Archive for: April, 2009

For your consideration

Apr 30 2009 Published by under humor

Sent by a friend, posted without further comment (original pic here).


4 responses so far

Don't miss your PalCast

Apr 30 2009 Published by under PalCast

I'd like to remind everyone that the PalCast, after a brief hiatus, is up and running again. Given the chaos of life and work (and the fact that work is likely to get even busier very, very soon) the schedule may be a tiny bit erratic, but tune might like it.
The PalCast (coined by Isis the Scientist) is my weekly (more or less) podcast about medicine, real life, and anything else I feel like. The link above allows you to add it to listen in any way you prefer, including iTunes. I'm promoting it because I like it...I don't have sponsors or anything (although if Peet's Coffee wants to help out a long-time fan, I'm willing to give them a shout out for some Major Dickason's).

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Why science rocks (and splashes)

Apr 30 2009 Published by under Medicine

Physicist Matt Springer might not know much about borborygmi, shifting dullness, or a succussion splash, but the man knows his science.
You've got to read his piece on poop. You won't regret it.

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Apr 30 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine

The time is now. The gauntlet of idiocy rests at our feet. Shall we turn and walk away, or shall we bend down, pick it up, and accept the challenge? What? What's that you say? Turn from the forces of darkness?
We must not turn from the task before us. The Huffington Post has spit in the eye of reason, and worse, has aided in the proliferation of horridly deceptive health news, thinly-disguised infomercials, and frankly dangerous lies.
We have nothing left but our honor, and our honor demands vendetta.
Now, before you start sharpening your knives, I'm actually asking something rather more serious of you.
I'd like you to consider writing to HuffPo with specific examples of their malfeasance, and asking them to consider altering their editorial policy on health issues, for the sake of morality, health, and humanity. In your own words.
Yeah, it's not as fun as a knife fight, but you'll get used to it, and you'll save yourself from waiting in an ER with all those coughing people in masks.

25 responses so far

I get mail!

Apr 29 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine

Pursuant to my policies, I am reprinting an email, with identifying details redacted. I thought it would make for a nice conversation.
A few comments first. The tone and intent of the letter is, I would say, very nice. The content, however suffers from all kinds of being wrong, and contains great examples of common logical fallacies (don't forget to point them out!). Still, thank you very much for writing.

I don't expect any kind of acknowledgement, actually I frankly expect you'll just hit the delete key with the thought, "another uneducated ".

Now that that's out of the way... (You're still here? Wow.)

As a "layman", I have no "medical" credentials --MD, ND, or otherwise-- and no particular axe to grind either way.

What I do have is logic, a solid grounding in the scientific method, an engineering degree, a knowledge of history of medicine, and a good bit of life experience.

Your original question was plausibly civil, but the ensuing "discussion" --if one may be so charitable as to call it that-- unsurprisingly was hardly inviting to those whom you asked for replies. Why on earth do you think that these people would bother wasting time posting in a clearly hostile room, merely to satisfy your ego?

As I said, I have no axe to grind. If anything, my evolution of thought started from the position of being strongly pro-MD. (My uncle was the founding physician of [insert famous institution here], the largest private hospital in [insert civilized country here]-- and before you dare think "backwater", I'll inform you that he was also the in-country physician for visiting President [insert former US president here]. If you think that the Secret Service would allow that man or his hospital near the President of the USA without having his sh* in one sock, you are a fool.)

With that out of the way, I will also tell you that there are a bunch of MD's who are very open to "natural" treatments. They are quiet about it because they don't care to be mocked (or worse) by the medical profession.

Before you castigate persons choose to seek assistance from outside the "official" medical profession, perhaps you should reconsider the history of your own profession. Were you aware that the physician who PIONEERED WASHING HANDS, was run out of the medical profession as a "quack" because what he was teaching ran counter to the "accepted medical practice" of the age? If you think I'm making it up, please don't take my word for it -- do a bit of history reading.

What makes you think that today's medical practices and regimented thinking is any better than that time?

Those of us who are on the sidelines don't hate medicine. I for one certainly do not.

I haven't chosen sides. I simply have come to understand that the "medical profession" does not have an exclusive lock on knowledge.

What I and many others have come to loathe about "medical professionals", though, is the rampant arrogance and dismissiveness of other perspectives.

There's a big difference between intelligence and wisdom.

Learn some humility, boy.

Then you may gain some wisdom about life.

And your patients will be much better served.

Before you discuss, I'd like to remind folks that it is not myself or my perceived arrogance for which I advocate. It is for truth, and, as my friend likes to say, "A statement of fact cannot be insolent".

22 responses so far

I moved the over-the-top profanity below the fold

Apr 29 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine

Here at ScienceBlogs we have a (very) informal agreement to try to avoid profanity-laden titles. Personally, they don't bother me at all, but I can see the point---there are lots of folks who probably don't want their feed reader to pop up with what I'm about to say.

Continue Reading »

40 responses so far

Michelle Bachmann, I demand you answer this question!

Apr 28 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Absurd religious wingnutery

Minnesota's dimwitted gift to humanity, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R--but did you have to ask?) had this to say regarding swine flu (H/T Steph Z):

I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence.

Leaving aside that it was Gerald Ford who presided over the last pandemic, if you are a real American, you will answer this question:
What is so fucking interesting about it?

23 responses so far

Swine flu, altmed inanity, HuffPo, and other randomness

Apr 28 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine

We have a lot to cover today, but first things first: the Big Question. If you'll cast your memory way back (thanks, Van) you'll remember that a good question to ask altmed followers is the one of abandonment: what would it take for them to abandon a modality? Well, the answers are in, and the one's who answered just didn't get it. For example:

[T]he question was: "Can you please give specific examples of alternative medicine theories and modalities that have been abandoned because they have been found to be ineffective?"
The short and honest answer to this is no-- I cant. But my reason is that the only area I focus in is natural herbal remedies... I dont concern myself with homeopathy, or acupuncture, etc. I have a science background and use it to research the pharmacology of these products and I handpick a few that can be of some value...

Continue Reading »

34 responses so far

Swine flu update---there's a lot we don't know

Apr 27 2009 Published by under Medicine

I tuned into a CDC conference call this afternoon. It was interesting. As is often the case with emerging diseases, what we don't know vastly outweighs what we do. For the best public health information in the blogosphere, and the best flu updates, go to Effect Measure.
The CDC emphasized that it's quite early and things are changing by the hour. So far 40 cases have been identified in the U.S., all of them mild, with one requiring hospitalization because of underlying medical problems. It is assumed that many more cases will be identified, and it would be unusual if at least some were not severe illnesses.
Flu typically is a mild illness characterized by fever, runny nose and cough, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea. Muscle aches are very common. This "influenza-like illness" (ILI) is common in the U.S. during the winter months, and seasonal flu is still out there but is rapidly waning. Any increase in ILIs may indicate the new strain, which is an influenza A H1N1 and is being commonly referred to as "swine flu".
We don't test every ILI for influenza, but the new public health emergency declared by HHS will release funds for expanded testing and treatment. When a hospital does feel like testing someone, a rapid test is usually used that detects the presence of flu A or flu B. It does not subtype the virus. Surveillance centers exist across the country to monitor flu activity. At these centers the rapid test is used more frequently in ILIs. Many of the current U.S. cases were detected by these surveillance centers which tells me that we will probably see a lot more of this new flu bug pretty soon.
The good news is the cases so far have been mild, and the virus is susceptible to two common flu meds, Tamiflu and Ralenza.
How well it responds to these isn't known. In some pandemics, flu has been widespread but not necessarily severe. In the Spanish flu of 1918, it's not clear whether anti-flu drugs would have made a difference, but better surveillance, better medical care, and better public health conditions (as we have today) surely would have. Oh, and don't be surprised if you see people at clinics and hospitals in masks. This is something commonly done during flu season, and it will be done now for people with suspected cases or ILI.
So hang on. This may not get "bad", but it will certainly get more interesting.

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Live tweet CDC clinician swineflu conference call

Apr 27 2009 Published by under Medicine

It's going live shortly, the wifi gods willing.
Conference here.
Tweet at

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