I believe the role that God plays in our lives is often magnified during times of great suffering. How we perceive that role is a question of faith, often strong and steadfast in some, especially my patients, but sometimes unreliable and inconvenient to others, like myself, on a journey of understanding and acceptance. During the terminal stages of my grandmother’s colon cancer, I recall her saying, “Je pense que le Bon ...

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shutterstock_114133564 There are many ways to write about health, medicine, and health care. And there are many people – patients, caregivers, policymakers, pundits, thought leaders, and health professionals – in a position to do so. Fortunately, the world also offers a similar and growing diversity of places in which to publish this sort of work. My focus today is more, well, literary. I know the word “literary” often ...

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shutterstock_127493312 Wrong site surgery is never acceptable.  A surgeon ought never to find himself in a situation where he has to inform the family that he just operated on the wrong body part.  It is embarrassing, unprofessional, and an egregious violation of the patient/physician covenant. That being said, we have allowed this issue to be defined entirely in terms of "systems management".  And hence the ...

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In an excellent recent cover article in the Boston Globe Magazine, Darshak Sanghavi explored a fascinating phenomenon: patients are less likely to sue doctors who admit they've made a mistake, particularly if they apologize for their errors. Innovative programs, such as one at the University of Michigan, encourage physicians to reveal their mistakes to patients, express remorse, and offer compensation to patients who may have been ...

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I am a physician who writes and I think that more of my colleagues should do so. Not because, we are such skilled wordsmiths or understand plot and characterization. We don’t. But, we confront the human condition every day. We see pain and struggle and fear and rebirth. We have much to share. Beyond my own profession, I think everyone should write, because everyone has something important to say and to ...

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I happened to read an article in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch where Ohio coroners are complaining because some doctors, including emergency physicians, are refusing to sign death certificates listing a patient’s cause of death. The coroners are concerned because they are being “burdened” with hundreds of extra cases every year that they must handle. And if other doctors don’t sign off on the cause of death, sometimes it ...

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Every once in a while a news item becomes so big that a threshold is reached. Thinking people must weigh in. When the US Supreme Court hears two cases involving the rights and treatment of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, there is a lot at stake. Our country faces a really important test. It’s not so much about the specific legal issues, though they are not insignificant. Much more ...

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shutterstock_111707921 I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s fascinating novel, Gods of America.  I first learned about his work by watching the movie Stardust, then reading the novel. One of the themes of Gods of America is that the deities of the old world came to America in the hearts of their followers, but over time lose their followers and thus their power.  A war is arranged between the ...

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I enthusiastically shared the news of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s same-sex marriage endorsement with my medical school classmates yesterday. I even publicly posted the AAP’s article – the sole public posting on my private Facebook page – because to me, the strong endorsement of equal rights by an organization of 60,000 pediatricians seemed enormously important for my colleagues and for our world. I was disheartened to read the
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Before patients can become savvy consumers of healthcare, they need information about their healthcare choices.  Too often, such information is nearly impossible to get, especially when it requires doctors to give patients useful statistics about things like treatment side effects. Since publishing Critical Decisions this fall, I have received a number of emails from readers who have recognized their own medical histories in the pages of my book.  I received ...

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