Thursday, October 23, 2014

Anorexia Nervosa & Medical Ethics: Letting a patient die?


©Am Ang Zhang 2005

Can a patient be allowed to die? 
Can a seventeen year old patient be allowed to die?
Can a seventeen year old Anorexia Nervosa patient be allowed to die?

Are we not supposed to save lives?

Could doctors be held to ransom? By?

Here is a Play: Let Her Die!

The Players:

The parents:
Father used to run a business security agency specialising in industrial counter espionage. Or was it espionage? I cannot be sure.

Too often there is this bizarre desire by some parents to make sure that if they cannot do it, no one else should either. We need to recognise it early enough. We are doomed otherwise, and so is the patient.

The patient: Nicola
It was really quite painful to sit there and talk to someone who looked worse than the worst they showed from Auswitz. Why could Nicola not realise that if she wanted any man to like her she would need to look a lot better, which involved doubling her weight for starters.

The Doctors:
Dr Hillman:

This was a family given up even by Dr Hillman, my most fervent supporter of family therapy. Father used to run a business security agency specialising in industrial counter espionage. Or was it espionage? I cannot be sure.

The Consultant:
        I did not go round looking like a hippie or pretending that I liked the music the teenagers listened to. I told them to me it was trash. I did not pierce my ear or have a tattoo. I certainly did not wear trainers to work.
       
        In short, you do not have to gain respect by becoming like them or worse, by pretending that you are like them.

The Experts:
I spent one session with them and agreed with Dr Hillman. They were good. We looked like a bunch of amateurs dealing with professionals. None of the family therapy tricks work, Minuchin or Haley.
        Impenetrable!

The NHS Trust & GMC

To me, suspension on full pay is a risk every doctor takes nowadays, as the basis is no longer limited to bad practice. It is no longer a reflection on whether you are good or bad clinically. Many psychiatrists are no longer prepared to use techniques that might upset their patients or parents of their patients.

The Main Action:

A family meeting was called and it lasted only a few minutes.
          I was in top form.

          “Nicola has been eating but after two months has not put on any weight. I cannot see any reason for her to continue to stay here. She might as well do the eating at home. She can then sort out for herself why she is not gaining weight without the pressure from us.”
          I tried to put it in the calmest way possible.
          “You mean you will let her die?” Father sounded a bit annoyed.

        With that father got up and left the room without saying another word.

          “What do I do now? You have upset him!” said mother.
          Good, something got to him at last, but I did not say it.
         
Nicola gave a wry smile to me as if to say, “You found me out.”
          She turned to mum, “Let’s pack and leave this dump.”
          We all kept still.
         
Six months later, one of the nurses bumped into Nicola in a nearby town. She was kicked out by father and moved in with another ex-anorectic. She was with a boy friend. More importantly she was wearing a very sexy dress to show off her then very good figure.
          She did not die.

                                           Based on an extract from my book The Cockroach Catcher

The Cockroach Catcher on Amazon Kindle UKAmazon Kindle US

2 comments:

Dr No said...
CC - Dr No rather suspected that if you didn't turn up and comment on badmed, then you were probably doing a post of your own!

Dr No reads the moral of your post as less is more, ie the more doctors try to control patients (admission, section, forced feeding), the more the patient resists. Do the opposite (patient can go home, even die if the want to) and the patient still resists - in Nicola's case by gaining weight...even if she did do so rather rapidly...and, of course, having a spook for a dad is enough to put anyone on edge...

E's case (the one recently in the news) is very different. She was almost twice N's age, very different family by the sound of things, significant co-morbdities and a long history of failed forced feeding attempts (albeit with one early success). She was, if such a concept is meaningful, in end-stage anorexia nervosa.

Can a patient be allowed to die? Yes - we do it all the time.

Can a seventeen year old patient be allowed to die? Yes - we reluctantly and with great sadness do it from time to time.

Can a seventeen year old Anorexia Nervosa patient be allowed to die? Not if we can possibly help it. But anorexia nervosa is truly pernicious illness, and sometimes it defeats us all - although usually a bit later in the patient's life.

Would Dr No have discharged Nicola as you did? Almost certainly, and probably for the same reasons!
Cockroach Catcher said...
It is perhaps The Cockroach Catcher's own experience with young Anorexia Nervosa Patients that has coloured his views. There is in him a genuine feeling that doctors should be allowed to doctor pure and simple and in that sense he feels that psychiatrists should be doctors too, real doctors.

Remember the early days of treating phobia when bus loads of phobic patient from none other than the Maudsley were taken to Piccadilly Circus and dumped there. It was known as implosion therapy. then later suicidal patients were given the sharpest razor blades so that they can get on with it.

In Psychiatry, the best treatment is without doubt Placebos. But placebos only works if neither the patient nor the parents knew.

In reading DN's blog I reposted my patient where I let her die.

Well, did I or was that part of Haley/Minuchin treatment? You can decide.

No the early day psychiatrists did not mean harm to come to the Picadilly or Razor patients, but when non-doctors are involved, good luck to the said patients.

Perhaps DN;s patients was of Millennium Trilogy quality and ooops, what was the state doing?

Please let the real doctors or better still the real psychiatrist get on with their real work, if only they are allowed to remember how to give all the guidelines floating around.

The Cockroach Catcher retired partly because he sensed he would not be allowed to carry on his own doctoring ways.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Medicine & Religion: Pork & GBM!



Laoshan China

 © Am Ang Zhang 2011    


Thirty years ago, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters.

When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
where I saw that mountains are not mountains, 
and waters are not waters. 

Thirty years on,
I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.
                                
 Adapted from Ching-yuan (1067-1120)
                                                                                                      
A short while back I blogged about GBM and how an innovative treatment may have helped. Being a doctor he also noted this:

My wife, Carmen Alicia, called a local friend, also a cardiologist, who sent us to a nearby hospital; there, an MRI exam revealed a small spot on my brain. The neurologist felt it needed to be biopsied to obtain a tissue diagnosis. I immediately returned to Virginia and went to several specialists, who suggested further testing before I decided to have an invasive brain biopsy. I also had a blood test for cysticercosis, an infection that results from eating undercooked pork contaminated with Tenia solium. This common parasite produces cysts all over the body, including the brain. It is the most common reason for seizures in many countries, particularly in India, where children with seizures are first treated for this disease even before other studies are done. My blood test was strongly positive. I started a course of oral medicine to treat it. The test reassured me.
My later research showed that there may indeed be some association of Tenia and GBM. 


Neurocysticercosis (NC) is the most frequent and widespread human parasitic infection of the central nervous system (CNS). Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a neoplasm of CNS in elderly population and may have a similar clinical and radiologic presentation as of NC. The coexistence of NC and neoplastic intracranial lesion in an individual is a very rare entity. The incidence of NC among intracranial space occupying lesions is reported to be 1.2-2.5%.[1–4] Though cerebral cysticercosis may be associated with glioma,[5] but this rare coexistence of NC and brain tumors puts into question a causal relationship between the 2 diseases. Here we report a case in which glioma and cysticercosis appeared concomitantly, with continuing progression of low grade Glioma to high grade Glioma (GBM, WHO grade IV).


So some religious dogma might actually be good for ones health. 


Watch out, even if you do not eat pork:


Neurocysticercosis in an Orthodox Jewish Community in New York City



All the patients and their families adhered to Orthodox Jewish dietary laws, which forbid the eating of pork. Moreover, T. solium taeniasis due to the ingestion of contaminated pork is extremely unlikely in the United States. Cysticerci were detected in only 3 of more than 83 million hogs examined after slaughter under federal inspection in 1990.
The most likely sources of infection in the patients described in this report were women living and working in the patients' homes who had recently emigrated from Latin American countries where T. solium infection is endemic.

In 2003 the world was in the grip of a new plague that challenged our knowledge of medicine to its limit.

         For the first time, doctors and nurses who were normally in the forefront of the fight against diseases were fighting for survival from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a new and dangerously contagious disease.  The alarm was first raised by its first victim, Carlo Urbani.  He was an Italian physician employed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and based in HanoiVietnam and he gave the disease its current name. It was as if this newly mutated virus knew what it was on about. Get the doctors as they would be the first who could deal with you. Urbani died. So did some of the medical staff that attended the first few patients.

         Doctors often thought that they would be immune, a God given right I suppose.  Not so this time! The virus obviously knew what it was doing.

SARS, Freedom & Knowledge     


A doctor friend had just been diagnosed with GBM (glioblastoma multiforme) grade IV. My hospital librarian had the same tumour and told me that the hospital neurosurgeon got it too. Another close friend who is an ENT surgeon has just been diagnosed with NPC (Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma).

Looks like doctors are no longer as immune as we like to believe and that goes for those that worked closely with doctors like our beloved librarian.                                                                

Then I read an account by a doctor of his GBM.

He is a cardiologist for thirty five years, (so not a neurosurgeon then) but with the diagnosis his research unravelled one of the possible reasons for "catching" GBM.
Why?

Why did this tumor happen to me? I never smoked and had had no brain injuries, and there is no history of such tumors in my family. As a cardiologist, I had implanted close to 400 pacemakers in my life and during the procedure was exposed to ionizing radiation (X-rays). In the early days we used portable X-ray machines and gave ourselves some protection by using thin lead gowns. Nowadays, heavy lead gowns are worn, and doctors and technicians protect their thyroid and eyes with shields and glasses. We also use heavy sheets of radiation-protective glass that hang from the ceiling.

At some point in my research, I was surprised by an article by a Johns Hopkins-trained cardiologist who now practices in Israel. He had collected data on 23 invasive radiologists and cardiologists who had developed tumors, of which 17 were GBMs on the left side of the brain. I wrote to the author, who told me that he had learned of several more such cases since his article was published, and he added mine to his file."

GBM

" I had a glioblastoma multiforme (commonly called a GBM) grade IV. This is the most malignant brain tumor; no grade II or III exist. A glioblastoma is what killed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2009. While rare, it is the most common of the brain tumors. The prognosis is dismal; on average, patients survive only 14 months after diagnosis even with chemotherapy and radiation. After five years, only 5 percent of patients are still alive."

So depressing.

But wait: The Zapping!

" The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke University has the largest experience on the East Coast with my sort of tumor, so I went there for further consultation and treatment.

As doctors there examined me, it was obvious that my tumor had already grown again; in fact, it had quadrupled in size since my initial chemo and radiation. I was offered several treatments and experimental protocols, one of which involved implanting a modified polio virus into my brain. (This had been very successful in treating GBMs in mice.) Duke researchers had been working on this for 10 years and had just received permission from the FDA to treat 10 patients, but for only one a month."

The procedure:

"I was given the Salk polio vaccine to prevent a systemic polio infection.


At Duke, my skull was opened under local anesthesia and I had the viral infusion dripped through a small catheter directly into the tumor in my brain for six hours."

The result:

"I returned to Duke a month after the infusion, and though an MRI showed some expected swelling, the more significant fact was that the tumor had stopped growing. I have gone back to Duke every two months since then, and the tumor, initially the size of a grape, is now a scar, the size of a small pea. It’s been two years since the initial biopsy and radiation, and one year since the experimental polio viral treatment, and I have no evidence of recurrence nor tumor regrowth.

According to a presentation about the research that the Duke doctors gave last May, the results so far are promising: “The first patient enrolled in our study (treated in May 2012) had her symptoms improve rapidly upon virus infusion (she is now symptom-free), had a response in MRI scans, is in excellent health, and continues in school 9 months after the return of her brain tumor was diagnosed. Four patients enrolled in our trial remain alive, and we have observed similarly encouraging responses in other patients. One patient died six months following ... infusion, due to tumor regrowth.” They added: “Remarkably, there have been no toxic side effects ... whatsoever, even at the highest possible dose.”

That has been true for me. I feel as fit as I was three years ago, before the first symptoms of the glioblastoma made their appearance. I remain only on an anti-seizure medication."




Monday, October 20, 2014

NHS & Best Health Care: Private Medicine & Porsche!

Do we judge how good a doctor is by the car he drives? I remember medical school friends preferred to seek advice from Ferrari driving surgeons than from Rover driving psychiatrists.


My friend was amazed that I gave up Private Health Care when my wife retired.

“I know you worked for the NHS but there is no guarantee, is there?”

Well, in life you do have to believe in something. The truth is simpler in that after five years from her retirement, the co-payment is 90%.

He worked for one of the major utility companies and had the top-notch coverage.

“The laser treatment for my cataract was amazing and the surgeon drives a Porsche 911.”

Porsche official Website

He was very happy with the results.

“He has to be good, he drives a Porsche.”

Then he started feeling dizzy and having some strange noise problems in one of his ears.

“I saw a wonderful ENT specialist within a week at the same private hospital whereas I would have to wait much longer in the NHS.”

What could one say! We are losing the funny game.

What does he drive?

A Carrera.

Another Porsche.

We are OK then.

Or are we.

He was not any better. And after eight months of fortnightly appointments, the Carrera doctor suggested a mastoidectomy.

Perhaps you should get a second opinion from an NHS consultant. Perhaps see a neurologist.

“I could not believe you said that, his two children are doctors. And he has private health care!” I was told off by my wife.

He took my advice though and he got an appointment within two weeks at one of the famous neurological units at a teaching hospital.

To cut the long story short, he has DAVF.

I asked my ENT colleague if it was difficult to diagnose DAVF.

“Not these days!”

He had a range of treatments and is now much better.

All in the NHS hospital.

“I don’t know what car he drives, but he is good. One of the procedures took 6 hours.”

Best health care.

I always knew: Porsche or otherwise.

Related:


Best Health Care: France & The NHS





Friends moved to France after their retirement and lived in one of the wine growing districts.
 ©2008 Am Ang Zhang
They were extremely pleased with the Health Care they received from their doctor locally. After all, not long ago, French Health Care topped the WHO ranking.

Then our lady friend had some gynaecological condition. She consulted the local doctor who referred her to the regional hospital: a beautiful new hospital with the best in modern equipment. In no time, arrangement was made for her to be admitted and a key-hole procedure performed. The French government paid for 70% and the rest was covered by insurance they took out.

They were thrilled.

We did not see them for a while and then they came to visit us in one of our holiday places in a warm country.

They have moved back to England.

What happened?

Four months after the operation they were back visiting family in England. She was constipated and then developed severe abdominal pain. She was in London so went to A & E (ER) at one of the major teaching hospitals.

“I was seen by a young doctor, a lady doctor who took a detail history and examined me. I thought I was going to be given some laxative, pain killer and sent home.”

“No, she called her consultant and I was admitted straight away.”

To cut the long story short, she had acute abdomen due to gangrenous colon from the previous procedure.

She was saved but she has lost a section of her intestine.

They sold their place in the beautiful wine region and moved back to England.

The best health care in the world. 

Now we know.

Let us keep it that way.



Best Health Care: NHS GP & NHS Specialist

Does having a good hunch make you a good doctor or are we all so tick-box trained that we have lost that art. Why is it then that House MD is so popular when the story line is around the “hunch” of Doctor House?

Fortunately for my friend, her GP (family physician) has managed to keep that ability.

My friend was blessed with good health all her life.  She seldom sees her GP so just before last Christmas she turned up because she has been having this funny headache that the usual OTC pain killers would not shift.

She would not have gone to the doctor except the extended family was going on a skiing holiday.

She managed to get to the surgery before they close. The receptionist told her that the doctor was about to leave. She was about to get an appointment for after Christmas when her doctor came out and was surprised to see my friend.

I have always told my juniors to be on the look out for situations like this. Life is strange. Such last minute situations always seem to bring in surprises. One should always be on the look out for what patient reveal to you as a “perhaps it is not important”.

Also any patient that you have not seen for a long time deserves a thorough examination.

She was seen immediately.

So no quick prescription of a stronger pain killer and no “have a nice holiday” then.

She took a careful history and did a quick examination including a thorough neurological examination.

Nothing.

Then something strange happened. Looking back now, I did wonder if she had spent sometime at a Neuroligical Unit.

She asked my friend to count backwards from 100.

My friend could not manage at 67.

She was admitted to a regional neurological unit. A scan showed that she had a left parietal glioma. She still remembered being seen by the neurosurgeon after her scan at 11 at night:

“We are taking it out in the morning!”

The skiing was cancelled but what a story.

Anorexia Nervosa: Chirac & Faustian Pact

Best Health Care: France & The NHS