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Changing how we think about cancer

Writing in the journal Cell (2014, 157: 267–271), biologist Robert Weinberg “lamented that cancer research was held in ‘ill-disguised contempt’ and that “one should never, ever confuse cancer research with science!’”. This far-from-ringing endorsement of the lack of progress in what has been called “the last great medical mystery” is cited in Dr Jason Fung’s…

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A thorough, well-timed, if flawed, meditation on euthanasia

Let me state at the outset that ‘dying with dignity’ is no more than a euphemism for mercy killing. The people involved in ‘rational suicide’ are being killed by themselves, by a pro-euthanasia group, or by a sympathetic doctor. We all wish for a timely, peaceful death, preferably in our own home, surrounded by our…

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In the eye of the Covid-19 storm

“You know you are desperate when you are actually looking at a second-hand monkey ventilator and thinking, is there any way we can use this?” It is a line worthy of a JG Ballard novel – 22nd century survivor of ecological disaster scours dystopian cityscape for booty – but it was spoken in March 2020…

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Life and death (and the absurd) in a modern hospital

Many years ago, a physician with whom I trained stopped in the middle of award round, turned to the assembled team and made one of his occasionalpronouncements. “Modern medicine,” he proclaimed, “is an extraordinary mix of breath-taking efficiency and heart-stopping absurdity. In the no-man’s land between these extremes, medicine happens. I have no idea how…

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How to live well

What is “wellness”? Is it a new-fangled concept or one with ancient roots? Is this generation the first to positively describe a state of wellness, as opposed to simply not being ill? And how can we achieve wellness, rather than simply avoiding the various pitfalls and disasters that lie in our paths? For all the…

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Age old wisdom in rhythm

Geriatricians always make me uneasy; the uneasiness being a mixture of respect and awe. They know too much, not just the scientific stuff, they also seem to know a lot about the past, coolly assess the present and,this being the spooky bit, divine the future. It is not enough to cure the presenting complaint and…

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The life of one of Ireland’s foremost psychiatrists

I always flick through the pages of a new book in search of an eye-catching phrase and I quickly found this zinger: as a schoolboy Anthony Clare made “…occasional trips to Northern Ireland where he acquired a taste for Bounty bars…”. Raised in Northern Ireland, where I too acquired a taste for Bounty bars, here…

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How we talk about illness

Title: The Language of Illness Author: Fergus Shanahan Publisher: Liberties Press (2020)Reviewer: Prof Brendan Kelly The practice of medicine is a largely narrative endeavour. People come to doctors with a dizzying array of problems, symptoms, worries, and fears. Each person tells their story. We listen. We try to understand their narrative and see how it…

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The great fraud of Andrew Wakefield

At the outset I should declare some potential conflicts of interest. I have long been a proponent of immunisation. I have chaired the national immunisation advisory committee at the RCPI. I have run a so-called ‘high-risk’ vaccination clinic at Children’s Hospital Temple Street for concerned parents and general practitioners over several years during the MMR…

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