Putting the Rose to Bed

Okay, as Denialism’s lawyer, let me get to the issue of the rose tattoo.

A medical procedure is a battery. Patients consent to it, thus allowing the doctor to engage in even invasive touching without liability for the battery. The scope of consent is key, however. Many individuals have a rough sense of consent; they think that if consent is given to one thing, anything goes. But, the law takes a much more nuanced approach to consent. Thus, a patient does not consent to all forms of touching, just ones that are consistent with the procedure authorized.

Was applying a rose tattoo within the scope of consent? Many people get off track by focusing on the temporary nature of the tattoo, but why should that fact matter? The key here is whether the touching itself is authorized. Whether the touching caused a permanent mark goes to damages, not to the consent issue.

It is clear that applying the tattoo, temporary or permanent, is a battery. And a doctor engaged in such pranks can end up paying through the nose for it. Take the facts discussed in Woo v. Fireman’s, where Dr. Woo (real name) applied temporary teeth to his patient (who was also an employee) while under sedation. The teeth were boar tusks, and thus made the patient/employee look very funny. Dr. Woo took pictures, removed the teeth, finished the procedure, and then showed the pictures to the patient/employee. The touching did not physically harm her, and the teeth were temporary. When presented with the pictures, she never came back to work again.

Dr. Woo settled the case for $250,000. That might seem unreasonable, but from the patient’s perspective, there is an incredible amount of anxiety surrounding general anesthesia. Apart from the medical risks, there is the fear that while unconscious, anyone could do anything to you, and you may never learn what happened. Therefore, any deviance in that type of situation can cause years of suffering and anxiety.

The tattoo was a bad idea. They should have known better. And if a patient can recover $250,000 for temporary false teeth, don’t you think a similar or larger award could be appropriate for a below-the-underwear-line application of a temporary tattoo?

Scene II, in which I clarify my previous statement

My Scibling DrugMonkey brought up a half-valid point. The half that was valid was that none of the medical bloggers spoke out about the surgeon who assaulted a patient. The half that was insane was where this is used as further evidence that doctors are arrogant pricks. Based on this comment and those of the commenters on my blog, some further clarification is needed.

I can’t speak for other doctor-bloggers, but the story of the surgeon who tattooed a patient wasn’t that interesting to me because of its isolated nature. When looking at antivaccine claims, altmed claims, and all manner of woo, we look for patterns of thought and behavior not in individuals but in society and in movements. If it were found that there were a true sub-culture of surgeons doing this to patients, I would probably rant for days about it.

That being said, there are certain aspects of the incident which seem to confuse our readers.
Continue reading “Scene II, in which I clarify my previous statement”

Why am I hearing this nonsense from a scienceblogger?

Who wrote this?

As someone who spends a substantial portion of his professional time teaching medical students, I can tell you that this kind of attitude-that physicians are gods, not mere mortals, and wield power over other human beings that no one dare question-is inculcated in them from the very beginning of medical training. It is an ugly secret of our medical training system. And the more prestigious the institutions where physicians receive their training, the more overweening is this attitude.

Anything that a physician calls a “joke” or “for the patient’s benefit” simply is that, and how dare anyone question that judgment!

Surgeons are the worst, they cut people’s fucking asses open with sharp knives, and they are basically used to functioning as dictators in the operating room. These leads to the development of attitudes which makes perfect sense in light of the practical demands of surgery. But they do not work well in other areas of life. Put a surgeon in charge of any enterprise that requires leadership through persuasion or consensus, and you are totally fucking fucked.

I know, you guys are saying, Gary Null, or Joe Mercola, or maybe the Health Ranger Mike Adams. But you would be wrong, actually this snarling little piece of anti-doctor slander came from someone within our own community. Not only that, it came from someone who teaches medical students at a major academic university. This is, of course, PhysioProf. Now, if anyone knows me, and what I write about, what I really care about is standards for arguments. As a member of the scienceblogs community, it is understandably upsetting to see a evidence-free rant, based on bigotry, from a scibling that tars a group of people that I know to be some of the most caring, the most thoughtful, intellectual, careful and conscientious people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

What to do about this I wonder? What solution is there to this problem of such a fool in our midst, spouting such hate and nonsense at others? What can we do about someone who holds medical students and doctors in such contempt, when he himself teaches them daily?
Continue reading “Why am I hearing this nonsense from a scienceblogger?”


(don’t send me the bill for the replacement)

I’m sure others will cover more of the scientific details, but science aside, we should examine why today’s statement on cell phones out of Pittsburgh is so ridiculous. Setting aside the lack of data connecting cell phones and health problems, this is horribly irresponsible.

Here’s the thumbnail: an alarmist report was released by the UP Cancer Institute’s Center for Environmental Oncology. It was apparently targeted at the university community, and stated that despite lack of current evidence, the community should worry about cell phones this instant.
Continue reading “DROP THAT CELL PHONE NOW!!!11!!!”

The end of ignorance

The folks at bloggingheads.tv whoring for some link love sent me an interesting link. They had a talking heads session (“diavlog”—damn, that’s hard to say) between John Horgan and some other guy (sorry, “Some Other Guy”). Horgan is the guy who brought us The End of Science, a book which was more widely criticized than read. I haven’t read it either, but after watching him, I think I need to do a little reading. He’s a bright guy, and interesting to listen to, but as live chats often go, there were some errors that deserve parsing, not just because they are errors of fact, but because they reveal a certain disappointing line of thought.
Continue reading “The end of ignorance”

The Joys of the Skymall Catalog

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Turkey and London, and the flight gave me the opportunity to spend hours with one of my favorite diversions, the Skymall Catalog. Admit it! You look at this thing full of wonders, and wonder who in the world buys them!

i-49c0612e28d87b7ed4ef2006815eece3-bogus.jpgCheck out this whopper: the “Aculife Therapist Deluxe.” For a mere $179.95 you can “Help strengthen your health with the latest ancient technology.” Yes, the latest ancient technology!

It continues: “Otzi, a 5,000 year old mummy found in the Alps during 1991, has spurred a whole new vigor into modern research of the Ancient Chinese medical practice of acupuncture. Recent examinations of the mummy found that Otzi has a number of tattoos that coincide with acupuncture points that would be used to treat various ailments from which he was suffering.” And Otzi was really sick! Looks like he needed help with “livers,” coffee-ground vomitus, and gynecological problems.

So, what does this thing do? It, “send[s] a signal to the operator when a qi point that needed stimulation was touched and (2) could be switched to another setting that would pass a light electrical pulse into the point that required stimulation.”

Brilliant! Sign me up.

Karadzic captured

Radovan Karadzic, one of the worst mass-murders of the post-WWII era, has been captured, or, perhaps more properly, has been allowed to be captured. Karadzic was responsible for orchestrating the murders of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan Wars.
A close friend of my family grew up in a small Bosnian city during the war. She lived in basements, and came up dodging sniper fire and grenades only when they couldn’t wait any longer to find food and water. Her mother suffers osteoporosis from years of malnutrition. He brother-in-law died of complications of war wounds. Her father, now dead of other causes, was in his home village at the beginning of the war. The Serbian army came to the village and separated the women from the men and boys. He took off running behind the women and escaped into the woods, while all the remaining males were shot to death.

The Balkan Wars and the genocides they produced are still an open wound in Europe, but Serbia is apparently ready to join the European community and finally allowed Karadzic to be arrested.

Oh, and guess what he’s been up to…

That’s right, he grew a beard and has been practicing alternative medicine. Draw your own conclusions.

NY meetup

Any native New Yorkers out there that read denialism blog? If so, I’ll be in town for the Sb meetup in NYC on August 9th. If anyone would like to meet me or the other sciencebloggers, let us know. And if you have a good idea where a bunch of people could find an air-conditioned space to do it, feel free to suggest away.