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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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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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