We cannot let the anecdote rule over us.   We don’t make sound policy if we are swayed by isolated emotional vignettes.  Of course, a vignette describes a living, breathing human being, but we must consider the greater good, the overall context and the risk of letting our hearts triumph over our heads when making general policy.  Consider these examples. If an expensive drug treatment program keeps five addicts clean for six ...

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Today's patients must adjust to seeing many physicians, many of whom are strangers. If you need a doctor on the weekend, at night or just need a same day appointment, you may very well not be seen by your physician. This is not your father’s medical practice. The days of the physician house call have vanished. There are many reasons responsible for this evolution (or devolution) in medical care. Patients ...

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It may seem strange that a gastroenterologist like me does not prescribe pain medicines. Let me rephrase that. I don’t prescribe opioids or narcotics. I write prescriptions for so few controlled substances that I do not even know my own DEA number. You might think that a gastroenterologist who cares for thousands of patients with abdominal pains would have a heavy foot on the opioid accelerator. But, I don’t. Here’s why. I ...

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Earlier this week, as I write this, our office lost a skirmish against technology. It was my procedure day, where lucky patients file in awaiting the pleasures of scope examinations of their alimentary canals. A few will swallow the scope (under anesthesia), but most will have back-end work done. We are a small private practice equipped with an outstanding staff. We do our best every day to provide them with the ...

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I had an interesting conversation with a patient in the office some time ago. He was sent to me to evaluate abnormal liver blood tests, a common issue for gastroenterologists to unravel. I did not think that these laboratory abnormalities portended an unfavorable medical outcome. Beyond the medical issue, he confided to me a harrowing personal tribulation. Often, I find that a person’s personal story is more interesting and significant than ...

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When I am facing an alcoholic in the office, I do not advise him to stop drinking. Other physicians may advocate a different approach.  We live in a free society and individuals are free to make their own choices.  I have decided, for example, not to own a firearm, ride a motorcycle or bungee jump as these activities are not only beyond my risk tolerance threshold, but are also activities that ...

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I was covering for my partner over the weekend and saw his patient with end-stage liver disease, a consequence of decades of alcohol abuse.| He was one of the most deeply jaundiced individuals I have ever seen. His mental status was still preserved. He could converse and responded appropriately to my routine inquiries, although he was somewhat sluggish in his thinking. It’s amazing that even after the majority of a liver ...

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What should a medical consultant do when the referring physician wants a procedure that the consultant does not favor? Of course, this sounds like a layup. The consultant, readers would surmise, should have a conversation with the referring colleague to explain why the procedure is not in the patient’s interest. The colleague then thanks the consultant for his thoughtful input, and for sparing the patient from the risks and expense of ...

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Physicians spend a lot of time counseling patients on the phone. Often, these conversations occur at night with patients we have never met before. When I am on-call in the evenings or on the weekends, these are some typical phone calls I receive from patients I have never met.

  • I have a very bad stomach ache for the last hour.
  • I started having rectal bleeding an hour ago.
  • My wife tells ...

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Free speech is one of our bedrock constitutional rights. The battle over what constitutes lawful free speech is ongoing. But the issue is more complex than I can grasp with legal distinctions separating political speech, commercial speech and noncommercial speech. And, of course, the right of speech does not permit the free expression of obscenity or "fighting words" along with some other exclusions. There is no right to free speech in ...

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