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An engrossing account of a career in emergency medicine

Trauma is everywhere. More precisely, the term “trauma” is now used to describe everything from truly traumatic experiences that would disturb most people, to the routine ups and downs of everyday life that leave some of us slightly upset. Everything is traumatic, it seems. It is not entirely clear when this trend started, or why…

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A hastily written, sloppy book that fails to convince

Acentral tenet of this book”, writes journalist, photographer, and filmmaker Laura Dodsworth, “is that the use of fear to create compliance is ethically dubious, and at the very least, warrants public debate.” I agree. I also agree with Dodsworth’s call “for a specific inquiry into the use of behavioural science by government”. Although the focus…

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A fascinating book examining the mystery of life

This is a curiously old-fashioned book in its presentation about up-to-date basic science. Hard-covered; small in size (pages of 8 x11 centimetres); containing no tables; no diagrams; no illustrations; no scientific bibliography; or no index – it is nonetheless a class book, in every sense of that adjective, with concise, incisive writing, and explanations. I…

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The key lessons for a happy life

Decades ago, during an idyllic camping trip to Finland and Norway, my wife and I lost a purse. At Tromsø Police Station a smiling officer transcribed our statement into Norwegian; I signed it… then he guffawed: “Hjör! Hjör! Hjör!” We stared at him. “You’ve just sold me your house!” he exclaimed. Our laughter erupted, mine…

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Breast is always best

White Blood: A History of Human Milk is an extraordinary, semi-autobiographical, scientific and historical dissertation by Lawrence Weaver. Weaver is a paediatric gastroenterologist, nutritional scientist and an historical scholar. His career direction has led inexorably to the grand finale production of White Blood. This is a thorough history of breast milk, but deviates into paediatrics;…

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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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