November 2011 Archives


Poverty, illness and desperation are a tragic trio and destroy unknown numbers of lives.

One story that broke my heart was that of a sweet young thing, age 23, who had inherited nothing from her father but a disease.

She needed a “specialty medicine” for it — one of those medicines that is so expensive that nobody seems to want to pay for it.  But she lost her job due to “downsizing” so she had no insurance and no money. Read more on US Healthcare Is A Tragedy, Not A Success…

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Down the hall she came making sounds of distress and physical effort.  When she got to my door, it didn’t get any easier.  She had to push her way through the narrow doorway, one of those doors designed for thinner people of years past.

I saw a wildly obese 23 year old, with suicidal ideation, who told me her life was worthless.  Doctors had found a rare uterine cancer and done a total hysterectomy.  She was told that she could have no hormone replacement.  So she was dealing with some symptomatic treatments of hot flashes that weren’t doing very much.

I was pretty much impressed by the doctors who had made a rare save.  She seemed to be cancer-free now, although she was not “crazy” about the abdominal wall hernia repair that had been necessary to hold her stomach together.  Also, she was not enthusiastic about the bimonthly pap smears.  But she was alive, and granted, she could not have hormone replacement.  She sat in front of me telling me all about how the doctors had taken care of her.

She was crying and depressed.  It was not hard to figure out why.

“I will never have children.  I will never be a mommy.” Read more on What Can You Do With Your Life?…

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A beloved football coach – I might even say a living legend – finds his life destroyed after a luminous career.  All because of alleged inaction – perhaps to shield a friend, perhaps to preserve the “old school” or for other reasons.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno

More than a coach -- Joe Paterno has been a diety at Penn State

And the sad story of Joe Paterno is only one more chapter in how the victims who suffer are once again vilified, and how we wonder if it is even possible for justice to prevail when such tragedy is involved.

When I was in the year of training for psychotherapy, I felt fortunate to study under a knowledgeable PhD who ran the gamut from psychoanalysis to cognitive styles in his competencies.

The thing he told us was the most important thing to do during our psychotherapy training was for each of us to isolate the population with which we could not work. Read more on Penn State Sports Scandal Destroys Lives…

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The intersection of law and medicine can be a real sticky wicket.

Most people have heard of someone being “not guilty by reason of insanity” and most people know that some defendants might be found incompetent to stand trial.

But the processes are sometimes vague and often confusing – especially to the lay audience. Read more on Mentally Retarded But Comptetent To Stand Trial…

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So many times the cover-up seems to me to be worse than the crime. It might be something as President Nixon and Watergate or as trivial as Sarah Palin and her … um … improvisation on the ride of Paul Revere.

(Don’t try to fool a Boston girl – I know all about Paul Revere).

I think most of us can agree that the alleged sexual abuse of a young boy by a college football coach is definitely on the more serious side. And in addition to whatever reputed sexual trauma may result, there is another severe trauma. Read more on Penn State Child Abuse: The Coverup Is Worse Than The Crime…

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The patient was no Paris Hilton, and the clinic where I saw her is not someplace Ms. Hilton would ever frequent.  But one thing the two women had in common was carrying a dog in a handbag.

I often see ladies carry in more than one bag – a standard handbag and perhaps a sack full of medical records.  I’d never had anyone bring a purse-dog in to an interview, though. Read more on Is There Anything A Service Dog Can’t Do?…

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This is one of those stories that I find very difficult to write. My anger is great and clouds my mind. Yet if I do not, there may be some kind of eruption – tears, shouts, or pounding on the wall.

The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer read, “4 ex-pharma execs face possible jail time.”

“Possible” jail time? This is murder.

Operating TableIn brief:

Synthes received FDA approval bone cement for use only to fill bony voids or defects in some parts of the body, but not in the spine.

In 2003 and 2004, the company is accused of having its representative train surgeons to use this cement for the very thing they were forbidden by the government to do.

For those who don’t know, many surgeries are performed by people who aren’t technically allowed to practice medicine.  A lot of times, people who didn’t complete medical school or people who have had their medical licenses taken away for various disciplinary reasons can get employment with a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals or medical appliances (like replacement hip joints) and will train doctors on how to utilize these new products.

This isn’t widely discussed and is shady, at best. It’s probably criminal, but that’s another column.

Synthes executives are charged with conducting illegal clinical trials in which 200 patients were treated for ways not approved by the FDA.

Of those 200, three died.

Read more on Getting Away With Murder — Cheaply…

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Seventh grade science class at my prep school featured some basic knowledge and definitions that had to be memorized.  I aced it, of course, but I don’t think anyone else even liked it.

Eco-friendly Chemical UsageOver the course of my education (many, many years) I had a lot of science classes.  And after I went to medical school, I was all scienced-up.  Some of the classes were simply a waste of time – things required by law but not taken seriously by the school.  Others were fascinating and formed my blossom love of science that led me to study medicine.

But I did get a lot of basics in that seventh grade class.  Things like definitions.  Words like “solute” and “solvent” held no mysteries for me.  Water was, of course, the greatest solvent ever invented, but there were others.  Like when we sent clothes to the dry cleaners, we had to remember the rhyme “Your best bet is carbon tet” a reference to carbon tetrachloride (CCl4).  Funny little doggerel, I know, but it was even on the final test.

Carbon tetrachloride was not part of the chemistry of living things, so it is not terribly much of a surprise that I haven’t heard much about it until today.  I also recognize the names of its close cousins; trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene.

Sure sounds as if carbon tet and some related solvents in paints and adhesives are related to Parkinson’s Disease.

Read more on Dry-Cleaning Solvents Causing Parkinson’s…

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Wouldn’t it be fun to just sit in front of the TV all day and watch your favorite shows?

Actually, it’s pretty darn depressing.  Anyway, that’s what I have noticed, and now it’s official.

I cannot begin to guess the number of people I have diagnosed as depressed who watch television all day.  I’ve noticed it for a long time, and part of my standard examination is to find out what people do with their daily lives.

Short answer – couch potato.

Most of the time these folks aren’t actually trying to change their lives or get better.  This isn’t just a simple, “Oh, I gotta catch Jerry Springer!” or “Oprah is supposed to be good today!” Read more on TV And Depression…

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I’ve had it with photo opportunities — the kind of superficial and symbolic action that politicians do as election time approaches.

I’ve dealt with street-people in various clinical settings over the years, and it is great when there are resources for referring them to get food, clothing and even shelter.  The holiday season usually means cold weather no matter if you are in New York or Los Angeles, and it is even more critical for people to get shelter from the elements during the cold months.

But isn’t it the height of cynical politicking to have the President to show up at such a facility and “work?”  Even worse, to bring his wife, children, mother-in-law and the brother-in-law (an athletic coach) and his entire team? Read more on A Cynical Thanksgiving Photo Op…

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