BEGINNING in the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies selling high-dose opioids seized upon a notion, based on flimsy scientific evidence, that regardless of the length of treatment, patients would not become addicted to opioids.
It has proved to be one of the biggest mistakes in modern medicine.
An epidemic of prescription drug abuse has swept across the country as a result, and one of the latest victims, according to The New York Times, may have been Prince.
The paper reported that he had developed a problem with prescription painkillers, and that just before his death, friends sought urgent medical help from a California doctor who specializes in treating people addicted to pain medication. Whether pain pills played a role in his death won’t be known until the results of an autopsy are released.
Man Receives First Penis Transplant in the United States
A man whose penis was removed because of cancer has received the first penis transplant in the United States, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Thomas Manning, 64, a bank courier from Halifax, Mass., underwent the 15-hour transplant operation on May 8 and 9. The organ came from a deceased donor.
“I want to go back to being who I was,” Mr. Manning said on Friday in an interview in his hospital room. Sitting up in a chair, happy to be out of bed for the first time since the operation, he said he felt well and had experienced hardly any pain.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Dr. Curtis L. Cetrulo, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and a leader of the surgical team. “It’s uncharted waters for us.”
The surgery is experimental, part of a research program with the ultimate goal of helping combat veterans with severe pelvic injuries, as well as cancer patients and accident victims.
If all goes as planned, normal urination should be possible for Mr. Manning within a few weeks, and sexual function in weeks to months, Dr. Cetrulo said.
Mr. Manning welcomed questions and said he wanted to speak out publicly to help dispel the shame and stigma associated with genital cancers and injuries, and to let other men know there was hope of having normal anatomy restored.
Therapy, medication and yoga couldn’t
cure my anxiety. Maybe Rafael could.
Traditional healing in secularized societies...
"We live in a world where people cite Jesus as their inspiration for denigrating the poor, for hating immigrants and gays and women, for rejecting refugees and accumulating wealth, but in a corner of this world, down a cobblestone street in the middle of Mexico, lives a man who spends his days emulating Jesus: He takes in the sick, the haunted, the marginalized, the wicked (cartel members, corrupt priests and politicians, murderers). He offers hope to those who can’t afford the health care they need. He faces those who have so little and listens to their stories of hardship. He touches them and lets them know that their lives can get better, that good can overcome evil. And maybe most important, he tells them, you’re going to be O.K."
This disorder of the central nervous system is one of the world’s most visible afflictions, and not just because it affects famous folks like Michael J. Fox and the late Muhammad Ali. For one thing, symptoms hinder both fine and gross motor skills, and are therefore very pronounced (as this list clearly shows). For another, people diagnosed with PD often live with it for years or even decades as it becomes steadily more debilitating. Last but certainly not least, millions of people around the world suffer from it. No age group or race is immune from its effects, which are often detectable decades before diagnosis. For that reason, the early warning signs listed here should prompt a visit to the doctor.
Scientists and consumers have raised numerous concerns about personal care products. Experts are particularly concerned about the use of chemicals that may not cause immediate problems, but could over time increase the risk of cancer, reproductive disorders and other ailments.
6 Facts Women Probably Didn’t Know About Fertility
There are a myriad of fertility myths that exist today, and chances are, you’ve heard — or even told — a few of these yourself. These tall tales about conception have been perpetuated through the years and have been passed down through generations. Have you heard the one about specific sexual positions that are supposed to help influence gender? What about how eating particular foods that can spur the conception of twins?
While these superstitious and sometimes humorous “tips” around conception will likely always be a part of the colloquial conversation, here are a few surprising — yet true — fertility facts to help you better understand your body when it comes to reproductive health.
1.Underweight or Overweight: Your weight affects your ability to conceive
Twelve percent of all infertility cases are due to weight issues. Malnourishment or extreme exercise can affect your body’s ability to ovulate if you don’t have at least 22% body fat.1 On the other hand, being overweight can interfere with your hormones and prevent ovulation. Talk to your doctor about your body type, weight, and overall health. If needed, ask your clinic for resources to help you create a nutrition or exercise plan.636x320_CONTENT_v02_1
2.Birth Control Matters: Certain birth control methods can negatively affect fertility
Women who have used injectable or hormonal IUD birth control versus the pill have experienced delays or issues when trying to conceive.2 Unlike the pill, the hormones within injectable birth control and IUDs can linger in the body for up to a year, potentially hindering conception. Every woman is different, so the rule of thumb is to wait until you’ve had at least three normal menstrual cycles, and it’s always good to consult your doctor.
3.Age: Your age on the outside isn’t always your age on the inside
Just because we only blew out 20-something candles on our last birthday doesn’t necessarily mean that our body is celebrating the same youthful perks. As we grow older, the overall health of our egg cells has been shown to decline. Experts say, if you are under 35 and have been trying for a year, or if you are over 35 and having been trying for over six months, it’s time to see a fertility specialist (Reproductive Endocrinologist). Women over 40 experiencing these issues should schedule an appointment within three months if you do not conceive.3
4.Common chemicals can increase infertility
Some studies have shown that Bisphenol A, BPA and PFCs, negatively affect the menstrual cycle and may affect fertility and fetal health.4,5 There are a lot of different views on this topic, so if you’re worried about something specific, talk to your doctor.
5.NO SMOKING: Smoking decreases the ability to conceive
Up to 13% of female fertility issues are caused by cigarette smoking. Every cigarette causes over 7,000 chemicals to spread throughout the body & organs.1 The risk of miscarriage is higher for women who smoke due to these toxins. The good news is that studies show female smokers can increase their chance of conceiving by quitting at least two months prior to trying to get pregnant.
6. Stress: We know! Staying calm is easier said than done
You’ve heard it before: “Just relax, it’ll happen.” This probably grinds your gears. However, while these intended words of comfort may strike a nerve, they can also be very truthful. Stress affects the body’s adrenal system, which can translate into poor sleep quality and bad eating habits. Elevated levels of stress can also affect your ovulation cycle. Inconsistent ovulation greatly decreases your chances of conception and can cause hormonal imbalances. So make time to slow down and take care of yourself. Meditation sessions and moderate exercise can help burn off feelings of anxiousness and prep your body for the journey ahead.
Do your friends and family know your favorite tunes? It's more than just a quiz to see who knows you best—someday, it could save your life. Doctors often recommend that people visiting coma victims play music that has special meaning to them. This is known as a "salient stimulus," something that is familiar and emotionally important. Stimuli like these are so powerful they can even rouse coma victims from their deep slumbers. Here are 15 songs that have done the trick.
Doctors Really, Really Want You to Stop Googling Your Symptoms
Step away from the WebMD.
Let’s see if any of this feels like a familiar process: Say you have a stomachache. You plug “stomachache” into Google and scroll through all of the information on gas and indigestion and other run-of-the-mill causes. And then you keep going, and find yourself reading about ulcers and gallstones and appendicitis, comparing your symptoms to what you see onscreen. Come to think of it, your stomach does feel tender to the touch, and maybe you are feeling a little dehydrated. Never mind that you had week-old leftovers for dinner — you don’t want to be messing around if this turns out to be cancer. And look, there’s a news article about a woman who thought her pregnancy was a months-long stomachache until she had the baby; suddenly, you’re doing frantic period math.
There’s a term for this: cyberchondria, first coined in a 2001 BBC article and later adopted by researchers studying how the internet fuels health anxieties. And there’s plenty of it going around — a 2013 Pew survey found that just over a third of U.S. adults have turned to the internet to help them figure out a health issue, while Google noted in a blog post earlier this summer than around one percent of its searches are on medical topics. But as psychologist Mary Aiken wrote in Quartz yesterday, all of that Googling has consequences beyond your own stressed-out psyche: On a broader level, it’s overburdening the health-care system, diverting doctors’ time and resources to investigating all of the minor bruises and colds that don’t actually need medical attention.
Prostate Cancer Study Details Value of Treatments
A new study offers important information to men who are facing difficult decisions about how to treat prostate cancer in its early stages, or whether to treat it at all.
Researchers followed patients for 10 years and found no difference in death rates between men who were picked at random to have surgery or radiation, or to rely on “active monitoring” of the cancer, with treatment only if it progressed.
Death rates from the cancer were low over all: only about 1 percent of patients 10 years after diagnosis.
Diabetes and physical activity – breaking barriers!
Shahzadi Devje RD CDE MSc
14 November 2016
To mark World Diabetes Day, Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, discusses the importance of physical activity, explores some common barriers and ways to overcome them.
Being physically active is crucial in managing diabetes and improving overall health. Regular exercise can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. For those with diabetes, regular activity offers considerable benefits like improving the body’s ability to use insulin and helps manage blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Physical activity can be a daily struggle for many of us. With the growth of technology and the nine-to-five office lifestyle that we lead, it’s no surprise that a pandemic of physical inactivity is apparent. Almost everything is accessed instantaneously at the touch of a button. We have the ability to work, learn, shop and entertain ourselves from the comfort of our own homes. The “modern” lifestyle has removed many of the conventional modes of physical activity.
Despite this shift, it’s important for those with diabetes to be more active so as to be healthy.
People who have suffered and beaten cancer are willing to do anything they can to prevent the disease from returning. And that's probably a mindset everyone should adopt, whether they've had cancer or not.
The good news: "Almost all the measures you could take to stay cancer-free after treatment hold true for those who have not had cancer," says Dwight McKee, MD, who is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, nutrition, and integrative and holistic medicine.
Start with McKee's simple lifestyle strategies that follow. Don't just read them; commit to doing them for the long haul. As a physician who has made fighting cancer his life's work, McKee says these tips are powerful, and not only advises them to his patients, but anyone else who will listen.
And for a complete guide to living a cancer-free life—even if you've never had the disease—check out Dr. McKee's new book, After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients after Cancer.
After all, why not attack cancer before it attacks you?
Feed Your Kids Peanuts, Early and Often, New Guidelines Urge
Peanuts are back on the menu. In a significant reversal from past advice, new national health guidelines call for parents to give their children foods containing peanuts early and often, starting when they’re infants, as a way to help avoid life-threatening peanut allergies.
The new guidelines, issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Thursday, recommend giving babies puréed food or finger food containing peanut powder or extract before they are 6 months old, and even earlier if a child is prone to allergies and doctors say it is safe to do so. One should never give a baby whole peanuts or peanut bits, experts say, because they can be a choking hazard.
If broadly implemented, the new guidelines have the potential to dramatically lower the number of children who develop one of the most common and lethal food allergies, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the institute’s director, who called the new approach “game changing.”
Could the new guidelines mark the end of the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich bans so common in school lunchrooms? “If we can put this into practice over a period of several years, I would be surprised if we would not see a dramatic decrease in the incidence of peanut allergies,” Dr. Fauci said.
To mark World Cancer Day on 4 February, Munira Premji shares what she has learned from her relationship with food while battling the ravages of three cancers over the past five years.
Five years ago today, my world was shattered. Within a two-week period, I was diagnosed with two advanced blood cancers: stage 3 multiple myeloma and stage 4 non-hodgkin lymphoma. I had enjoyed good health until receiving my diagnoses, so it was a very difficult time for me and my family.
As my body went through chemotherapy and other aggressive treatments to combat the cancers, I experienced many side effects: from painful mouth sores to extreme fatigue; from constipation to diarrhoea; from not being able to eat food for days to eating a whole tub of ice cream in one sitting. My weight fluctuated — I lost and gained anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds, depending on where I was in my treatment cycle.
When I first started to lose weight, I was elated! I looked better, I shopped for clothes that were two sizes smaller and I smiled every time the numbers on the scale dropped. But soon I realised that this came at a price. Not eating meant I was becoming progressively weaker and more fatigued.
I was forced to re-define my relationship with food — to start seeing it as a source of energy that would help my body fight the illnesses I was going through.
I learned to love meal replacement beverages because they quickly gave me the nutrients I needed in a glass. I would drink my high-protein meal supplement in style, pouring it into a fancy tall blue glass filled with crushed ice for added crunch, taste and experience. I also learned to eat smaller meals throughout the day.
On days when all food tasted like sawdust — a side effect of the chemotherapy — I had to patiently seek something with flavour. Sometimes it was yoghurt and banana, for a period I had a love affair with oranges, and then the only food I could tolerate was hot and sour soup! The key was to continue to experiment with food that I could eat, because it was so easy to simply not make the effort.
In the past year, I have battled yet another adversary — Stage 3 breast cancer. In order to give my body the energy it needs to fight this new illness, I am slowly discovering through trial and error how to balance between eating food with high nutritional value and maintaining a healthy weight. My biggest food lesson when dealing with the ravages of cancer is to be kind to yourself and to eat nutritionally when you can.
My son, Shayne Aman, has been a huge influence in how we eat at home. We have replaced corn oil with olive oil and coconut oil. Snacks now comprise carrots and celery with hummus, apples, nuts, Greek yogurt and Shayne-approved protein bars.
Salsa is now a mainstay as a condiment. White bread has given way to rye and wholegrain breads. Grilling has replaced frying. Refined sugar is frowned upon, and processed foods are simply not encouraged.
It is incredible how a few changes over time have made a positive difference to how we feel. Shayne has also taught me about portion control — eating small meals throughout the day and taking the time to savour what we eat.
The challenge of eating well with cancer continues to be a work in progress, but it has whet my appetite for learning more about food and how it impacts my body.
Munira Premji resides with her family in Toronto, where she continues to live her life fully and fearlessly.
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Olivia Newton-John's daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, says plastic surgeries left her 'mutilated'
Over the years, Olivia Newton-John's daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, has gone under the knife multiple times and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars changing her look. She now says those surgeries left her "mutilated."
The model and former MTV reality star spoke to Women's Day and admitted to getting work done at an early age. She now says she's removed multiple fillers from her lips and face.
It's been reported that Chloe, 31, spent over $400,000 on plastic surgery over the years, including getting a nose job, breast augmentations, Botox and filler.
"All those things were a disaster," she said. "Not only did the lip implants look ridiculous, the first boob op I had in Australia when I was 18, left me looking mutilated."
World’s No1 Food for Heart Attack, Hypertension, Stroke and Cholesterol!!
Dates are one of the healthiest foods in the world. They have numerous healthy properties and can help us protect our self from different diseases and disorders. They reduce cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, improve our cardiovascular functions, and prevent strokes and heart attacks.
You Can Take Steps to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk
Fear of breast cancer is widespread, yet many women don’t realize that adopting protective living habits may help keep it at bay. The habits described below may also help to ward off other life-threatening ills, like heart disease and diabetes.
Certainly, women have ample reason to worry about breast cancer. The disease is very common. One woman in eight in the United States will develop it in the course of a lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed, and 40,610 women will die from the disease.
Regular screening is touted as the most effective way to reduce breast cancer deaths, although experts continue to debate who should be screened, how often and at what ages. But not nearly enough is said about what women can do on their own to lower their risk of getting breast cancer in the first place.
British disease experts are suggesting doing away with the 'incorrect' advice to always finish a course of antibiotics in the belief it would help stop the spread of drug resistance.
Rather than stopping antibiotics too early, the cause of resistance is "unnecessary" drug use, the team writes in The BMJ medical journal.
"We encourage policy makers, educators and doctors to stop advocating 'complete the course' when communicating with the public," wrote the team, led by infectious diseases expert Martin Llewelyn of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School.
The camera doesn’t often linger on all the severed heads in Game of Thrones. But if it did, might we see some sign of awareness—at least for a few seconds? A human head doesn’t lose consciousness until after about four seconds, post-decapitation. That’s resiliency of a kind. And the acid in your stomach? Strong enough to dissolve razorblades. It’s not a stretch to imagine that, if the torture-loving Northerner Ramsay Bolton knew this, he’d make use of it.
Opinion: How public-private partnerships can wash away poor sanitation
Universal health coverage is part of the world’s movement toward improved quality of life. The Sustainable Development Goals embody that vision for a healthier planet, with SDG 3 looking to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. There is also SDG 6, which looks to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. These are connected. Children born into poverty are nearly twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as children in wealthier families. Sanitation is key to a healthy environment, yet access to sanitation remains far from universal.
Unsafe management of fecal waste and wastewater is a major threat to public health for the nearly 2.4 billion people worldwide who lack a decent toilet. Achieving universal access to adequate health services including decent sanitation requires local action everywhere.
Such big vision improvements demand partnerships and the biggest advances demand partners from both the public and private sectors. Sometimes a small, local investment — such as a family’s investment to build a toilet — can leverage a government’s big vision, simply by bringing in a partner with on-the-ground credibility and flexibility.
You probably don't give much thought to your thyroid, but the small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck?normally measuring between 4 and 6 centimeters or 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide?has a huge impact on your entire body. The thyroid produces thyroid hormone (TH), which regulates your body's metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and other important processes?reaching out to nearly every, single cell in your body. More than 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and an excess of 60,000 Americans are affected by thyroid cancer annually.
If you're relatively young and otherwise healthy, you may not be too concerned with the "c" word. But I know from experience that thyroid cancer can blindside you: at age 33, I was diagnosed with the disease after my doctor discovered a lump in my neck at a routine annual physical. Here's what you should know.
Music activates the whole brain (Credit: Silvia Grav)
The part of my dad that dementia can't take
Even as her father’s dementia makes communication difficult, he adores singing. Our reporter learns he isn’t alone – and research has found music may be key to understanding the brain.
I’ve long known that music can be used therapeutically for people like my dad, but it has other surprising benefits. Music is one of the many research tools that scientists are using to understand more about the brain – including how and why it slowly stops functioning.
“People have called music a ‘super stimulus’. It really activates the whole brain. That’s why it’s so powerful; why it can have all these effects on people, not just with dementia but all of us,” says Amee Baird, a clinical neuropsychologist at Macquarie University in Sydney. “It’s like this island of preservation in the context of someone who has otherwise got quite severe cognitive impairment.”
Long after research contradicts common medical practices, patients continue to demand them and physicians continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatments.
For all the truly wondrous developments of modern medicine—imaging technologies that enable precision surgery, routine organ transplants, care that transforms premature infants into perfectly healthy kids, and remarkable chemotherapy treatments, to name a few—it is distressingly ordinary for patients to get treatments that research has shown are ineffective or even dangerous. Sometimes doctors simply haven’t kept up with the science. Other times doctors know the state of play perfectly well but continue to deliver these treatments because it’s profitable—or even because they’re popular and patients demand them. Some procedures are implemented based on studies that did not prove whether they really worked in the first place. Others were initially supported by evidence but then were contradicted by better evidence, and yet these procedures have remained the standards of care for years, or decades.
This Healing Breakthrough Has Scientists Scratching Their Heads
I’m a strong advocate of traditional medicine for just about every health issue we humans face.
But, as natural medicine pioneer Dr. Norm Shealy once told me, “You can’t treat a broken leg with a cup of herbal tea.” In other words, there are some things that modern medicine is particularly good at.
The healing arts of our ancestors are enthralling and infinite, but sometimes it’s only fair to give a nod to some of the remarkable new medical achievements that are changing lives as we speak.
To that end, I want to share a revolutionary scientific discovery with you. It involves the use of our own stem cells (we all create them naturally within us) to heal ailments that are occurring in specific parts of our body. The cells are extracted from our own tissues, so there are no moral or ethical conflicts.
This new stem cell leap is being studied in major institutions for its ability to heal Parkinson's disease, Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, strokes, burns, osteoarthritis, vision and hearing loss – to name a few.
Some are calling it the biggest breakthrough in medicine since Dr. Jonas Salk invented the vaccine eradicating polio, the most feared disease of the 20th century.
If you’re curious like I am, and want to get the skinny on what this means to you and your family, I highly recommend checking out a FREE docu-series on this new stem cell approach called The Healing Miracle that airs this Tuesday February 16th.
This bold new series will give you a front row seat into one of the most fascinating, controversial and misunderstood subjects in human health today.
When we first heard about this film project on stem cell therapy, I have to admit that I was moved by the compelling personal stories behind it, and I quickly realized I had a lot to learn. I also felt called to share.
If you know someone who is sick or in pain, chances are you’d do just about anything to help them get their life back – I know I would.
Scientists Discover a Bone-Deep Risk for Heart Disease
Few doctors, and even fewer patients, have heard of CHIP. But it is emerging as a major cause of heart attacks and stroke, as deadly as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
It’s been one of the vexing questions in medicine: Why is it that most people who have heart attacks or strokes have few or no conventional risk factors?
These are patients with normal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, no history of smoking or diabetes, and no family history of cardiovascular disease. Why aren’t they spared?
To some researchers, this hidden risk is the dark matter of cardiology: an invisible but omnipresent force that lands tens of thousands of patients in the hospital each year. But now scientists may have gotten a glimpse of part of it.
They have learned that a bizarre accumulation of mutated stem cells in bone marrow increases a person’s risk of dying within a decade, usually from a heart attack or stroke, by 40 or 50 percent. They named the condition with medical jargon: clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential.
CHIP has emerged as a risk for heart attack and stroke that is as powerful as high LDL or high blood pressure but it acts independently of them. And CHIP is not uncommon.
NO WONDER they are called “patients”. When people enter the health-care systems of rich countries today, they know what they will get: prodding doctors, endless tests, baffling jargon, rising costs and, above all, long waits. Some stoicism will always be needed, because health care is complex and diligence matters. But frustration is boiling over. This week three of the biggest names in American business—Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase—announced a new venture to provide better, cheaper health care for their employees. A fundamental problem with today’s system is that patients lack knowledge and control. Access to data can bestow both.
The internet already enables patients to seek online consultations when and where it suits them. You can take over-the-counter tests to analyse your blood, sequence your genome and check on the bacteria in your gut. Yet radical change demands a shift in emphasis, from providers to patients and from doctors to data. That shift is happening. Technologies such as the smartphone allow people to monitor their own health. The possibilities multiply when you add the crucial missing ingredients—access to your own medical records and the ability easily to share information with those you trust. That allows you to reduce inefficiencies in your own treatment and also to provide data to help train medical algorithms. You can enhance your own care and everyone else’s, too.
Cancer Risk From Cellphone Radiation Is Small, Studies Show
Do cellphones cause cancer?
Despite years of research, there is still no clear answer. But two government studies released on Friday, one in rats and one in mice, suggest that if there is any risk, it is small, health officials said.
Safety questions about cellphones have drawn intense interest and debate for years as the devices have become integral to most people’s lives. Even a minute risk could harm millions of people.
These two studies on the effects of the type of radiation the phones emit, conducted over 10 years and costing $25 million, are considered the most extensive to date.
In male rats, the studies linked tumors in the heart to high exposure to radiation from the phones. But that problem did not occur in female rats, or any mice.
The rodents in the studies were exposed to radiation nine hours a day for two years, more than people experience even with a lot of cellphone use, so the results cannot be applied directly to humans, said John Bucher, a senior scientist at the National Toxicology Program, during a telephone news briefing.
So many new potential causes of cancer pop up every month that it’s hard to know what to believe and what to brush off. Just this week, a study in the journal Nature found asparagine — a chemical compound in asparagus — might even be linked to breast cancer. (Don’t worry, though — more tests still need to be done before you give up the veggie for good!)Because cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and it's being predicted 22 million new cases will come about within the next 20 years, it’s more important than ever to be aware of things you’re doing every day that can increase your risk, starting with these 20 common habits. To learn more about cancer, know that This Is How Likely You Are to Get Cancer in Your Lifetime.
Hospitals are disappearing. While they may never completely go away, they will continue to shrink in number and importance. That is inevitable and good.
The reputation of hospitals has had its ups and downs. Benjamin Rush, a surgeon general of the Continental Army, called the hospitals of his day the “sinks of human life.” Through the 19th century, most Americans were treated in their homes. Hospitals were a last resort, places only the very poor or those with no family went. And they went mainly to die.
Then several innovations made hospitals more attractive. Anesthesia and sterile techniques made surgery less risky and traumatic, while the discovery of X-rays in 1895 enhanced the diagnostic powers of physicians. And the understanding of germ theory reduced the spread of infectious diseases.
Middle- and upper-class Americans increasingly turned to hospitals for treatment. Americans also strongly supported the expansion of hospitals through philanthropy and legislation.
Today, hospitals house M.R.I.s, surgical robots and other technological wonders, and at $1.1 trillion they account for about a third of all medical spending. That’s nearly the size of the Spanish economy.
And yet this enormous sector of the economy has actually been in decline for some time.
Consider this: What year saw the maximum number of hospitalizations in the United States? The answer is 1981.
I had known Dr. Lown as a doctor and a patient; now I got to know him as an activist. We agreed that the health care system needed to change. To do that, Dr. Lown said, “doctors of conscience” have to “resist the industrialization of their profession.”
This begins with our own training. Certainly doctors must understand disease, but medical education is overly skewed toward the biomedical sciences and minutiae about esoteric and rare disease processes. Doctors also need time to engage with the humanities, because they are the gateway to the human experience.
To restore balance between the art and the science of medicine, we should curtail initial coursework in topics like genetics, developmental biology and biochemistry, making room for training in communication, interpersonal dynamics and leadership.
Such skills would not only help doctors care for our fellow human beings but would also strengthen our ability to advocate for health care as a human right and begin to rectify the broken economics and perverse incentives of the system.
Finally, hospitals should be a last resort, not the hallmark of the health care system. The bulk of health care resources should go instead into homes and communities. After all, a large majority of health problems are shaped by nonmedical factors like pollution and limited access to healthy food. Doctors must partner with public health and community development efforts to create a culture of health and well-being in patients’ daily lives.
As I navigate my professional journey, Dr. Lown’s example inspires me to go to work every day with the perspective of a patient, the spirit of an activist and the heart of a healer.
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