Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Being Sick

I am one of those people who eat predominantly healthy foods and gets regular exercise. I also have the benefit of youth I suppose, but then again, I'm surrounded daily by 45,000 other college students who are all little carriers of doom and missed classes. I don't get sick very often, but for the last couple of days I've been sick.

This won't turn into a recitation of symptoms [or an "organ recital" as my grandmother refers to it]. Rather, I would like to comment briefly on our medical system these days. We're constantly bombarded by commercials and advertisements for various medicines, prescription or otherwise. People can google their symptoms and "diagnose" themselves, then find the "perfect" drug for whatever ails them, all without a doctor. On the one hand, it's incredibly empowering and has probably saved lives. On the other hand, we think we can be our own doctors. I'll admit, when I woke up this morning with a painfully sore throat, the first thing I did was whip out my laptop and google "strep throat symptoms" and "tonsillitis." Then I made an appointment with the university health clinic, called my mom, and took my dad up on an offer for homemade chicken noodle soup.

I drank green tea with honey until my appointment, then dutifully recited my symptoms to the nurse and was poked and prodded by various instruments by the doctor. He took swabs to test for strep and the flu, said I was a little congested, and prescribed me pseudoephedrine, a decongestant. I was honestly a little surprised to be getting a prescription at all, because I am hardly having trouble breathing due to excessive snot migration or anything of the sort, nor is it interfering with my social life. [Is that too graphic? Apologies.] In fact, I think this is the least congested I have ever been while sick— the common cold is much worse.

I think that the prescription was symptomatic more of the expectations of patients rather than my symptoms. People go to the doctor and expect to get medicine to make them better. I understand that, partly, but I also have read about superbugs and drug-resistant strains of common afflictions. An MSNBC article from 2004 reports, "Flesh-eating bacteria cases, fatal pneumonia and life-threatening heart infections suddenly are popping up around the country, striking healthy people and stunning their doctors. The cause? Staph, a bacteria better known for causing skin boils easily treated with standard antibiotic pills. No more, say infectious disease experts, who increasingly are seeing these “super bugs” — strains of Staphylococcus aureus unfazed by the entire penicillin family and other first-line drugs."

That's scary. Among other things, such as shared close quarters, the article cites "overuse of antibiotics, which tends to kill weak bacteria and help hardier ones develop resistance."

Waterboarding isn't Torture?

This just in:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey told the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to discuss whether the "waterboarding" interrogation method amounts to torture. During his first testimony since his November confirmation, Mukasey testified that it wouldn't "be appropriate for me to pass definitive judgment on the technique's legality."

Sen. Edward Kennedy pointed out that -- because Mukasey has acknowledged his opposition to torture -- his refusal to pass judgment on waterboarding is "like saying you're opposed to stealing but not quite sure that bank robbery qualifies."

At one point the Massachusetts Democrat posed a blunt question to Mukasey: "Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?"

The attorney general responded, "I would feel that it was."