Ruth was problematic.  Well into her seventies, her body may have dulled but her tongue was sharper than ever.  And she used it to lash me with complaint after complaint.  If it wasn't her knees, it was her ankles.  If it wasn't her ankles, it was her hips.  I battled the impossible month after month, year after year.  Our interactions left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Nothing makes a ...

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The e-patient movement represents everything that is positive in medicine today.  This grass roots force has introduced shared decision making and empowered both physician and patient.  The quality of health care dialogue has risen meteorically both in the exam room and out.  Today's health care "consumer" is more engaged, more intelligent, and more agile at wending their way through the confusing maze of sickness and health. It's awfully sad that it ...

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There is much to deplore in our medical system.  Atrocities abound in the dark recesses of hospital wards, the overpacked waiting rooms of outpatient offices, and the algorithmic hum of insurance claim denials.  Yet time and again, the most vile of of insults are hurled at one setting in particular.  I'm talking of the place cursed by emergency room physicians when admitting yet another poor soul with a sacral ulcer, ...

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She was sick.  Not sick like a high fever, body aches and a runny nose.  Sick like she had spent the last half a decade in nursing homes as most of her internal organs failed.  There was oxygen, and dialysis, and a colostomy.  She propelled herself vigorously through the crowded halls in the custodial wing of the nursing home, her wheelchair a natural extension of her body thoroughly unhampered by ...

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We were intimate. As intimate as a doctor and patient can become.  He had long outlived his wife and there were no children, no family, just friends.  When he first came to me he was lively and active, but the years took their toll.  Our visits became more regular.  Every six months.  Then every three. His memory started to slip.  Occasionally he would look at me suspiciously when something went wrong.  His ...

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On the face of it, the phone call was relatively innocent.  A family member was confused about the test I scheduled.  Apparently the lab refused to draw the blood.  When I inquired why, I was informed that the patient hadn't been fasting.  I calmly explained to the daughter that fasting was not necessary.  Recent studies had shown little effect on lipid panel results and I was using the glycosylated hemoglobin ...

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She was having excruciating pain in her pelvic area.  I pulled the sheets down cautiously and noted the bruising encircling the waist and inching towards the thighs.  I finished my exam and retreated to the nursing station of the skilled nursing facility to comb through the chart.  ER records, floor notes, consultations, but no x-ray of the pelvis. There was no mention of pelvic pain. The emergency room physician had dutifully ...

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Sometimes my day is like a book.  The first chapter may begin in the darkness of a self imposed corner as a phone call is made.  A voice, full with the thickness of slumber, answers unexpectedly. "I think today is the day." No matter how many years I have been discussing death I still find myself using poor euphemisms.  The bane of medical school teaching, I often struggle with the directness.  "Your mother ...

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William was doing great.  His C. Diff  was finally gone after a month taper of vancomycin.  He was stronger.  The nursing home staff reveled in how much progress was being made over such little time.  It seemed every one was ecstatic, except for, of course his family.  Every step this octogenarian took forward was accompanied by a litany of concerns and complaints from his daughter. If he was not gaining weight, ...

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Why do physicians behave badly? Maybe because theyre scared. A dozen set of eyes stared upwards.  The nurses ate their pizza and glanced back and forth between me and the dry erase board that I had recently filled with incomprehensible scrawl.  I had given this lecture many times and said the words over and over again.  And yet the response was always surprising. "Why do you think physicians get angry and ...

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