Friday, February 27, 2009

Our healthcare crisis is Coroner job security

This does not bode well for health and longevity:

At the onset of bad economic times, the demand for psychiatric services declines, with fewer visits for "maintenance" but eventually more for acute episodes…

I expect that medical care providers will first see a small decrease in demand as copayments become more onerous, more patients lose their insurance…

As time passes, however, I would expect to see increased demand for services from people who "deferred maintenance" because of costs and therefore become ill.

Along with this:

As economic conditions continue to worsen, the public is increasingly worried about the affordability and availability of care, with many postponing or skipping treatments due to cost in the past year and a notable minority forced into serious financial straits due to medical bills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s first health care tracking poll of 2009.

All great for coroner job security, but a crushing problem for people and our country.

The time to do something about “healthcare reform” is now (realizing that when most folks talk about healthcare reform they are talking primarily about reform of how we access and pay for healthcare). Everyone must have access to care (and not just acute care), we must make prevention and wellness a high priority, we must make sure health care is safe and of high quality, and health care coverage must be affordable and portable.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Second Opinion" on Suicide Cases

This is interesting. It may serve a real need.

Nancy Ruhe, executive director of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children…says that in cases in which a death is labeled a suicide but the family believes otherwise, her group offers what it calls a Second Opinion Service.

SOS will hire independent forensic pathologists, firearms experts and legal experts to investigate even further, Ruhe said…

Even when the research turns up nothing new and experts still label it a suicide, it still helps families, because they can know why, Ruhe added.

"Most police departments and medical examiners' offices, they don't explain that," she said. "They just rule it suicide. So you have all these unanswered questions."

Every one of our cases undergoes thorough investigation before cause and manner of death is assigned (for “inquest cases” this occurs after a full-staff case conference, now since the law changed). We do answer any questions family comes to us with, so while there are often many questions after a case is ruled suicide we can back that decision up with investigative evidence.

Suicide is often difficult to accept in a loved one, but it happens more often that most folks think.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some forensic science is not science

Just as folks are making more and more demands on us and all of the criminal justice system based on what they see on TV, this report comes out:

The National Academy of Sciences says many courtroom claims about fingerprints, bite marks and other evidence lack scientific verification. It finds forensics inconsistent and in disarray nationwide.

The report from the Academy makes several recommendations for improvement in our current system to ensure scientific validity in testing and what passes as evidence, as well as “certification” of expert witnesses. All of that would be a great step forward, but I think we need to include one more thing. We need to tell the public that all those TV shows are not real.

Those high-tech gadgets often don’t exist. Fingerprints are often not easy to get and they are not 100% accurate. Not everyone’s prints are on record for identification. You can only infrequently get a print off the trigger of a gun and then it is only partial (a sliver) and useless, for the most part, in telling you who pulled the trigger (questions we have gotten in the past). Testing for the force needed to inject someone with a syringe tells you nothing about “who did it” (based on a recent question to our office, which in turn was based on something they saw on TV).

At least some of the inaccurate testimony and “bad science” that makes it into investigations and courtrooms is driven by the public’s expectations, driven by TV. Get a grip folks its entertainment not reality.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Medical Resource

I ran across something interesting today: Medpedia

Medpedia’s mission is to create a new model for how the world will assemble, maintain, critique and access medical knowledge. This repository of up-to-date, unbiased medical information will be freely available to everyone...

It is new and a work in progress. Don’t expect it to have everything you are looking for now, but someday…

Their goal is to be collaborative, yet at least somewhat authoritative. They are doing that by partnering with a few medical schools/institutions to fact-check posted material. I think it sounds like a great concept and I wish them luck. I haven’t gone through many of their articles, but will likely refer folks to it when they are looking for medical answers or is that answers to medical questions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pop Kills

More evidence high fructose corn syrup ain’t good for you:

Another study has demonstrated that consuming beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup contributes to spikes in serum triglycerides, really nasty fat transporters that clog your arteries and can help make you die.

"Increased triglycerides after a meal are known predictors of cardiovascular disease," explained lead author Karen Teff, PhD. "Our findings show that fructose-sweetened beverages raise triglyceride levels in obese people, who already are at risk for metabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes."

Yes, pop (soda for you not of the Midwest) kills (or at least pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, glucose sweetened not so bad)

Parents Have More Power Than They Think

From a newsletter put out by LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs) a parent group fighting drug use and underage drinking in the local communities of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

Parents Have More Power Than They Think!

Many parents have told us that they think they don't have much power to influence teen behavior, especially regarding underage drinking. There is some information you might want to have more power than you think!

1. The recent survey among local teens indicates that those whose parents had firm rules about drinking and drug use were 50% less likely to engage in this behavior. Setting boundaries and clearly communicating them does make a difference!

2. National youth surveys also indentified that the #1 reason teens don't drink is that they don't want to disappoint their parents. It helps to make it clear that you will be disappointed in them if they drink or smoke marijuana.

3) Driving is one of a teen's most precious privileges. Did you know that you can revoke that priviledge for drivers under age 18? If you have concerns about your teen's ability to handle the responsibility of driving, or you need to make a strong statement about consequences of some poor decision making, contact the Secretary of State's office more details. You can also view your child's driving record (is there a ticket you don't know about?) on line up until they are 18 years of age. Go to for more information.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a blast from the past

My most comment attracting post: Cocaine and Death

I promise more new ones are on the way.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

All death is sudden

We are all unprepared for death, our own and the deaths of others in our lives. We see it in families whose children die, whether 16 months or 29 years. We see it families who lose their elders, whether 54, 68, or 90. All deaths are sudden. We even see it in families of folks in hospice care.

It is the hardest “rite of passage” of them all. I have written before about programs that teach folks (like gang-bangers) to value life by having them witness birth, but there is nothing like experiencing a death of a loved one to drive home the value of life.

They aren’t there to do all the things they used to do, the stuff you loved and the stuff you hated. Your relationship to the world changes because that “pillar” is no longer there. You want to know why, why did they die and why did they live. You want to know what comes next, for yourself and for the one who has died.

We try to prepare ourselves for our experiences with death. We tell ourselves that all things die and anyone can die at any moment. Life is only a temporary state of being. But how do we truly prepare? Think about it; work through it in your brain and in your mind and in your soul.

Nonetheless, all death is sudden.