Of course, patients are entitled to medical care around the clock.  You would not expect to show up at 2 a.m. at an emergency room to find a "closed" sign.  If you are having chest pain on a weekend, and you call your doctor’s office, you should expect a prompt response from a living and breathing medical doctor.  Patients are aware that when they call the doctor at night, that ...

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There was a tragedy in France recently: Innocent French citizens were taken down by a profession whose mission is to heal and comfort.  A medical clinical trial careened off the rails and crashed.  Were these volunteer study patients properly informed?  Are medical study patients here in the U.S. truly making a free choice? From time to time, friends, patients, and relatives ask my advice if they should participate in a medical ...

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May I whine for a few sentences, please? My staff and I have a high-deductible medical insurance plan. As the costs of coverage increased each year, we had to find a product that we could afford for our small private practice. As any small business owner knows, margins are tight, revenue is declining and expenses inexorably rise. And physicians, unlike other retailers, cannot raise our fees. Would you want to ...

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Years ago, I was having dinner with two members of the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the finest orchestras in the world. I asked them, with my kids present, how much time they devoted to their craft. As many parents know, getting kids to commit to practicing a musical instrument is about as easy as splitting the atom. The musicians told us how much time they practiced, which was mind boggling, ...

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You see your gastroenterologist with long-standing stomach pain. You have undergone a reasonable evaluation and all the endoscopic bodily invasions, and imaging studies of your abdomen have been normal. Repeated lab work provides no clue explaining your distress. You have been twice to the emergency room and were sent home with prescriptions that didn’t work. You are frustrated and so is your gastro guy. You are convinced that there is ...

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A patient came to the office and refused to see me, although I was quite willing to see him. I’ll present the scenario followed by the patient’s reason he took an abrupt U-turn. Then, if you are inclined, you may offer your own advice and comment. I performed a colonoscopy on this patient and found a large polyp in the upper part of the large intestine, or colon. The upper part ...

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Over the years, I have heard families bemoan that their relative who was just readmitted to the hospital was sent home too early just a few days ago. Are they right? First, let me say that in some instances they may be correct. It is certainly possible that the hospital, under increased pressure to kick folks out, may have pulled the discharge trigger too soon. The hospital is not always right ...

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Gluten is in the news again. Gluten and probiotics are among the two dietary issues that most consume my patients. I am asked for my opinion on them several times each week. Although my opinion is solicited, these patients have largely already made up their own minds as they are often avoiding gluten and swallowing zillions of "good bacteria" with zeal and enthusiasm. Why do they do this in the absence ...

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Patients are cool.   I did a colonoscopy on a hospitalized man who was saddled with the ravages of obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea and respiratory disease.  My partner had performed the initial consultation, and it was my task to bring light into a dark place by performing a colonoscopy.  I engaged in some conversation prior to the procedure, not simply to acquire relevant medical facts, but also to establish some rapport ...

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Doctors do not know everything. We make mistakes and mistakes in judgment. Sometimes we make the mistake of speaking when we should keep silent. At times, patients ask us questions that we can’t or shouldn’t answer; and yet we do. It shouldn’t be our objective to force certainly into an issue that is amorphous and murky. Here’s a response that I recommend in situations where certainty is elusive. “I don’t know.” I saw ...

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