About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
More articles that might interest you
Here’s another list of health articles that you might interest you. Today’s recommendations focus on end-of-life issues, though the final article is about a Stanford University doctor who wants to bring back the physical exam.
The first is by Dr. Frederick Tucker, a Fredericksburg oncologist. It appeared Sunday in our Healthy Living section and can be seen here. Tucker writes about what patients go through when diagnosed with cancer and the support they need. Tucker opens with an anecdote about a former patient who died suddenly of a heart attack:
“Several days later, his wife stopped by the clinic to thank us for caring for him. As we talked, she put her hand on my arm and earnestly said, “At least he didn’t die of cancer.” I assumed she meant that he had not died a prolonged death, in pain. But there seemed to be more to it than that, as if he had somehow cheated the hangman. Since then, I have often wondered what the diagnosis of cancer had meant to her and to her husband.”
Atul Gawande’s latest piece in the New Yorker, here, is called “Letting Go.” He writes about how we die, and the article is one of his best.
A sample: “The soaring cost of health care is the greatest threat to the country’s long-term solvency, and the terminally ill account for a lot of it. Twenty-five per cent of all Medicare spending is for the five per cent of patients who are in their final year of life, and most of that money goes for care in their last couple of months which is of little apparent benefit.”
The third piece is an old one, from 1982, but it was new to me. It is by Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary biologist. When Gould learned that he had peritoneal mesothelioma, a form of cancer, he was told that the median survival time was eight months. But he did some reading and discovered more. Gould made a full recovery, and his essay, “The Median Isn’t the Message,” here, is a triumph of informed hope. A sample:
“When I learned about the eight-month median, my first intellectual reaction was: fine, half the people will live longer; now what are my chances of being in that half. I read for a furious and nervous hour and concluded, with relief: damned good. I possessed every one of the characteristics conferring a probability of longer life: I was young; my disease had been recognized in a relatively early stage; I would receive the nation’s best medical treatment; I had the world to live for; I knew how to read the data properly and not despair.”
The final recommendation, here, is a New York Times story that appeared two weeks ago. It is about Dr. Abraham Verghese, a Stanford University physician, and an advocate for the physical exam.
Denise Grady writes: “At Stanford, he is on a mission to bring back something he considers a lost art: the physical exam. The old-fashioned touching, looking and listening — the once prized, almost magical skills of the doctor who missed nothing and could swiftly diagnose a peculiar walk, sluggish thyroid or leaky heart valve using just keen eyes, practiced hands and a stethoscope.”