Nelson Mandela: His doctors and nurses also need our thoughts If I had to choose the way I could die, I would probably like to go peacefully in my sleep. It seems that Nelson Mandela no longer has that option. He may have had, and perhaps even been on that trajectory when he was rushed to hospital in the middle of the night more than two weeks ago. It would not have ...

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I recently followed a brief spat on Twitter between a journalist and a doctor.  It did not go further than a few irritable tweets, but I had to agree with the doctor’s point of view. The journalist had written an article about the death of a South African shack fire victim, admitted to hospital with 100% burns, and the contrast in perceived care he received compared to that of a ...

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The phone conversation, as my dad, in the bed next door, recalls it, went something like this. “Hello?” “Hi, is this Jim? Where are you?” “No, it’s not Jim.  I’m John, and I’m in hospital.” “Oh sorry, John, I was looking for Jim the refrigerator mechanic.  Wrong number.  Hope you’re okay!” “I’m not okay. Just had both my knees replaced and I’m very sore.” “John, I’m sorry.  I got problems too.  I run an ice cream ...

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How many times as a doctor do you ask the same questions over and over again as part of the routine process of taking a history from your patient?  And how often as a patient do you have to answer those same questions each time you see a new doctor? How long does this take, given that doctors and patients both complain that there is too little time for the ...

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Here's a devil’s advocate position. Historically doctors have held power over patients as compensation for the responsibility of that position, and the epatient and other patient advocacy movements seek to address that imbalance with good reason, arguing that the doctor-patient relationship should be equal.  I don’t mind that. But let’s be truly equal partners then. The patient’s right to choose a doctor and be informed of the best ones via doctor rating ...

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In about 1985, as I remember it, my training hospital underwent a pivotal change. In Cape Town, at the southern tip of Africa, Groote Schuur Hospital was world famous for being the place where in 1967 an arrogant, brash and brilliant surgeon by the name of Christiaan Barnard stunned the world by performing the world’s first heart transplant. Nearly twenty years later, Groote Schuur (Dutch for "Big Barn") still retained ...

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I noticed something different about my driving habits lately.  At a traffic light I used to accept the green as an open invitation to drive through unconcerned, confident that other drivers would see the red and do what they are supposed to do: stop. I don’t do that anymore.  I always look to see if the road is clear, and other drivers have indeed stopped.  And then I go.  I have ...

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As I greeted my next patient of the morning, I knew from the early folder number that I had seen him six or seven years before.  I no longer expect to remember everyone I have ever met professionally. The man before me was tall, fit and well built. There is usually some inkling of recognition, but nothing about him was familiar to me at all. We made small talk for some ...

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In 1978, as I neared the end of high school and readied myself for medical training, a book called House of God was published by a doctor under the pseudonym Samuel Shem.  By the time I read it as an intern eight years later it had become a cult classic among doctors.  Everyone I knew in my hospital read it, passing around the single copy we had, writing our names in ...

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Things have been a bit tough of late, the bad economy is starting to bite, and you’re feeling the pressure.  To top it all, your body has been acting strangely in ways it never has before.  Your muscles twitch in funny areas for hours at a time, you tire easily, and you have fleeting pins and needles in your limbs.  Over the weeks these symptoms have become worse. The last ...

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