Category Archives: Doctors and Medical Professionals

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council responds to claims that “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer.”

Mayor McCheese was a goofy, bumbling mayor with a head that was molded in the shape of enormous cheeseburger.  The good Mayor’s right-hand man was Officer Big Mac, and his head also consisted of a rather large cheeseburger.  Together they administered justice and order throughout all of McDonaldland, while introducing children to the wonderful world of processed meat, sugary sodas and greasy french fries.

The unfortunate reality is that Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac were fictional characters responsible for managing a world that didn’t exist.  For whatever reason, the mascots were quickly forgotten as the nation’s taste for fast food steadily increased.

Proving yet again that job security is a myth, Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac have been replaced by new governing body: the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.  The council consists of real people – not cartoon characters, puppets or fictional creations – and it is lead by Janet Riley, its president and official “Queen of Wien.”

As a bit of an aside, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council is a “project of the American Meat Institute,” and  Queen Riley moonlights as the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs of the American Meat Institute.  They maintain a place of business in Washington, DC, where the council claims to conduct

scientific research to benefit hot dog and sausage manufacturers. The Council also serves as an information resource to consumers and media on questions related to quality, safety, nutrition and preparation of hot dogs and sausages.

Well, the council is steamin’ mad at a group of physicians and medical professionals.  The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group of more than 125,000 health care professionals and others, has launched a campaign to warn consumers about the risks associated with the consumption of processed meats, which have been associated with colon and other cancers.

The group placed roadside billboards that poignantly describe the dangers associated with the consumption of hot dogs and processed meats.  The most recognized billboard is located along the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago, Illinois, and it claims that “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer.”  Similar billboards have also been placed in Miami, Florida and Indianapolis, Indiana.

Yep.  The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council is miffed.  Queen Riley described the sign as “misleading,” “outrageous” and “alarmist.”  J. Patrick Boyle, the President of the American Meat Institute, argued that

[h]ot dogs are part of a healthy, balanced diet.  They come in a variety of nutrition and taste formulas and they are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. This group’s claims are on a collision course with the facts.

Of course, earlier this month, President Boyle also extolled the virtues of boneless lean beef trimmings, otherwise popularly known as  “pink slime.”

Anyways, frankly – no pun intended, I guess – I’m not necessarily sure that President Boyle should really try to promote the nutritional benefits of mechanically separated meat, beef trimmings, fat, salt and preservatives that include soduim erythobate and sodium nitrate.  Scientific research simply doesn’t support his claim.  For example, the Harvard School of Public Heath recently published the results of a study that indicated that a daily serving of hot dogs and other processed meats increased the risk of dying of heart disease by 21% and dying of cancer by 16%.  Other studies have found a correlation between processed meats and risks for bladder cancer and pancreatic cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research has also found that the consumption of one hot dog per day increases the risk of colon cancer.

Unfortunately, these cancers are becoming increasingly common and they often prove terminal.  According to a report from the American Cancer Society, in 2010, over 1.5 million people were diagnosed with some form of cancer, and around 550,000 died from the disease.  Slightly more than 102,000 patients were diagnosed with colon cancer and 51,370 patients died from colon cancer.  Other incidents were just as profound: in the same year, 43,140 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the disease caused 36,800 deaths, and around 131,260 people were diagnosed with cancers of the urinary system, including bladder cancer, and over 28,500 people died from the disease.  Pretty grim statistics, no?

Yeah.  The Queen of Wein and President Boyle are really making me long for the days of Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac.  I’ll chose goofy and bumbling over this junk any day of the week.

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Feed a cold, starve a fever and use heroin to treat drug addicts

Question:  What is the most efficient means of treating a patient suffering from an addiction to heroin?

Answer:  Medical professionals should administer regular doses of heroin to the patient.

Wait.  What?

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal compared the costs and effectiveness of treatments using methadone, a synthetic opioid often used in treating addicts, with treatments involving diacetylmorphine, more commonly referred to as heroin.  The results demonstrate that long-time heroin addicts were more likely to remain in treatment when administered medically-supervised doses of heroin.  The authors also determined that the prescription of heroin instead of methadone resulted in a significant reduction of societal costs, such as those associated with the criminal justice system.

The study was based upon research conducted through the University of British Colombia, the University of Montreal and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.  The results were released on March 12, 2012.

The study primarily involved a mathematical analysis of data accumulated in NAOMI, an acronym for the North American Opiate Medication Initiative.  NAOMI is a three-year trial of the effectiveness of medically prescribed heron that was funded and approved by two government agencies, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Health Canada.

An earlier study based upon data accumulated by NAOMI was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009.  At the time, the authors concluded that “diacetylmorphine (heroin) appears to be a safe and effective adjunctive treatment.” The most recent study draws upon this conclusion in determining that the use of diacetylmorphine is not only safe and effective, by may be the best treatment for a person addicted to heroin.  Dr. Aslam Anis, a professor at the University of British Columbia and lead researcher, explains that the use of heroin

would decrease societal costs, largely by reducing costs associated with crime, and would increase both the duration and quality of life of treatment recipients… Because opioid users commit less crime and have lower rates of health care use and death while in treatment, the benefits in cost and health utility attributable to diacetylmorphine (heroin) stemmed chiefly from its capacity to retain patients in treatment for longer periods than with methadone maintenance treatment.

The numbers seem to support the claim.  For example:

  • Nearly 90 percent of patients receiving heroin remained in treatment one year after the beginning of the study.  In comparison, slightly more than 50 percent of patients receiving methadone remained in treatment after the same period.
  • The rate of illegal activity perpetrated by addicts receiving heroin-based treatment decreased by a full 67 percent.  The rate of recidivism was under 50 percent for addicts receiving methadone-based treatment.
  • The researchers estimated that the average lifetime cost of treating an addict using methadone was $1.14 million, based on treatment expenditures, the costs of drug therapy and societal costs derived from criminal acts and law enforcement.  The estimated costs decreases to $1.09 million through the use of heroin.

In other news, scientists have determined that the most effective means of treating obesity is to promote the consumption of hamburgers and cupcakes.

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Some things never change. Other things change.

Babe Ruth was born on February 6, 1895.  Today is his birthday.

Some things never change.  “The Babe” will always be known as one of the greatest sluggers to ever play professional baseball.  Modern athletes may be getting bigger, faster and stronger, but nobody has truly been able to touch upon Ruth’s legacy.

Some things, however, do change.  Check out this picture, courtesy of Andy Gray at Sport’s Illustrated’s SI Vault.  It shows a 13-year-old patient lighting Babe’s pipe….  at the hospital, while she is apparently confined to a bed.

/hat tip to Andy Gray @si_vault.

A COMMUNICABLE COMPROMISE: scientists reluctantly agree to delay Armageddon for sixty days

Whew.  We’ve been granted a respite.

On Friday, researchers from Erasmus Medical College in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and the University of Wisconsin – Madison agreed to a sixty day moratorium on research involving a highly contagious strain of bird flu.  The voluntary agreement was published in Nature and Science, two prominent scientific journals.

The research involved earlier experimentation that created a new, fatal strain of the H5N1 bird flu.  The critical component of the new strain is its communicability: research has shown that is capable of being transmitted from one ferret to another ferret.  The animals are considered fairly reliable indicators of the behavior of influenza viruses in human communities, which means that this newly engineered strain of H5N1 may be capable of being transmitted from one human to another human.

The experimentation sparked immediate concern among the scientific community and world governments.  Many responses focused on the possibility that the new strain could escape from the confines of the laboratory, spread among the world’s population and kill upwards of tens of millions of people.  At least a handful of prominent scientists claimed that the research should never have been conducted and that the risks outweighed any potential benefit that could be derived from the work.

In an uncanny coincidence, two days after researchers declared the moratorium, China announced that a 39-year old man who had no contact with poultry died from the bird flu.  The report of the death came just one week after separate deaths from bird flu were reported in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Pretty eerie timing… almost too eerie.  It’s really hard to pass up this opportunity to try to make a tongue-in-cheek comment about coincidences, conspiracy theories and the frightening possibility that the influenza virus has already escaped the laboratories.

But I won’t.  Not this time.  Not ever again.  I promise.

Instead, I’ll simply close by very, very, very carefully noting that the media is now reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is actively monitoring blogs that  cover the avian flu.

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SPINE-TINGLING THEFT: doctor, please step away from the corpse and drop grandpa’s innards!

Great.  Another medical professional is being accused of creepy, freakish and illegal conduct.

The Sheriff’s Department in Oneida County, Wisconsin, has accused the county’s chief medical examiner of stealing the spine of a dead person.

Traci England has served as Oneida County Medical Examiner since September 2008.  The 44-year-old recently became the subject of an investigation by the Forest and Oneida County Sheriff’s Offices that revealed that she may have illegally confiscated part of a corpse after performing an autopsy.  These offices now claim she engaged in theft and misconduct by a public official.

Ms. England has since been arrested and appeared in court at a preliminary hearing.  Reserve Judge Conrad Richards found probable cause to believe that she had committed the crimes and released her from county jail on a $5000 signature bond.  She is scheduled to be formally charged by or before January 30, 2012.

Ms. England reportedly attempted to explain her conduct to law enforcement officials.  Oneida County District Attorney Mike Bloom has described her rationale as follows:

The allegation is that Ms. England, while acting as Oneida County Medical Examiner, following an autopsy [conducted earlier this week] retained possession of a body part for purposes of training a dog that she owns…

Hold on.  She allegedly stole the spine of a dead person so that she could use it to train her dog?

Look, I’m sure that many of the folks reading this entry have welcomed dogs into their families.  I’ve done the same, and my dogs are spoiled rotten.  They’re lazy, though – they don’t have jobs, they don’t clean the house while I’m at work and I can’t seem to teach them how to cook dinner.  Heck, I’m not even sure that they realize that they’re dogs – I’d bet a wooden nickel that they think that they’re really little people who have found a way to domesticate and train a two-legged servant.

I can’t imagine that my little critters could ever develop a taste for human remains.  Instead, they’d probably be shocked and insulted if I tried to feed them part of a corpse.  I’m guessing that they’d also leave a little present in some remote corner of my house, too, just to emphasize the inappropriateness of my conduct.

Anyway, I guess Ms. England offered at least had some sort of explanation for her alleged conduct.  She wasn’t attempting to potty train her pup, or somehow teach it to retrieve a cold bottle of beer from the refrigerator.  Instead, she allegedly stole the spine to help train her dog to be a cadaver dog that could be used by law enforcement to locate human remains.

In other words, she may have engaged in criminal activity to help law enforcement officials investigate potential criminal acts.  On, the irony…

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