From what I read, people are getting tired of hearing about the benefits of human milk for human babies. Let's stop making mothers who "must" feed their children artificial milk feel bad, they say. Just tell people "breast is best" if you can do it, but let it go at that, and support them in whatever decision they make.Not an unreasonable attitude; I hate having the government or anyone else harangue me about about very personal choices. But we're missing an important point. (More)
Most of the news we hear about people with severe brain injuries (such as Terri Schiavo) is from a negative perspective: How long can we afford (emotionally, finanacially, and in terms of prioritizing the use of resources) to keep an unresponsive, totally dependent person alive? Would a person in such a state want to be kept alive? What does the term "quality of life" really mean, and should it be the determining factor in critical medical decisions? To whom to such decisions belong—the person (through a "living will"), the family, the doctors, the government?
Organizations that focus on the possibility of recovery from severe brain injuries through coma arousal efforts and other stimulation programs, such as the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential and the Family Hope Center, are derisively labelled as "alternative medicine" if not as outright quackery. In light of recent discoveries, however, perhaps it's time to rethink our attitude.After 19 years in a "minimally conscious state" after an accident, Terry Wallis is making significant progress towards recovery, with proven evidence of brain healing and regrowth. Now that there is clear evidence that healing of brain injuries is possible, there is no excuse for reflexively dismissing the work of those who have been saying so for years. If Terry's brain could heal itself, slowly, with minimal outside stimulation, it is inexcusable not to consider the possibility of speeding up the process.
A recent New York Times article on the effort to promote breastfeeding includes this interesting line:
Nursing may even produce a euphoric feelingSo if you can't convince them with the overwhelming evidence of breastfeeding's benefits for the baby, try suggesting it as a new way to get high!
There's nothing like a little foreign travel to open your eyes, and while we were in Japan my eyes discovered xylitol, which appeared to be a popular sweetener. Normally I wouldn't have given it two seconds worth of attention, as I loathe artificial sweeteners. I make an exception for chewing gum, but otherwise strive to avoid all versions of Saccharine, NutraSweet, Splenda, etc. and get really annoyed when they're included in a product without their presence being announced in big, obvious letters.
But xylitol was something popular in Japan and not here, so I did a little investigating. What I've found makes me astonished that it's not widely available, and very popular, in this country. I'm still looking for the down side, so maybe someone who reads this can fill me in. Here's what I've learned so far: (More)
I like to check out Google News every morning, and I'm especially interested in their Health section. Today there were two headlines that caught my attention, and each turned out to be totally misleading.
Do you feel safer now, as you prepare for your long flight? Do you think you can relax, forget about periodically wiggling your toes, stretching your feet, and disturbing your seatmates so you can get up and walk around? Not so fast! What the article says is that low cabin pressure and reduced oxygen do not increase the risk of blood clots. The damage is done by reduced circulation caused by long periods of inactivity, whether on plane, train, bus, or car. Although the article does not address this issue, I'm guessing sitting at a desk all day isn't a good situation, either.
Considering the relative leg room offered by the other modes of transportation, it's not surprising that the problem appears more often among those who fly. To give the casual reader the impression that he's safe from bloodclots on a long flight is misleading and dangerous.
It is nearly as dangerous to base life's decisions on individual scientific studies as it is on Bible verses taken out of context. Nonetheless, I enjoy reporting encourging news, and this morning's is about chocolate. This Scientific American article reports on a study of the cocoa consumption (in any form) of 470 elderly Dutch men, which found that those who ate the most cocoa were half as likely to die of cardiovascular or any other disease as those who ate the least. They haven't identified the protective mechanism yet; maybe it was the antioxidants, maybe the men were just happier. :)Still, there's no need to go overboard on the Ghirardelli. The average daily cocoa consumption of the highest group was "more than four grams." Four grams is not a lot of cocoa, even in its pure form.
What is worse, dying because you can't afford medical treatment, or dying because the cogs in a socialized medicine system decide they can't afford to treat you? Or because someone else thinks you would be better off dead than alive?
A high court in the United Kingdom has ruled that two year old Charlotte Wyatt's life belongs in the hands of the hospital where she is being treated; her parents cannot force doctors keep her alive if the doctors decide it would be in the child's best interest to die.Whatever your views on what would be best for Charlotte, and whatever confidence you might have in your own doctor, this court precedent should terrify you. The chasm between trusting the advice of a doctor who has treated your family for years and proven his compassion and competence, and submitting to the decision of a medical bureaucrat (be he doctor, judge, or accountant) that the patient does not deserve to live, is that between heaven and hell.
Fixed ideas, even if later discredited, are hard to dislodge. This is why urban legends and Internet rumors must repeatedly be quashed. Either we like what we "know" and don't care enough to be concerned about its veracity, or a new generation comes upon the outdated information and unwittingly embraces it. Or both.
This, I'm afraid is what will happen in the case of obstetrical practice. Several years ago a study (the "Term Breech Trial") led to the conclusion that it was safer for breech presentations to be delivered by Caesarean section, rather than vaginally. Consequently, this has become standard, established practice.
However, an article in the January 2006 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports serious flaws in the Term Breech Trial, and concludes that the recommendations from that study should be withdrawn.
Most cases of neonatal death and morbidity in the term breech trial cannot be attributed to the mode of delivery. Moreover, analysis of outcome after 2 years has shown no difference between vaginal and abdominal deliveries of breech babies.Because Caesarean sections are considered to be more convenient than vaginal deliveries (nature is so messy!), and because people seem less inclined to sue doctors for interventions than for not intervening, I don't expect to see a rise in the number of women allowed to attempt vaginal deliveries of breech babies. Nonetheless, it is important to note yet another instance of major life decisions being made on the basis of erroneous data.
As further proof that we haven't progressed much, ethically, from the days when unsavory characters made midnight forays into graveyards to provide medical researchers with cadavers for dissection, I offer this macabre story of tissue removed from bodies entrusted to various mortuaries in New York City, without consent and without proper safety precautions. The tissues were then implanted, in the form of bone and skin grafts, in hundreds of unsuspecting patients across the country.I'm beginning to suspect that "factory medicine" is as dangerous a practice as factory farming.
Because I have a friend who is an avid deer hunter, the New York Times article on chronic wasting disease caught my eye. CWD is the deer and elk equivalent of mad cow disease, and has spread so far to 11 states and two Canadian provinces.
The news is not all bad for hunters. Bruce Morrison, chairman of the National Chronic Wasting Disease Plan Implementation Team is himself a hunter and asserts, "I'm not worried." However, he also recommended that hunters in states where CWD has been found have their deer and elk meat frozen while the brain is tested, and warned that no part of an infected animal should be eaten.
Which is not good news for the rest of us. I fail to see a material difference between this warning and a call to increase greatly the testing of animals that end up in the meat departments of our grocery stores. We have not learned well from Great Britain's sad experience with mad cow disease, and need to stop burying our governmental heads in the sand. Japan's recent renewal of the ban on U.S. beef is not the most important reason for tightening the regulations, although it is the one grabbing the headlines.Personally, I'm awaiting news from Symantec and McAfee that they will be implementing special protection measures for Gateway computers.