Health

Beyond the ‘House of God’ – how medicine hasn’t really changed at all

In 1978, as I neared the end of high school and readied myself for medical training, a book called House of God (HOG) was published by a doctor under the pseudonym Samuel Shem. By the time I read it as an intern eight years later it had become a cult classic among doctors. Everyone I…

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Capitalism and/as suffering

No one in their right mind would associate capitalism with suffering, would they? Isn’t it about enjoyment of commodities, ostentatious consumption, celebrity life and wealth accumulation? And what is there about all this that could be connected with “suffering”? Of course, one could elaborate, as Hardt and Negri do in Multitude (2005) and elsewhere, about…

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When surgeons become wise

I noticed something different about my driving habits lately. At a traffic light I used to accept the green as an open invitation to drive through unconcerned, confident that other drivers would see the red and do what they are supposed to do, ie stop. I don’t do that anymore. I always look to see…

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Why MSF decided to leave Somalia

By Dr Unni Karunakara Our announcement on August 14 that we were closing all our medical programmes in Somalia sent shockwaves through political and humanitarian communities. It came at a moment when world leaders, for the first time in decades, began making positive noises about a country on the road to recovery and with a…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 3)

For part two of this series, click here. In the previous two articles in this series, I briefly documented how cocaine became seen as a “medical miracle” and how the rise of the first habitué’s revealed to medical science cocaine’s addictive potential. These first “addicts” where not however seen as innately criminal or diseased, an…

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Why should you be concerned if your doctor is a ‘designated service provider’?

You probably haven't a clue. Clearly I think you should be, for good reason, because there is a monumental battle going on between medical professionals and the medical aid administrators who sign contracts with 'designated service providers' or 'preferred providers' (DSPs). This battle is essentially for control of private medical practice. Those who control the…

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So, someone you know wants to become a doctor?

Every now and then someone young approaches me for advice on choosing medicine as a profession. They are all extremely bright, capable and enthusiastic semi-adults, with strong desires to change the world and to “make a difference”. With on average 6 000 applicants for 250 places at a medical training university, the odds are against all…

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The accident slope – an analogy for avoiding errors

Early in my training as a glider pilot my instructor showed me an excellent but simple analogy for ensuring my safe performance as a pilot. I have always remembered this lesson, which he called the “accident slope”, and have tried to apply it to my method of practising medicine, as well as the other “dangerous”…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 2)

For part one of this series click here. As I noted in the last part of this series, cocaine became a “medical miracle” at the same time as medical science was legitimating itself as a modern form of enquiry. At first cocaine was lauded, especially between 1884 and 1899, as the first real topical anaesthetic…

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Waiting to inhale (Part 1)

By Gillian Schutte It’s a blistering hot afternoon when we arrive at the Barracks. This regimentally built cluster of council houses was erected in Wentworth in the 1970s and used to temporarily house part of the community that was forcibly removed from Cato Manor to Durban South in the 1974. Thirty-six years later the same…

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