When school boards fancy themselves health care providers I met Madelyn for the first time last month in clinic. Six months prior, she was an otherwise healthy 14-year-old girl. One afternoon, Madelyn’s phys ed teacher led a gym class aimed at completing fitness and health assessments on all of the children in the grade. One at a time, each child was asked to step up and onto a scale ...

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There’s no good age to die. Way too many of the patients I’ve seen over the past two years are harrowingly close to my own age. I think it’s less startling to hear that an older person has cancer than when a young person is diagnosed, but I have yet to identify the age when this transition happens. Maybe it’s an unspoken understanding that older people die and younger people shouldn’t, but ...

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Let me show you four simple steps, requiring just 15 seconds, that will turn a patient thank you into a two-way healing encounter of the highest order. It is incredibly easy for a thank you from a patient to slip by during a busy day in the office. We can get so caught up in the blizzard of clinical tasks we fail to hear what the patient is trying to communicate. We don’t ...

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Nobody likes waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air. When you make a mistake in the emergency department, that’s exactly what happens. They come in all sorts of shapes and colors:

  • The sixty-year-old man diagnosed with a strained lower back muscle who comes back with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • The fifty-four-year-old Hispanic female with generalized malaise who goes into cardiac arrest from a missed myocardial infarction.
  • The two-year-old with ...

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When the Joint Commission is at the hospital, leave Here’s a doctor’s health tip for patients that I’ll bet you haven’t heard before. If you’re a patient who walks into a hospital for an elective procedure of any kind -- surgery, or a diagnostic test -- and you find out that Joint Commission reviewers are on site, reschedule your procedure and leave. Come back another day, after the reviewers have left. Why? ...

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Should doctors be paid overtime for taking call? Taking call is the worst thing about being a doctor. There, I said it. But wait! What about medical malpractice lawsuits? What about dealing with patients’ suffering or dying either from their illness, or far worse, relating to decisions you made or procedures your performed? Certainly these are far worse events than being on call. Granted. However, these awful events are part of ...

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There is a growing recognition in medical education and practice that the spiritual component of human existence must be recognized and addressed. The American College of Physicians has concluded that physicians are obligated to attend to all dimensions of suffering: the physical, psychosocial, spiritual, and existential. Similarly, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JAHCO), which accredits hospitals, recognizes that spiritual concerns are often important for patients and that hospitals ...

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Complicated medical procedures can be dangerous, even when done by highly skilled and experienced people. Why? Because, irrespective of the procedural risk itself, all of us are human and we can overlook or forget things, no matter how many times we have done the procedure. This was recognized many years ago in the airline industry. Flying an airplane is a complicated and potentially dangerous activity and their are many steps ...

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I recently talked about how we might approach the idea of our own death. I wanted to start a discussion about how individuals engage with, think about and plan for the end of their life. In offering a medical perspective on what death is like, I hoped to stimulate self-reflection about this scary and foreign topic. However, when we think about death, we don’t just think about our own ...

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Dear Mr. Will, I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria. I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. ...

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