Friday, March 20, 2009

Lemming Tracks: If Auto Mechanics Were Like Doctors

A member of the extended family is out of surgery and doing well. Liver function had shot up, and scans showed something blocking the tube that comes out of the gall bladder.

So, out came the gall bladder. Problem fixed, it seems.

If Auto Mechanics Fixed Cars - - -

Here's a thought: If auto mechanics fixed cars, the way doctors fix people, almost every time you took your car to the shop it would come back with a part missing.

I Appreciate Contemporary Medicine: Really!

It's great to live in a time when western medicine can, generally, fix major organ system malfunctions. I've got a pair of artificial hips, and a gut infection around the turn of the century would probably have killed me in an earlier epoch.

On the other hand, 'modern medicine' has its little embarrassments.
Lobotomies - They're So 20th Century
Like lobotomies. I was just old enough to remember the fuss that people made, when they found out what happened when the good doctors sliced up people's brains.
Tonsillectomies - Still in Fashion
And, I remember when doctors learned that tonsils are supposed to swell up and turn red when people have some diseases. (After the patent gets better and the tonsils aren't performing their function, things get back to normal - but try telling that to a knife-happy doctor.) Tonsillectomies still happen - and it's sometimes necessary - but more doctors have gotten smart. On the other hand, slicing out the tonsils is still rather popular. The attitude seems to be: Hey, what harm can it do?
Goiter Surgery - Word Got Around
Then there's the parathyroids. They're little things, generally two pairs in humans, on either side of the thyroid gland.

There's an interesting history there. Doctors knew for a long time that a goiter is a thyroid gland that's swollen. Goiters don't look good and, more to the point, can cause real trouble. Removing them is a fairly straightforward process, and many of the patients lived.

That was in the good old days (you can have them, by the way). Then somebody named Sir Richard Owen discovered the glands of Owen. He found them in a dead rhinoceros. Owen's glands didn't get much attention.

A bit later, Ivar Viktor Sandström found "a small hardly hemp-seed sized structure." He found the same structure in cats, rabbits, oxen, horses and people. Cutting a long story short, Sandström studied the things, recorded his findings, named them glandulae parathyroidae, and, suffering from a genetic mental disorder, killed himself.

Sandström's work wasn't received well (Not Invented Here?), and started gathering dust.

Still later, Eugene Gley "observed that the tetany and death caused by experimental thyroidectomy in dogs" happened only when those silly little glandulae parathyroidae were cut out, along with the thyroid. Gley didn't ignore Sandström's work, demonstrated that it wasn't a good idea to remove the 'extra' stuff around the thyroid: and eventually, as word got around, a lot fewer people dropped dead after goiter surgery. ("The glands of Owen" RSM)

Gall Bladder Removal is Perfectly Safe - Trust Us!

My working assumption is that what we're told about the gall bladder is true. It's supposed to be a simple storage container for bile, that can be removed with no muss, no fuss.

The medicos may be right. I sure hope so.

Medical Science: For Me, it's Personal

I take issues using cerebral terms like "medical ethics" and "experimentation on human subjects" a little more personally than some people may. Maybe you've noticed that in the tone of this post. I see two major reasons for this:
  • I remember the end of a time when The Doctor was treated with a deference and respect seldom offered up to mortals
  • I'm the survivor of a medical experiment
But, that's another story.

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