Sad Day…

The front page of the Boston Globe is dismal today:

  • With heart attack victim aboard, T train stops twice: “A man suffering a heart attack yesterday morning was kept aboard an MBTA commuter train that made two scheduled stops before reaching waiting paramedics at Back Bay Station in Boston as horrified passengers implored the crew to bypass the stations.” [Addendum: this link does not seem to be available anymore at the Boston Globe website.]
  • The beached whales return to shore; many die despite rescuers’ futile efforts, to the horror of throngs of vacationing onlookers. [And to think I was jubilant yesterday…]
  • Massachusetts is cutting reimbursement rates for “MassHealth” (Medicaid) prescriptions, prompting the three pharmacy chains that together account for the bulk of Massachusetts prescription fulfillment to threaten to stop filling MassHealth patients’ prescriptions. The Speaker of the House sneers that the “taxpayers” have had enough of subsidizing the poor in this way. Admittedly, MassHealth expenditures are growing at around 10% a year and are already the single largest expenditure line in the state budget, but if Medicaid recipients can’t fill their prescriptions in their neighborhoods, thousands will go without medications, literally consigning some to death.

    Instead of squeezing Medicaid recipients between the rock and hard place of the “taxpayers” and the profit margin of the retail pharmacy chains, Massachusetts (which was one of the states that was most adamant about going after Big Tobacco when Scott Harshbarger was attorney general), ought to go to the source — this is largely a problem of the rapacity of the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Putting pharmacies out of business, gouging ‘bottomless’ entitlement programs, and using poor medication-dependent patients as life-and-death pawns are just business as usual, until pricing policy for Medicaid patients’ drugs is made an issue just as the pricing of AIDS drugs for Africa has been.

Integrity or Political Gambit?

By Attacking Bush, Kerry Sets Himself Apart: “For many Democrats, the war on terrorism has made that kind of frontal assault on Bush foreign policy seem risky, if not politically suicidal. But not for Mr. Kerry. A decorated Vietnam veteran and potential presidential candidate, he has lustily attacked the administration on policies like trans-Atlantic relations, Pentagon spending, Middle East negotiations and even Mr. Bush’s greatest triumph, Afghanistan.” NY Times

Can you picture that? “Here you can take a pre-chosen image, alter it how ever you like and post it for others to view, vote, comment and submit their own versions. The images that we select for editing can come from anywhere, such as news, sports, a random keyword search, anything!”

Double Jeopardy

After Treatment for Mental Illness, Fight for Insurance Often Follows:

“The social stigma surrounding mental illness may have eased, but many insurers are still reluctant to issue individual policies to people with a psychiatric history — be it depression, anxiety or more serious conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

A record of treatment for any of those conditions can make a person ineligible for long-term disability insurance and complicate efforts to obtain health insurance. Though life insurers rarely decline people with psychiatric problems, they may refuse to offer the low-cost “preferred” rates intended for healthy nonsmokers.” NY Times

Living Museum:

A Protected Space, Where Art Comes Calling:

If Dr. Janos Marton ran the world, there would be protected spaces everywhere for people with mental illness to create paintings and sculptures, drawings and lithographs, installations, murals and collages, poetry and novels, songs and symphonies.

The abandoned buildings on the grounds of old state hospitals would be turned into sheltered workshops.

Warehouses in urban centers, where the mentally ill pace the streets and scrounge meals from garbage cans, would become safe harbors, working studios filled with color and form.

Delusion and hallucination, pain and sorrow, fear and manic exuberance would find their outlet in something quite simple, the creation of works of art.

Dr. Marton’s vision is hardly an idle one. At the Living Museum, housed in Building 75 of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, the state hospital’s former main kitchen and dining areas, he is the director of just such an “art asylum,” a refuge where in the 19 years since the museum opened more than 800 men and women have shed their identities as psychiatric patients and bloomed instead as artists…

In a recent interview, Dr. Marton discussed the museum’s goals and the relationship between art and mental illness… NY Times

NIH Licenses New MRI Technology

Detailed Images of Nerves, Other Soft Tissues: “A new technology that allows physicians and researchers to make detailed, three-dimensional maps of nerve pathways in the brain, heart muscle fibers, and other soft tissues has been licensed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The new imaging technology, called Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DT-MRI) was invented by researchers now at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). DT-MRI may allow physicians and researchers to better understand and diagnose a wide range of medical conditions such as stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), multiple sclerosis (MS), autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and schizophrenia.” National Institutes of Health press release

Medical myth, marketing opportunity?

NPR’s The Connection considers Andropause: “If you’re over forty and a man, it could be coming to your body soon. Andropause, or male menopause. Symptoms include fatigue, moodiness, and decreased sex-drive.

But wait, from the industry that can lift you up, calm you down, re-grow your hair, even give Bob Dole back his sex life, comes the latest effort to medicalize the living.

Death and taxes may be certain, but not middle age, if you believe the hype from the makers of testosterone replacement therapies. Take “T” and regain the form and function of a twenty year-old.” A discussion between Dr. Jerome Groopman of Harvard Medical School, who authored a New Yorker article, “Hormones for Men”, which is apparently no longer online; and geriatric endocrinologist Dr. John Morley of St. Louis University. [Listen].