Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Photo Post: Swine flu fears

Writing and Arithmetic

Last night I was invited to the ITT Technical Institute Program Advisory Committee meeting, sitting with advisors and the program chairman for their School of Criminal Justice. It was an interesting experience. There were representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Cook County Probation, and a private security company at our table for the discussion.

While the chairperson did discuss the program as it is and what sets it apart from other criminal justice programs, the bulk of the information being sought may be surprising: stuff regarding writing and math skills. I have said it before (somewhere in this blog) and in response to questions of what an investigator needs to work in our field (the Coroner business), communication skills (written and verbal) and at least some basic math skills are of critical importance.

The chairperson was looking for ways to “test” writing skills and input into how math is used in our fields as a tool in teaching math skills. Hopefully we gave him at least some usable stuff to pass on to the instructors. It is great to see that that is a focus of his program. While it isn’t as glamorous as the stuff you see on TV, the ability to write (communicate) and do relatively common math “problems” is critical to working effectively in the Coroner’s business, criminal justice, and, quite frankly, just about any walk of life.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No colonics

Now here is something you don’t see talked about every day:

I had someone come to the office a while back seeking my advice. He had seen all the ads and products for colon cleansing (there are an amazing number) and someone told him that it was a great and health producing procedure and that it was necessary to get out all the stuff we carry inside all our lives. He asked if, indeed, people carried 15 to 25 pounds of meat or other food byproducts (s**t) in their colons.


In all the autopsies I have observed, surgeries I have observed, and lessons I learned in Med School, there has never been “stuff” “stuck like spackle” on the inside of someone’s colon. While an enema may be occasionally needed for acute constipation there is no other health benefit or health need for colon cleansing. Don’t be duped into buying into that foolishness.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Coroner’s Suicide Thought Piece

One in 5 or 6 people are touched by or are close to someone who has died by suicide or will die by suicide. That is a huge number. As they say, a sobering thought.

I have been “touched” by suicide in the past and continue to be brushed. This Friday I will be attending a workshop for Counseling Professionals regarding suicide prevention. More personally, I have had even closer brushes recently.

I was recently in a conversation about someone we knew who was thinking of traveling to Switzerland, where suicide is legal, as a place to die by suicide. As a matter of fact, I had just run across an article on the internet, just that day, about that fact about Switzerland. Apparently, a fair number of folks travel there with suicide on their mind. More to the point of this post, should I intervene? The individual is elderly, feel that they have lived a full life and fear that they will become a burden as they age further and develop more severe medical problems. Beyond trying to keep them aware of all the reasons life is worth living and the distinct possibility that they won’t become a burden, do I force my value system on them? Are they wrong to chose an end with a view of the Alps?

“Brush” number two: A dear friend of mine has serious fears that a mutual friend is or has contemplated taking their own life. They feel that because of a hurricane of stress that will be a choice that that person will make. There are risk factors, but that person has shown resilience in the past. They have a support system readily available. I feel that in this case the positives outweigh the negatives. But who can really predict what will happen? Certainly we have seen a number of folks who have died by suicide who had friends and family who felt the same way about them. Of the future, we can see only the possibilities.

Another brush is a young person. The darkness always seems immense and seems as if it will last forever. It is critical to work to help, to get them help as is appropriate. Expand their knowledge of available options, watch for impulses. Teach them resilience, the ability to work through it. Teach them that the darkness will not last forever, that they can get through the darkness, that there are other possibilities. Life is worth living, there is so much potential in each and every life.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Anti-cocaine vaccine?

Interesting, but I’m not sure how much “promise” this experimental treatment really shows: Cocaine vaccine shows promise for recovering addicts

… a new cocaine vaccine… the vaccine reduces use of the drug by raising anti-cocaine antibody levels in the blood, thereby inactivating the cocaine before it enters the brain and gives the user a high

However, the article goes on to say that the antibodies reached effective levels in only 38% of folks treated and they are only present about 2 months after getting the shot. Multiple vaccinations would be required.

Certainly this kind of treatment needs to be investigated, but don’t expect to see it out as an effective treatment any time soon. Although, it would be great if it could be boosted for improved effectiveness and long-term studies show “promise” as well.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Grief normal or too much

Grief does have it purpose, adjusting to the change in your life and dealing with your loss. We deal with grieving folks all the time and not just at the time of the death of their loved one, but often for weeks (and occasionally longer) after that.
Each of the 2.5 million annual deaths in the United States directly affects four other people, on average. For most of these people, the suffering is finite — painful and lasting, of course, but not so disabling…
For some people, however — an estimated 15 percent of the bereaved population, or more than a million people a year — grieving becomes …“a loop of suffering.” … “It takes a person away from humanity,” she said of their suffering, “and has no redemptive value.”
This extreme form of grieving, called complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder…

Those that do become debilitated by their grief, locked into that loop, do need professional help. They need to develop the tools in their psyche, in their lives, to deal with something that will not go away, but that can be dealt with. They may need to be nudged or pushed in that direction.

Grief is normal. You don’t get over it. But you can not let it take over your life to the point there is nothing else.