When we think of pollution, we think of our planet: stripped forests paved asphalt black, sterile red rivers, brown-gray skies and creeping slums over once virgin land. We imagine massive dumps of civilized waste, the extermination of species and temperatures which bake the earth like a neglected oven. We mourn the global home in which we live, neglected, abused, in ruin. Do we ever think about ourselves? That is one of ...

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For soldiers, there are many fears.  Will I do my job?  Will I succeed in my mission?  Will my colleagues in arms be harmed?  Will I be injured?  Will I die?  For the American Muslim who volunteers to engage the enemies of the United States on foreign soil, there is a new worry.  What will my home country do to my family while I am gone? Recently, Dr. Ghazali A. Chaudry, ...

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Medicine is a paradox. To save, we cut with sharp knives. We ignore pain so that it will light the path to diagnosis. We give toxins to destroy toxic disease. We scold our neighbors when they neglect their health, even as we work ourselves to exhaustion, eat too much and evade exercise. We comfort the families of our patients while ignoring our own. There is one contradiction, which, by its very ...

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It was recently pointed out that one of my partners had made an error in a patient’s electronic hospital chart. Did I want to correct the mistake? Curious, I looked at the computer screen. There in 12-point-black-on-white Cambria was the culprit documentation. The words were: “Our therapy goal is palliative. Prognosis is good.” Now, this was clearly not what the author had intended. In common practice when someone is so sick that ...

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When patients and their families seek hospice care, they are thinking about how they will die. They want to be without pain, shortness of breath, loneliness and, above all, fear. They want to end their lives with those they love, in a place they know, with respect and support. They want control. They want dignity. We all know this, and try to provide it as friends, family and caregivers. Nonetheless, ...

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Not long ago, I overheard a frustrated hospital leader ranting about the poor performance of a physician. It was not that the doctor was screwing up surgeries, ordering the wrong drugs or missing obvious diagnoses. Actually, the physician was rather adept at healing his fellow man. The doctor’s failures concerned length of stay (far too long), sloppy medical records (incomplete, loaded with cut-and-paste) and a temper, which while not directly abusive ...

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In my home, we have two conversations: politics and medicine. The most vociferous discussions are around their product, health care.  We know doctors on the right and left, Democrat and Republican, boisterous blues, rebellious reds and garrulous grays. Respecting opinions and debate, we love ‘em all.  However, no matter on what side of the aisle they stand, which lever they pull, they share one trait.  All physicians are deeply conservative.  ...

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Man has been dying on a regular basis for millions of years — should we not be end-of-life experts by now? Why do I feel the need to devote pages and hours to this depressing topic? Is there a goal to my project, beyond venting the shared suffering which soaks my soul? What is my purpose? For humans, denial of death and marginalizing its effect on our lives is a major ...

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Fall brings school buses, a freshening breeze and an avalanche of meetings.  There are seasonal sales, myriad projects and the splendor of colored leaves.  The season is also announced, again and again, by a particular peculiar and perilous decision, which, no matter how much I try, I do not fully understand. Frankly, I just don’t get it.

“Jane, it is time to start chemotherapy.” “What are the side effects?” “Well, this is powerful ...

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I recently spent an evening with a group of medical oncology fellows as part of a small panel discussing career alternatives. There were doctors who worked for pharma, academic medical centers, hospitals and a couple of us representing private practice. The questions and comments taught me more than I could contribute. I was surprised to learn not just about jobs and personal futures, but about something basic: the difficulty in ...

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