world!”

After three recent teens suicides, two teens at a local high school have started selling t-shirts that say “talk to me,” and I am just thrilled because these teens found a way to tell the adults around them that they need more communication! They need adults to talk with them, touch them, connect with them, and spend time with them! Every teen needs that connection, but when stressed, vulnerable and traumatized, they need it even more!

My heart is with this community and I hope these t-shirts become the school uniform!

Photo from lumaxart

This post, Teens Respond To Suicide Crisis: Talk To Me! T-shirts, was originally published on Healthine.com by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

When Should A Physician Help A Patient Die?

Here’s an interesting case.  A young woman drinks antifreeze to commit suicide, writes a note saying she does not want any medical treatment and calls an ambulance so she can die peacefully with the help of medical support.

I read a lot on  Happy Hospitalist about a patient’s right to demand what ever care they feel is necessary to keep them alive and the duty of the physician to provide whatever care the patient feels they require, no matter how costly or how miniscule the benefit.  Readers like to say it’s not a physician’s obligation to make quality of life decisions for the patient.

So let’s analyze this situation.  Does a  patient have the right to demand medical care and the services of physicians to let them die without pain?  Does a patient have the right to demand a physician order morphine and ativan to keep a depressed but physically intact patient comfortable as they slip away in a horrible antifreeze death under the care of medical personel? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Happy Hospitalist*

Suicide Rates Climbing Among US Military Personnel

This topic has become more real for my family. My first cousin’s son-in-law committed suicide this past weekend. He had had difficulty adjusting since his return from Iraq, but the family was still caught off-guard. If you can make it any worse, he chose his wife’s birthday to take his life. Fortunately, neither she nor their toddler son was home at the time.

The issue of soldier suicide concerns many. Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, Arkansas’ National Guard Adjutant General, recently made a public plea for help asking family members, friends and employers of the state’s 10,000 Guardsmen to watch for personality changes or signs of stress overwhelming his soldiers and airmen. There has been four suicides in Arkansas Guardsmen since January.

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*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Book Review – Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon

Michael Gighlieri and Thomas Myers are coauthors of Over the Edge: Death In Grand Canyon, which is one heck of an interesting read. It is an encyclopedic rendition of all of the fatal accidents known (at the time of the writing) to have occurred in the Grand Canyon. The over-arching observation, made by the authors and almost certainly by the readers, is that the vast majority of these deaths were avoidable. Failure to recognize risk, or frank disregard for hazards, led to tragic loss of human lives. For every person who died, countless more suffered.

Early in the book and at intervals thereafter, the authors apologize for the graphic descriptions and for articulating the opinion that the fatalities were avoidable. They are apologizing for accurately observing that people can be uninformed, or informed and foolish. There is, of course, an element of risk inherent in many outdoor recreational activities, but the authors present an entirely different spin on risk – namely, unambiguously unnecessary risk. They are correct – too many people have paid the price, in the theme of this book, with loss of life and great emotional suffering (presumably) to family and friends.

There is a bit of adventure in the telling of tales, but this is not an adventure book. It is, rather, a series of accountings, some written in great detail and some more superficially. There is nothing boring about this book, but it is easily put down after a section is completed.

From the back cover: “Two veterans of decades of adventuring in Grand Canyon chronicle the first complete and comprehensive history of Grand Canyon misadventures. These episodes span the entire era of visitation from the time of the first river exploration by John Wesley Powell and his crew of 1869 to that of tourists falling off its rims today. These accounts of the nearly 600 people who have met untimely deaths in the Canyon set a new high water mark for offering the most astounding array of adventures, misadventures, and lifesaving lessons published between two covers. Over the Edge promises to be the most intense yet informative book on Grand Canyon ever written.”

The major and minor sections represent the categories of accidents: falls from the rims, falls within the canyon, heat illness (and dehydration), flash floods, river accidents (including crossings and drownings), air accidents, rockfall, envenomations, freak accidents, suicide, and murders.

The book is replete with lessons learned and safety advice – all of it useful for educators, adventurers, explorers, search and rescue personnel, and casual visitors. The book truly serves a purpose, which is to articulate history in such a way that the reader can learn from it, and hopefully, avoid the catastrophes that befell the unfortunate victims portrayed in these tales. Other interesting books co-authored by Dr. Myers are Fateful Journey – Injury and Death on Colorado River Trips in Grand Canyon and Grand Obsession – Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon.

This post, Book Review – Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

The Case Of Two Accidental Suicides

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My worst night as a doctor was during my residency.  I was working the pediatric ICU and admitted a young teenager who had tried to kill herself.  Well, she didn’t really try to kill herself; she took a handful of Tylenol (acetaminophen) because some other girls had teased her.

On that night I watched as she went from a frightened girl who carried on a conversation, through agitation and into coma, and finally to death by morning.  We did everything we could to keep her alive, but without a liver there is no chance of survival.

Over ten years later, I was called to the emergency room for a girl who was nauseated and a little confused, with elevated liver tests.  I told the ER doctor to check an acetaminophen level and, sadly, it was elevated.  She too had taken a handful of acetaminophen at an earlier time.  She too was lucid and scared at the start of the evening.  The last I saw of her was on the next day before she was sent to a specialty hospital for a liver transplant.  I got the call later that next day with the bad news: she died.

The saddest thing about both of these kids is that they both thought they were safe.  The handful of pills was a gesture, not meant to harm themselves.  They were like most people; they didn’t know that this medication that is ubiquitous and reportedly safe can be so deadly.  But when they finally learned this, it was too late.  They are both dead.  Suicides?  Technically, but not in reality.

For these children the problem was that symptoms of toxicity may not show up until it is too late.  People often get nausea and vomiting with acute overdose, but if the treatment isn’t initiated within 8-10 hours, the risk of going to liver failure is high.  Once enough time passes, it is rare that the person can be cured without liver transplant.

Acetaminophen overdose is the #1 cause of liver failure in the US.  According to a Reuters article, there are 1600 cases of liver failure from this drug per year (2007).  This is a huge number.  In comparison consider that the cholesterol drug Cerivastatin (Baycol) was withdrawn from the market when there were 31 deaths from rhabdomyalysis (severe muscle break-down, which is far more common than liver failure in these drugs).  These happened mainly when the drug was used in combination with another cholesterol drug.

Should the drug be pulled from the market?  No, it is safe when used properly.  The toxic dose is generally 10 times the therapeutic dose.  My complaint is not that they have dangerous drugs available; ALL drugs should be considered dangerous.  Aspirin, decongestants, anti-inflammatories, and even antacids can be toxic if taken in high dose.  The problems with acetaminophen stem from several factors:

  1. Most people don’t realize the danger.
  2. There has been very little public education and no significant warning labels on the packages.
  3. The drug is often hidden in combination with other drugs, including prescription narcotics and over-the-counter cold medications.  This means that a person can take excess medication without knowing it.

I would advocate putting warning labels on medications containing this drug.  I am sure this doesn’t thrill the drug manufacturers, but the goal is not to make them happy.  I have thought this since that terrible night during residency.  If there was such a warning, perhaps she wouldn’t have died.

It seems a bit silly that this action by the FDA is coming after their pulling of children’s cough/cold medications. Those drugs have very small numbers of true harmful overdoses.  The reason they were pulled was probably more that they didn’t do anything over the fact that they were dangerous.  Acetaminophen, on the other hand, can be deadly.

Just ask the parents of my two patients.

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

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