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Friday, March 27, 2009

What's in the news: Mar. 27 -- George Clooney's corrupting influence

"Clooney taught us"
Dr Peter Brindley's critical care medical students at the University of Alberta were consistently doing intubations wrong. It turns out it's the television drama ER's fault, reported Dr Brindley in the journal Resuscitation earlier this month. He watched the fictional MDs doing intubations and, indeed, they did them incorrectly in many instances. [National Post] But one reader took issue with med students blaming their mistakes on TV: "Holding ER liable for medical students practising incorrect medical procedures is akin to blaming gun violence on video game developers." [National Post]

Manitoba floods spark water worries
With major flooding set to hit Manitoba, the province's chief medical health officer, Dr Joel Kettner, warned residents that the flooding may contaminate water from wells, and recommended boiling well water before consuming it. [Canadian Press]

Death by "excited delirium"
Trevor Grimolfson, who died after he was shot with a Taser during an altercation with police in October in Edmonton, died of "excited delirium" and not because he was shot by the Taser, an Alberta medical examiner concluded. [Edmonton Journal] "Excited delirium" is not a medically recognized condition or diagnosis. It's a controversial term often used by police departments to "whitewash" the deaths of people in custody, the American Civil Liberties Union has said. [National Review of Medicine]

Meanwhile, Quebec has asked police officers to return some of their Taser guns to laboratories for testing after a CBC investigation found that some guns fired higher voltages than they were supposed to. [CBC News]

Rolling the dice
The Calgary Herald speculated that the recession could lead to a rise in the social and health costs of gambling. [Calgary Herald] In related news, a University of Calgary psychology PhD candidate has begun recruiting subjects for a study on the stigma of gambling addiction. [University of Calgary UTODAY]

Where's the weed?
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said this week that her department will study potential restrictions on where licensed users of medical marijuana are allowed to smoke. [Canwest News Service]

A coughing fit
A consumer-rights group in Quebec filed an $8-million class-action false advertising lawsuit against the producers of children's cough and cold medicines. The group, Option consommateurs, alleges that eight major drug companies intentionally misled consumers into believing that the drugs would be effective. [Montreal Gazette]

Canadians on drugs
A new report on Canadians' prescription drug consumption habits showed that total sales rose nearly 6% in 2008 to $21.4 billion, and that generic drugs now account for more than 50% of that figure. [Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association news release] The number of prescriptions filled in 2008 amounts to an average of 14 per Canadian. [Globe and Mail]

"Is there a doctor on board?"
The number of medical emergencies on airplanes is on the rise. A representative of a company that handles emergency calls from airplanes said that the two most common injuries are those caused by the beverage and food carts pushed down the aisles and those caused by bags falling out of the overhead compartments. [Toronto Star] In 2007 I wrote about Canadian doctors' complaints that airlines weren't giving them the resources they needed to help patients in the air. [National Review of Medicine]

Too sweet or not sweet enough?
McMaster University researchers were among those who published a study in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine that showed that -- contrary to what had been assumed -- attempting to bring down the blood sugar levels of patients in intensive care can be more harmful than leaving them at elevated levels. [NEJM abstract] [NEJM editorial abstract] [McMaster Daily News]

K.I.S.S. with hypertension
Simplifying recommendations for family doctors on how to treat patients' hypertension results in better patient outcomes, report University of Western Ontario researchers in the April issue of Hypertension. [Hypertension abstract]

"The nature of hypertension management has changed," said Dr Ross Feldman, who led the study. "It’s much more aggressive, and complex, leading to hundreds of recommendations on how to manage high blood pressure... This should be a call to hypertensive patients to go to their family physicians to be prescribed these single pill combinations. It makes both the patients' and doctors' lives easier." [Western News]

More news from across Canada and beyond
Manitoba MP Stephen Fletcher was denied the chance to appeal to the Supreme Court a lower court's decision that the Manitoba public health insurance system was not required to pay him more than its $3,000/month stipend for medical assistance. Mr Fletcher was paralyzed from the neck down when his car hit a moose in 1996. [Globe and Mail]

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is publishing a blog about the rapidly approaching provincial election in British Columbia. [The Lead-Up] You can read all the healthcare-related articles by clicking here.

The Canadian Medical Association has started a series of podcasts on the theme of physician wellness. The first episode, called "The many layers of the healthy
doc," "explores the fine balance between self-awareness, collegiality within the profession and being a healthy physician." [CMA news release]

What's it like to be the White House physician? [American Medical News]

Republicans are healthier than Democrats, according to a new study. [International Journal of Epidemiology abstract] Why? "The authors hypothesize that the better health reported by Republicans may reflect the Republican value of individual responsibility, which may lead to health-promoting behaviors. They also note that Republicans may exhibit greater religiosity than Democrats, which could lead to greater health-promoting conditions, such as stronger social ties and networks." Maybe. [Harvard School of Public Health news release]

The US Association of Health Care Journalists announced their 2008 award winners. [AHCJ]

More on the Canadian-healthcare-killed-Natasha-Richardson story, this time from a physician writing in the New York Post under the all-capitals headline "CANADACARE MAY HAVE KILLED NATASHA." [New York Post]

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's in the news: Mar. 25 -- Saskatchewan's infant-HIV problem

Saskatchewan's "AIDS crisis"
Nearly one in four HIV-positive infants born in Canada from 2005 to 2007 were born in Saskatchewan, setting off concerns among Saskatchewan public health and obstetrics experts. [CBC News]

Reacting to the news, the Regina Leader-Post wrote, "Saskatchewan has an AIDS crisis." [Regina Leader-Post]

Dr Moira McKinnon, the province's chief medical officer, is studying the reasons for the disproportionate number of HIV-positive births. She suggested that drug users and sex workers need more attention paid to their health. [CBC News]

How do you solve a problem like obesity?
Obesity, declared Dr Arya Sharma, is not a lifestyle choice. Calling for an expansion of the investment of funding and effort into obesity, Dr Sharma, who's a professor and practitioner in Edmonton and the scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network, wrote in a Globe and Mail commentary that "too many health professionals also do not understand obesity; they offer advice that is useless, expect the impossible from their patients, fail to acknowledge root causes, or ignore the barriers to treatment." [Globe and Mail]

Quebec's third party regroups
The ADQ party, which lost its official opposition status and its longtime leader, Mario Dumont, in last year's election, is in the process of selecting a new leader. The first person to announce his candidacy is the party's experienced MNA and health critic, Eric Caire, who has for years assailed the Liberal government's health ministers Philippe Couillard and Yves Bolduc on their reluctance to expand privatization options in the healthcare sector. [Montreal Gazette] [Montreal Gazette]

Come clean
Montreal family physician Marie-Dominique Beaulieu warned that family secrets are detrimental to one's health. Also: did you know the woman Jack Nicholson believed to be his mother turned out to be his sister, and he learned about it from a newspaper article? Bizarre. [Université de Montréal news (French only)] [UdeM news release]

Backseat doctoring
The Natasha-Richardson's-death blame game continues online, at M.D.O.D. (at fault: socialized healthcare... or -- oops -- maybe not), Pure Pedantry (at fault: Richardson, for declining immediate medical attention... but really at fault: poor patient education about head trauma), and NHS Blog Doctor (at fault: the "wussification" of doctors, by which he means defensive medicine and an over-reliance on technology).

Grand Rounds
The weekly collection of health bloggers' best articles was published at a nursing blog this week. [Code Blog]

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