About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

RSS feed of this blog

Recommended readings

Christopher Hitchens

Beginning with today’s post, I’d like to occasionally pass along links to health articles that I’ve come across that might interest you.

I’ll start with Christopher Hitchens’ piece here in the September issue of Vanity Fair. It is the best piece I’ve ever read on what it’s like to be diagnosed with cancer. A sampling:

“The oncology bargain is that, in return for at least the chance of a few more useful years, you agree to submit to chemotherapy and then, if you are lucky with that, to radiation or even surgery. So here’s the wager: you stick around for a bit, but in return we are going to need some things from you. These things may include your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest, and the hair on your head. This certainly appears to be a reasonable trade.”

I also enjoyed John Henning Shumann’s article here in Slate on why doctors are so bad at predicting how long their patients will live. A sampling:

“Doctors usually overestimate survival time by at least twice as much. There are many theories to explain this, chief among them that doctors tend to be overly optimistic with patients they’ve known and treated for a long time.”

Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein had an interesting piece this week in The New York Times here on Dr. Harvey Cushing, one of the founders of neurosurgery. A selection:  

“These patients had operations during the early days of brain surgery, when doctors had no imaging tools to locate a tumor or proper lighting to illuminate the surgical field; when anesthesia was rudimentary and sometimes not used at all; when antibiotics did not exist to fend off potential infections. Some patients survived the procedure — more often if Dr. Cushing was by their side.”

I also enjoyed Dr. Patrick Neustatter’s recent column here in the Health Living section of this paper. Neustatter retired recently at Pratt Medical Center and is now medical director at the Moss Free Clinic. He writes about Mr. A and Mrs. B, two patients he saw there. (Neustatter also quotes from one of my articles, so that may have affected my thinking.)

“Both are part of the nation’s uninsured–a problem that has not gone away with health care reform. And both are illustrative of the absurd business of health insurance being tied to employment–if you get some debilitating illness or injury, when you need health care the most, then, whoops! All of a sudden you don’t have it.”