Dear doctors, Are you looking through our charts and wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into? Are you maybe wishing we were someone else’s problem? Yeah, we know. It’s OK. We know we aren’t the type of patient most doctors like to take on. There are a lot of strings attached to us, and there’s a lot of paperwork waiting to join that already insurmountable mountain of paperwork on your desk. We can’t ...

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"You have no husband?"  asked an oncologist at an Ivy League cancer center, his voice full of concern. "No," I replied. "No sons?" "No." "No daughters?" "No." "No sisters or brothers?" "No." "Your parents -- are they living?" "No." When I mentioned friends and extended family, he talked right over me.  Without a nuclear family, he seemed to think, I had no one. I'd been diagnosed with stage four gallbladder cancer, usually fatal within months.  The surgeon who'd removed three-quarters of ...

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Opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone) and OxyContin (oxycodone), are crucial medical tools that are addictive and widely abused. Tranquilizers and sleeping pills of the benzodiazepine class, like Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam), are safe and effective in limited, short-term use, but are often taken too freely, leading to drug tolerance and withdrawal risks. Stimulants such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine) ease the burden of ADHD but ...

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Prior to her death, a courageous young woman named Jess Jacobs, who suffered from POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), wrote about the worst health care experience of her life.  It is a somewhat horrifying account of hospitalization in Washington D.C.  Her goal was to work toward meaningful health care changes in the system for the better. When I came across the story of another young woman afflicted with this ...

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By the time I reached Dr. R, I was twelve months into an undiagnosed, severe, lower abdominal pain condition. Desperate for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan after seeing ten doctors who had misdiagnosed me, I was exhausted and beyond frustrated with the care I’d received. Seated across from Dr. R. in her office with copies of my medical records and symptom diary in tow, I waited quietly while she reviewed ...

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Dr. Kaveh Shojania, a prominent patient safety expert who scoffs at the numbers and laughs at the tragedy inflicted on countless victims of medical error, should step down as editor of a leading hospital safety journal. About three years ago, a scientist named John James published a study proclaiming that -- at minimum -- 210,000 people die every year from hospital errors, making it the third leading cause of death in ...

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We are witnessing a strange migration of restless tribes, moving between doctors and clinics, traveling great distances in search of what no one wants to give them any more. This eerie movement is steadily gaining momentum in our community, in our state, and across the country. We can hear it in telephone calls, we can read it in records of patients looking to switch their care, and we can see it ...

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I never knew Jess Jacobs, and she never knew me.  Everything I know about her I have learned from her Twitter feed, her website, and articles written about her.  She was the same age as me when she died recently.  She was educated.  She knew the health care system inside and out, as an expert in insurance and policy and as a patient.  But she was ...

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“Get well soon!” That’s a common saying. All of us have heard it. But what if you have an illness that you won’t ever get better from? The most horrible part of having a chronic illness is that it’s forever, or for a very long time. Unless your personal miracle comes, your illness will always be with you. There isn’t an end in sight. There’s just adjusting to the pain, the tiredness, ...

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I knew it was bad when she couldn’t tell me her name. I watched her face fill with frustration as a word she had uttered countless times over eight decades somehow got lost between her brain and her lips. It was 2 a.m. and I was on call as the surgical resident. I had been told that a patient with bladder cancer was being transferred from another hospital, and, as these ...

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