Archive for the ‘Medicine’ Category

An anti-abortion rights organization is withdrawing an award it planned to present Rep. Bart Stupak, after the Michigan Democrat announced Sunday he would support health care reform legislation.

The Susan B. Anthony List had chosen Stupak to receive the “Defender of Life” award at the “Campaign for Life Gala” Wednesday here in the nation’s capital.

Because we all know Susan B. Anthony was pro-life.

From Yglesias. Emphasis mine.

We should also, however, spare a thought for the unsung hero of comprehensive reform, McConnell and his GOP colleagues, who pushed their “no compromise” strategy to the breaking point and beyond. The theory was that non-cooperation would stress the Democratic coalition and cause the public to begin to question the enterprise. And it largely worked. But at crucial times when wavering Democrats were eager for a lifeline, the Republicans absolutely refused to throw one. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other key players at various points wanted to scale aspirations down to a few regulatory tweaks and some expansion of health care for children. This idea had a lot of appeal to many in the party. But it always suffered from a fatal flaw—the Republicans’ attitude made it seem that a smaller bill was no more feasible than a big bill. Consequently, even though Scott Brown’s victory blew the Democrats off track, the basic logic of the situation pushed them back on course to universal health care.

Today, conservative anger at the Democrats is running higher than ever, and for the first time in years the GOP leadership’s blanket opposition has won them the esteem of their fanatics. But in more sober moments in the weeks and months to come, my guess is that the brighter minds on the right will recognize that their determination to turn health reform into Obama’s Waterloo sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Universal health care has been attempted many times in the past and always failed. The prospects for success were never all that bright. Many of us, myself included, at one point or another wanted to try something more moderate. But the right wing, by invariably indicating that it would settle for nothing less than total victory, inspired progressive forces to march on and win their greatest legislative victory in decades.

Paul Krugman

Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.)

And a word of my own on “death panels.” Now that healthcare reform has passed (barring something catastrophic in the Senate), I predict the same people who whipped their followers into a froth over the government using death panels to put granny down, I predict that these same people will start to talk about the burden of keeping the poor and illegal immigrants alive. They are costing us money in insurance. Why should they get a life-saving transplant, they will say. I’ve done everything right all my life so why should I be punished.

Predators. I predict they’ll say child predators can get health insurance and it will cost insurance money to keep them alive. Those costs will be  passed on to us. In short, that they very people who fear mongered are now going to be the ones who want to go back to the old system where they can choose who is worthy of life-saving treatment.

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Two short observations

Pat Robertson on NPR speaking about Oral Roberts’ 1987 plea to his supporters that they donate money to his church or God would kill him:

It was unseemly. We all have a mole or a wart somewhere in our lives.

What do you mean it was unseemly? He said God told him that he was going to kill him if he didn’t raise the money. Are you insinuating that Oral Roberts was lying? Is it so common for televangelists to lie that you can use that word unseemly instead?

Second observation of the day.

A new provision being rolled into the unified House health care bill would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 27, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday.

I think it says a lot about the state of this country’s health insurance problems that reform involves infantilizing adults in order to get them covered. And how classist is this anyway? This is a big benefit for upper middle class families who sent their kids off to college when their kids have not yet found work that includes benefits. Baristas anyone? What about poor 27 year olds? Chances are their parents don’t have insurance either. What a bunch of crap. Full disclosure: I was on my parents’ insurance until I was 23 years old.

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I’m still reeling over the New York Times article that says don’t bother exercising because nothing will make you lose weight. This article makes me feel a bit better.

That’s the word from Danish researchers who studied more than 2,800 middle-aged people for up to a dozen years, only to find that those with the slimmest thighs had the highest chance of heart disease and premature death.

“There was up to a double risk for the people with the smallest thighs,” said Dr. Berit L. Heitmann, a director of research at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. “It’s quite substantial.”

People whose thighs measured less than 60 centimeters, or about 23.6 inches in circumference, were in trouble. And those with stick-thin gams (less than 18 inches around) were at the greatest risk, according to new study in the online version of the British Medical Journal.

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I like the way Eli Sanders phrased this story:

Meet Kenneth Gladney, 38, of St. Louis. He recently disrupted a town hall meeting to complain about health care reform, got in a fight with some union members, and, in the process, got hurt. Now Mr. Gladney is looking for donations to cover the cost of treating his injuries.


Because he has no health insurance.

The whole story is here.

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This is one of those studies that pisses me off. It says that the more you exercise the more you eat and so it is impossible to actually lose weight. For that reason, don’t exercise or go to the gym.

I’ve noticed this sense of hopelessness a lot in politics as well. If any one part of a reform doesn’t make the world a perfect place, you toss out the reform in whole. Let’s not reform healthcare, let’s not reduce our carbon footprint because if we can’t create a perfect solution then there is no point in trying.

The truth is that for most of our decisions in life we mentally create a pros and cons list. If the pros outweigh the cons then we go with the decision which gives the overall good.

I see myself in this study about exercise. I am fairly physically active with an average of one and a half hours a day of exercise and yet I wouldn’t call myself “thin.” Yet I get so much out of exercise. I’m passionate about food and I can enjoy my passion without having to worry about gaining a great deal of weight. And I have lost weight due to physically activity. Will I ever be thin? Perhaps not but the quality of my life is vastly improved.

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Just had an endoscopy

No posting earlier today because I went to the hospital to have an endoscopy on my esophagus and stomach. I’ve had mild yet chronic acid reflux for years. Part of me felt that perhaps this procedure wasn’t necessary. I’ve been reading a lot about how in America, many doctors draw a lot of revenue from expensive tests that may or may not be necessary. I don’t think all doctors are this way, but it has been a part of the health care reform discussion that it is important that we not only change how insurance works, but that we change the fundamental way American hospitals operate. Currently we financially hospitals for conducting expensive tests rather than financially reward them for overall healthy patients. More info about that here.

It’s been years since I’ve had general anaesthesia and I have to say it’s much better than it was the last time. I slept all day and who knows if I’ll even remember this post tomorrow.

The outcome of the test was good. I need not worry about taking expensive medications; I can continue with my favorite occasional cure: Pepto Bismol. I’d be lost without it.

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I thought this piece from Matt Yglesias was interesting regarding reforms other than the public option.

The most important part of the bills that actually exist—the part that will impact the lives of most Americans—are the new regulations on insurers.

The administration is proposing:

— A ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

— Caps on out-of-pocket spending.

— No cost-sharing for preventive care.

— No “rescission” of coverage for people who get seriously ill.

— No gender discrimination.

— No caps on coverage, either lifetime or annual.

— Extension of family coverage for kids up to the age of 26.

— Guaranteed insurance renewal.

The fact that liberals like to talk about the uninsured and Peter Orszag likes to talk about bending the curve and I, personally, like writing about tax policy and don’t like seeing doctors has tended to obscure this whole set of issues. But your typical middle-aged, middle-class voter is going to be impacted dramatically by this stuff and fairly little by all the rest of it. This is also, in political terms, the stuff that polls really well. The “goodies.”

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, since the bulleted points above are just proposals and not reality, but Yglesias raises a good point. The above reforms would certainly mean a lot to people like me — people who already have insurance.

What’s amazing is that we didn’t create these regulations decades ago. I mean isn’t it pretty straightforward? Think about it. Each state has an insurance commissioner whose sole job is to make sure that people don’t get screwed over by insurance companies, and yet not one state has these types of regulations.

A few years back there was a noted story in Seattle about a man who tried to crash his vehicle into his girlfriend’s vehicle while driving ultra-fast on the highway. In making this attempt, the man veered into another car and a woman in that care was seriously injured. Her car insurance company, Farmers Insurance as it happens, refused to pay for her hospitable bills because they posited that the accident was intentional. The man meant to hit her car. Well in truth, the man meant to hit his girlfriend’s car and he didn’t care a lick about this other woman. The state insurance commissioner told Farmers Insurance that if they didn’t pay the innocent bystander’s hospital bills, FI would no longer be allowed to sell car insurance in Washington state. FI reversed their original position.

So why haven’t insurance commissioners played hardball with the health insurance companies? I really don’t know the distinction here and I don’t know a lot about this topic, but from a consumer standpoint it really confuses me.

If the Dems can get these new regulations through, I think it will be an important victory. I just can’t believe it’s taken this long to get here.

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I am truly amazed that the Republicans can continue to object to a public health care option with a straight face. It will compete with private insurance, they say. Exactly.  Private insurance companies have shown an utter disregard for the health of their members — which oddly enough is the business that they are in.

The organization I use for health insurance is a quasi-government sponsored health care plan. I was given the choice of this plan, or a few private plans. The private plans offered include Group Health Cooperative and Aetna. Both have monthly premiums that are 4 times more expensive than the plan I am on. What is the difference in coverage? I have a $200 deductible for pharmaceuticals, $200 deductible for doctor appointments and $200 deductible for some specialty appointments.  After that, I pay %10 of the costs of my hospital visits. There are catastrophic limits if something terrible should happen to me also.

When I chose my plan, I noted that I don’t take any pharmaceuticals. I’m very grateful for that. I also estimated that I go to the doctor perhaps twice a year. When I looked at my bills, 10% seemed very close to what a private insurance company’s co-pays are which are anywhere from $10 to $25 per hospitable visit. I don’t need to be referred by a primary care doctor to a specialty doctor. I feel that these are wasted visits. The only thing my doctor is doing is referring me to someone else; why should I see my primary doctor first? Once, my primary doctor completely missed an obvious diagnosis that my sports medicine podiatrist discovered easily.

Paying 10% of my costs reminds me how much health care costs and it keeps me in check. I don’t go to the doctor at the first hint of illness. I wait a week. Sometimes two and usually whatever ailed me has gone away. My pharmaceutical deductible also prevents me from getting drugs that I really don’t need. A dermatologist recommended this great mousse for dry scalp instead of a lotion. That drug cost a whopping $250. I took the lotion instead.

I’ve known a woman on the same plan who had breast cancer and was successfully treated for it. Because catastrophic illnesses have a different measure than doctors visits, her costs were completely reasonable. A friend’s wife on the same plan had a premature baby. That baby was in an incubator over a month. His costs were also extremely reasonable.

My insurance company is not trying to make money by screwing me over. I appreciate that. I can’t say that about private insurance.

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Here’s a bold article written by Arthur Caplan about the inequalities of health care in the United States. He uses Steve Jobs’ liver transplant to highlight the inequalities and to discuss the pressing problems driving health care reform.

Jobs did not have problem with the first hurdle. He has plenty of doctors watching him. They found his initial pancreas problem and his subsequent liver problem. Millions of Americans are not so fortunate. They can’t afford a primary care doctor. Some Americans show up at emergency rooms so sick due to failing hearts, livers, lungs and kidneys that they could not possibly survive a transplant. Others simply die without any doctor diagnosing what is going on with their organs. These unlucky patients are rationed out of their chance to get a transplant without even knowing it.

Read the whole thing here.

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Medical bills are involved in more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, an increase of 50 percent in just six years, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

So often we’re told that people in financial peril are responsible for their own predicament. It doesn’t stand up to the facts.

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When evangelicals on the right call President Obama a socialist, a racist, anti-American, an abortionist, not a real American, and, echoing the former Vice President, someone who is weakening America’s defenses and making us less safe, the logical conclusion is violence. If you take these words literally you might pull the trigger to “make America safe” and/or free us from communism or to even protect us from — what some “Christian” leaders claim — Obama as the Antichrist. – Frank Schaeffer

I first heard of Frank Schaeffer listening to Fresh Air where he was promoting his book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All — or Almost All — of It Back. He had a hilarious moment in the interview where he described that his whole family was close to the Bush’s. When George W., then governor of Texas, announced his intention run for President, Schaeffer’s mother called him frantically. She said I that she just couldn’t believe the news. She said, “Barbara is always calling me up and saying pray for George, nothing really ever works out for him”.

The top quote is from a piece called “How I (and Other “Pro-Life” Leaders) Contributed to Dr. Tiller’s Murder.” I am pretty much speechless about this act of terrorism on Dr. Tiller. Maybe I can form words later.

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All — or Almost All — of It Back

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This study came out last week. I may be overstating it a bit to call it explosive, but I think it could spark a big change in what type of contraceptives women use.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young women who use oral contraceptives (OC) may not get as much out of their weight-lifting routine as women who are not on the pill, according to a study released today, which suggests that OC use impairs muscle gains from resistance exercise training in women.

“The factors that explain the differences in the magnitude of the responses to resistance exercise training between individuals are largely unknown,” Chang-Woock Lee, from Texas A&M University in College Station, told Reuters Health.

“The present study is meaningful in that we have identified a potential new factor that may be independently associated with the characteristics and variability of muscle responses to a controlled resistance exercise training program,” the researcher added.

In the study, 73 generally healthy women between 18 and 31 years old participated in whole-body resistance exercises three times per week for 10 weeks. Thirty-four of the women used oral contraceptives and 39 did not. The women were encouraged to eat enough protein to promote muscle growth.

In the article, which I highly recommend, they posit that women taking the pill may not have enough testosterone to build muscle.

Why do I think this is explosive? The pill is most popular with young women. Young women are more likely to care about their appearance and weight in such a way that they would be reluctant to use the pill as their contraceptive if it negatively impacts their workout routine. Think I am painting a vain and petty portrait of young women? Perhaps.

But given that the pill is advertised to women in such a variety of  petty ways, the advertising companies at least believe women would make their contraceptive choices on even flimsier grounds. Like the pill that will help with acne. Or the pill that you take once a month. Or every two months. Or every two weeks. Or every year. How about patch? Or a ring? Or an implant under your arm? It’s just so dang difficult to take a pill everyday. The pharmaceutical companies have taken one drug and turned it into a million different varieties of the same thing thereby creating multiple patents.

Will this lead  to an increase in non-oral contraceptives? More children? More abortions? I think it’s too soon to tell, but I’m interested in following this.

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Random thoughts

It’s been really hard posting lately. Work has been somewhat difficult and then there is the fact that I am once again moving. The third time in less than 2 years.

What have I read lately that I like? Well this was a great Explainer article at Slate about preventing flu. On the same topic of science you can read about the rise and fall of high fructose corn syrup, also on Slate.

Everyone says the film Bob Roberts is very poignant right now. I’ve never seen it. Care to recommend it to me?

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It’s mental illness

With the recent trend of senseless massacres in the U.S. (seven in the past month according to AP), the MSNBC headline reads “Experts: Many motives drive mass murder.”

Mass murderers are as different as their killing field — be it a nursing home or a suburban home — and as diverse as their reasons for killing — whether it’s spousal betrayal or the loss of a job.

But experts say most people who embark on such wholesale slaughter share certain key characteristics: A catastrophic event that triggers a suicidal rage and an unquenchable thirst to get even.

And there is often no way to see it coming.

The article would have you believe anyone — anyone at all — is capable of these horrific crimes. Kind of makes you eye that neighbor a little differently.

Meanwhile at The Stranger, Charles Mudede is actually making sense.

What is missing in each of these reports of recent killings is as any mention of mental illness. What’s the meaning of this hole in the reporting? Why is mental illness something that is unspeakable or is transmuted into its opposite: a man just dealing with unemployment, a man just dealing with infidelity, a man just dealing with the current economic crisis? Meaning, these killers were only dealing with normal problems and nothing else. As a consequence, there is no real difference between the killers and any other person in society. Why this insistence on normality and this resistance to causes that might be medical or biological?

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Keep copies

This is a nail-biter of a story from Salon about medical malpractice. I’d post an excerpt, but I don’t want to give away the dramatic ending.

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Circumcision should be routinely considered as a way to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, argue US experts.

They spoke out after research found circumcision significantly cut the risk of infection with herpes and the cancer-causing human papillomavirus.

Circumcision is known to sharply reduce the risk of HIV infection.

But the study, featured in the New England Journal of Medicine, failed to convince UK experts.

Yeah, no kidding. People in Africa must think Americans are a strange people given their obsession with (pardon the following) surgically removing the foreskins of an entire continent of men.  I loved this quote from the BBC.

Dr Colm O’Mahony, a sexual health expert from the Countess of Chester Foundation Trust Hospital in Chester, said the US had an “obsession” with circumcision being the answer to controlling sexually transmitted infections.

Is there some sort of circumcision lobby of doctors who perform this procedure on (gulp) adult men? If so, can I buy stock in it? This is bordering on pathological.

Dr O’Mahony also said pushing circumcision as a solution sent the wrong message.

“It suggests that it is women who infect innocent men – let’s protect the innocent men.

“And it allows men who don’t want to change their irresponsible behaviour to continue to sleep around and not even use a condom.”

Exactly. And just a reminder that Africans aren’t falling for it.

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Now that I’ve got your attention, this really did happen. Jake went out last night for a neighborhood run and as he turned a corner a pit bull puppy lept into the air and grabbed onto Jake’s arm then let go. Just so you know Jake is over 6 ft. Not realizing what happened, Jake continued on his run as he looked back and saw the owner disciplining the dog.

Then Jake gets home and tells me what happened and shows me the swollen bite which from a non-professional view looked pretty bad. Did you ask if the dog had rabies shots, I asked. No. Did you get the guys address, I asked. No. A quick drive through the neighborhood did not yield any results. The devil dog was gone.

I guess as an American I take for granted the fact that one should be pretty upset when bitten by a strange dog. I mean notice how upset everyone gets about the mad dog in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jake on the other hand didn’t think he needed to go to the emergency room. Rabies doesn’t exist in Britain and so neither does the fear. After we got to the hospital they told him that the wound was superficial and he didn’t need rabies shots. They said rabies is very rare in a city. This I didn’t know. I thought you always got rabies shots when bitten by unknown dog. In any case, they sent him home having given him a tetanus shot and telling him how to clean the wound.

Photo via teacherholly’s flickr Photostream.

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…not in the way these manufacturers were  claiming.

They challenged the companies behind products such as vitamins, shampoo, detox patches and a body brush on the evidence they had to support the detox claims made.

No two companies seemed to use the same definition of detox – defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the removal of toxic substances or qualities.

In the majority of cases, producers and retailers were forced to admit that they had simply renamed processes like cleaning or brushing, as detox, the scientists said.


One researcher investigated a Garnier face wash which claimed to detoxify the skin by removing toxins.

”Your body is the best detox product you have” – Sense about Science

The “toxins” turned out to be the dirt, make-up and skin oils that any cleanser would be expected to remove, she said.

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Sick as a dog

I won’t be blogging today.

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Via ABC:

If a card that reads “you’re too hot to be out of action -– I got diagnosed with herpes since we played” ends up in your inbox, think twice before marking it spam.

A public health Web site called Inspot.org has put the trend of e-cards, e-mail, and e-vites to a unique purpose: the e-postcard that notifies you that a past sexual partner came down with a sexually transmitted disease or infection.

The sender can choose the STD, and whether to disclose their name, while Inspot.org will automatically send a list of local health resources to the recipient.

“Believe it or not, I thought I’d rather get something telling me than not,” said Susan, who lives with herpes and runs the herpes support group HELP in Manchester, Conn.

“But then, the first reaction was, is this for real or is this a sick joke from somebody?” said Susan, who asked that ABCNews.com not use her full name.

Remember, good cats wear Hello Kitty condoms.

Photo via SweartoShakeItUp.

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People who drink alcohol — even the moderate amounts that help prevent heart disease — have a smaller brain volume than those who do not, according to a study in the Archives of Neurology.

While a certain amount of brain shrinkage is normal with age, greater amounts in some parts of the brain have been linked to dementia.

“Decline in brain volume — estimated at 2 percent per decade — is a natural part of aging,” says Carol Ann Paul, who conducted the study when she was at the Boston University School of Public Health. She had hoped to find that alcohol might protect against such brain shrinkage.

Yeah, no kidding.

Here’s the logo from a local Seattle beer.

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Here’s an interesting study that suggests genetic mutations usually come from older men fathering children. The fact that older men are fathering fewer children today may account for a halt in human evolution:

Human evolution is grinding to a halt because of a shortage of older fathers in the West, according to a leading genetics expert.

Fathers over the age of 35 are more likely to pass on mutations, according to Professor Steve Jones, of University College London.

Speaking today at a UCL lecture entitled “Human evolution is over” Professor Jones will argue that there were three components to evolution – natural selection, mutation and random change. “Quite unexpectedly, we have dropped the human mutation rate because of a change in reproductive patterns,” Professor Jones told The Times.

“Human social change often changes our genetic future,” he said, citing marriage patterns and contraception as examples. Although chemicals and radioactive pollution could alter genetics, one of the most important mutation triggers is advanced age in men.

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Melamine baby plates

I was shopping for a baby shower gift when I saw these melamine baby plates. Melamine is the additive that has sickened and killed pets across the U.S. and now babies in China. The fact that the same product used in plates is found in baby formula and pet food says a lot about what type of product this is. Curious that no one has questioned the safety of it on a plate.

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Here’s an interesting article on parents who use corporal punishment in order to discipline their children. Instead of looking at the psychological affects on the child, it looks at the psychological and “addictive” affects on the parent.

But parents keep on hitting. Why? The key is corporal punishment’s temporary effectiveness in stopping a behavior. It does work—for a moment, anyway. The direct experience of that momentary pause in misbehavior has a powerful effect, conditioning the parent to hit again next time to achieve that jolt of fleeting success and blinding the parent to the long-term failure of hitting to improve behavior. The research consistently shows that the unwanted behavior will return at the same rate as before. But parents believe that corporal punishment works, and they are further encouraged in that belief by feeling that they have a right and even a duty to punish as harshly as necessary.

My parents very much believed in corporal punishment. In fact, I love the scene from Mommie Dearest with the wire coat hangers because it gives me slight vindication thinking that my mother’s proclivity to hit me with wire coat hangers is considered so bad that it’s the most crucial scene in a film about abuse. Does that make me weird?

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Here’s an interesting question/answer session with a doctor. A person suggests a homemade cold medicine and the response given is that doctors discourage the use of alcohol in medicines for children. What do they think most store bought medicines contain?

Q. I think you do your readers a disservice by failing to mention a very old but effective cough suppressant. The pediatrician told my mother about it in 1960, and I have used it on myself and for my own children — nighttime only — when no one can sleep.

I realize that this is susceptible to abuse, but used appropriately, it is safe, effective and cheap.

The recipe: equal parts bourbon, honey and lemon juice. One teaspoon for a 10-year-old, and calibrate from there. If you disagree with using this concoction, I’d be quite interested in knowing why.

A. Hot toddies and other remedies containing alcohol have been popular treatments for coughs and colds for years. Decades ago, doctors may well have recommended such remedies. Most pediatricians nowadays discourage the use of alcohol in any treatments for children. They are especially susceptible to low blood sugar after consuming alcohol.

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