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Archive for the 'General News' Category

Tributes to the Bettys – Mom and Betty Ford

This is a bit of a diversion from my usual patient empowerment topics, but I hope you’ll find it of interest. Definitely seems worth sharing.

It’s an Ode to the Bettys – two women I have long admired.  They never met each other, but they shared a name, and yes – they are (kinda sorta) doppelgangers, too.

On the left is Betty Torrey – my mother – who was, of course, an inspiration throughout my life. I’ve shared Mom and her Alzheimer’s Disease with you before.  Mom never really understood my change in careers to supporting patients because by the time I made the change, her disease was too advanced for her to be able to understand.  But she would have loved it. And she would have been right there with us. I know she was supportive in spirit.

On the right, of course, is Betty Ford.  Betty Ford was an inspiration for her willingness to speak out, to talk about reality, to confront issues that had been, to that point, unspeakable.  She spoke about breast cancer when no one had dared use the word ‘breast’ before in the media.  When her family realized she had become addicted to pain killers, they intervened.  When she learned to control her addiction, she took an even bigger step and built a center to help others learn to control their addictions, too.

Betty Torrey was an inspiration to me and others around her.  Betty Ford was an inspiration to (perhaps) millions.

May both of them rest in peace knowing the positive impacts they had on their worlds.


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H1N1 Swine Flu Rears It’s Ugly Head – Time for Help and Truth

There’s so little I can say about swine flu that hasn’t already been said.  And to that point, I’ve already said plenty!

In fact, I’ve said it all on my About.com Guide to Patient Empowerment, so I figure it’s best just to give you a master list of all the articles I’ve written, by topic:

H1N1 Swine Flu 2009 – 2010 Frequently Asked Questions

H1N1 Swine Flu – Plan and Prepare to Get the Swine Flu

Should You Fear Pandemic Swine Flu?

When Is Time to Call the Doctor for a Swine Flu Drug?

Should I Call In Sick or Go to Work

Swine Flu Vaccine FAQs – FAQs About Novel H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine and Vaccinations

Side Effects and Other Problems Caused by Flu Vaccines

Swine Flu Myths – Facts, Fiction and Fraud about Swine Flu

Is It Time to Throw a Swine Flu Party?

Bogus, Counterfeit or Unapproved H1N1 Swine Flu Products

H1N1 Swine Flu – Review of Pandemic H1N1 Swine Flu Rumors and Theories

Confirm or Debunk H1N1 Pandemic Swine Flu Conspiracy Theories

Swine Flu H1N1 – Swine Flu H1N1 Websites and Resources

And blog posts that link to additional resources:

Can You Buy Swine Flu Vaccine on the Internet?

Why Not Just Assume You WILL Get the H1N1 Swine Flu?

H1N1 Swine Flu – A Heads Up on More Fraud

Just Assume It’s the Swine Flu

How Healthcare Reform Could Prevent the Spread of Swine (or any) Flu

H1N1 Swine Flu Update – Vaccines, Clinical Trials and Elmo, Too

Swine Flu — and the Crooks Lie in Waiting

Green Monkeys and the Swine Flu – Is the World Doomed?

Have I missed sometime you’d like to read about?  Let me know!  blog(at)EPAdvocate.com.

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Healthcare Journalism and Truth

(The following is reprinted with permission from John James, PhD, a patient safety advocate who came to his work after the loss of his son, Alex, to medical errors.  Dr. James publishes a monthly patient safety newsletter, and has written a book focused on what he learned about the dysfunction of America’s for-profit healthcare system. His book is called A Sea of Broken Hearts.  Dr. James has also been one of my guest bloggers.

I share it with you today, because it provides two lessons for us.  First, that whenever we access medical information, we must be sure we are assessing it objectively, and getting objective information from it.  And second, because it reminds us that medicine is so very personal, that almost no medical information can be completely objective.  Even those strictly scientific medical research results we find?… they were biased to some extent when they were designed.

Among those of us who bring you patient empowerment and patient safety information, we do try to be as objective as we can.  But…… well….. read what Dr. James has to say…. )


Healthcare Journalism and Truth

A perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine gave me a dose of my own medicine to ponder. Susan Dentzer, a medical journalist, poses important questions about the role journalists should assume in communicating information to the public.6 To what extent should the big picture be conveyed? How far can one go in sensationalizing a reported medical discovery? Is the story I am writing something my readers might use to determine their own care, and if so do I have a responsibility to be more careful? How far should I go in mentioning caveats to the reported results? Have I over simplified the results to keep my story short?

I have chosen to become a medical journalist in a most unconventional way. I am neither a journalist in the usual sense, nor am I a medical caregiver. I am only a medical scientist trying to communicate to my readers the important patient safety findings that appear in selected medical journals. I am not making a living as a medical journalist. I do this because my heart has been broken by uninformed and unethical medical care, and I do not want this to happen to others.

My stories are intended to be useful to readers in their own medical care and to be useful in informing ordinary folks of risks associated with healthcare. I must ask myself, am I writing in a balanced, objective and clear way? I honestly struggle with these issues at times. Medicine is incredibly complex and placing new information in perspective is not easy. If I seem at times to give medical advice, this is not my intention. I seek to convey scientific facts to you that will help you ask the right questions of your doctor. I’m not a physician, and I don’t pretend to be one.

Am I biased in my reporting to you? As much as I want to be objective, those of you who have read my book know that I think we have an unethical, dangerous and profit-driven healthcare industry. I will do all I can to expose examples of these problems and show how we might one day have an ethical, cost-effective, inclusive, and trustworthy healthcare system. I am biased that way.

As careful as I try to be, I will make errors of perspective and balance in my stories. For all the criticism I level at the American healthcare industry, I too shall err.

~ @ 2009  John James, PhD

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Wall Street Robber Barons — Killing Americans?

The incredible anger of all Americans at those greedy S.O.B.s who have been running the banks and investment houses that are already robbing Americans of their hard earned money, will ramp up further at this revelation:

As you may know, the number of uninsured Americans is typically quoted at 47 million. We learned that last year those numbers were reduced to 45.7 million– not because more Americans can now afford insurance; rather, because their income had declined to levels that made them eligible for state healthcare assistance programs.

But in thinking that through, I realized there is a ripple effect, too. With the tanking of the economy comes layoffs, and with layoffs come even more people whose income will decline and, of course, that means they may not be able to access healthcare. Not all will become eligible for care through the government. In many cases, they will simply be left off the healthcare roles — no more coverage for them will mean no healthcare at all. Not for them. Not for their children either.

Which then led to another thought. The Commonwealth Fund reported in January that 101,000 people died last year from problems that would have been prevented if the person who died had health insurance. Do the math. 101,000 deaths. 45.7 million uninsured. That’s 22 uninsured people who died for each million who didn’t have insurance.

Now let’s look at what’s beginning to take place as a result of those greedy Wall Street CEOs who have caused our economy to decline, and who will be responsible for millions more job losses. For each million people who lose their health insurance because they’ve lost their jobs, 22 will die.

In my not-so-humble opinion — that’s blood on the hands of those Wall Street criminals and robber barons who have reaped millions of dollars for themselves, while denying the rest of the world its stability. This isn’t about people jumping off buildings and bridges because they’ve lost their savings. This is about people — responsible and hardworking Americans — who will no longer be able to pay for the care they need, have earned, and deserve.

Maybe those very guilty CEOs can’t be arrested for bad business dealings. But certainly they should pay for the deaths they will cause?  And what about the families left with no one to support them because their loved one has died?

These dominoes are huge and destructive.

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What Tim Russert Has Taught Us About Healthcare and a Healthy Life

Tim RussertLike so many of you, my heart breaks at the loss of Tim Russert. On so many levels, we felt a kinship to him. Anyone who has tried to understand American politics or politicians during the past 20 years has gotten to know Tim Russert, as if he were the trusted friend and neighbor who could help us “get” it.

Our world is now less because we don’t have Tim. And It occurs to me that there are some final lessons we can learn about healthcare from him. Just as he helped us understand politics, he can help us better understand healthcare and a healthy life — as follows:

It turns out that Tim was quite watchful over his heart disease. He had been diagnosed, and was under a doctor’s care. He took his meds, he watched his diet, he exercised, and he got his regular check ups. He was a vigilant patient. Our lesson: being a vigilant patient, doing our best to prevent problems, following all the rules for good health, doesn’t mean life won’t still be too short.

We’ve learned that no matter how many studies exist, no matter what tests can be run, no matter what drugs are available, no matter how well we manage our diets and exercise, there are aspects of a body’s function that just can’t be controlled. Our lesson: Medical science still has a very long way to go.

We’ve learned that good quality medical care doesn’t always translate to a longer healthier life. Yes, I think that over a population of people, better care equals a longer life — BUT — Tim had the best care available in this country, and he died way too young, in his prime. Perhaps without that good care, he would have died even younger? We’ll never know… Our lesson: having good medical care is a plus, but it’s only one tool in determining longevity.

We’ve learned that even the best medical care can’t make up for 1) bad genes or 2) bad choices or 3) extreme stress — any or all. What we don’t know is whether Tim was a smoker when he was younger, or whether he survived on hamburgers and greasy pizza before he turned 55. We don’t know if there was heart disease in his family. We can assume his life was quite stressful. Our lesson: we can’t expect medical miracles to overcome bad genes, heavy stress or bad choices.

Tim taught us that we just never know when our final moment will be — and we need to be prepared. His family was the most important part of his life. He left this world making sure they knew exactly how much he loved them — his dad, his wife and his son. Our lesson: At any moment in life, be sure those you love know just how much you love them. It’s important for your own health, and their health and well-being, too.

Tim had very strong spiritual beliefs, and surrounded himself with spiritual people. In the difficult times, believing in a higher being can be very comforting. His family will find some comfort in the coming years based on that faith, too. Our lesson: Life can be enhanced, health can be supported, and comfort can be found through spiritual beliefs.

Finally, we’ve learned from Tim that one’s legacy is about character and a zestful approach to life. We have to believe that in that instant the heart attack struck, when his life passed before him, he knew it was all good, and he would not have changed one moment of who he was, who he loved, what he had accomplished, and the experiences he had enjoyed. Our lesson: live life to its fullest, with spirit, grace, and zest.

My prayers are with his family — His dad Big Russ, his wife Maureen, his son Luke, and his co-workers at NBC. We were all lucky to have him while we did. And we can all thank him for these final lessons about living a quality — and healthy — life.

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