Monday, August 09, 2004


You Decide: Which Has the Worst "Ewwwww...Gross!" Factor?

This week, I invite you to vote on the two following news items. Decide which turns your stomach more: the prospect of a doctor coming at you with unwashed hands, or the idea that the Army is offering risky plastic surgery to its soldiers (free, of course) so that military docs have someone to practice on.

News item No. 1: In Switzerland, researchers recently observed the hand-washing habits of 163 doctors in a university hospital. On average, 57% (that's less than 6 of every 10, folks) followed standard, hospital hand-washing practices. The worst offenders? (It gets better!) Those least likely to wash up properly were anesthesiologists (23%), followed by surgeons (36%) and emergency room docs (50%). The emergency room docs...OK, maybe they're in a hurry. But surgeons? Anesthesiologists? Aren't they SUPPOSED to scrub the most???

In the Swiss study, more than half of the doctors said that proper hand hygiene was a "difficult task." (In the U.S. hand-washing rates range from 40%-60% a day, according to an editorial that accompanied the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine).

News Item No. 2>: In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that mammograms and breast enlargement don't mix...mostly because the silicone or saline breast implants used to create bigger boobs can rupture, get crushed, cave in, or produce blood clots or scars during a mammogram, which involves what the technicians call "compression." And in some women, the implants can hide cancerous tumors in the breast, meaning their cancers aren't detected as soon as they otherwise would be.

The U.S. military's reaction? Several weeks later, in late July, it announces that members of all four branches of the military can now take advantage of -- you guessed it! -- plastic surgery, including facelifts, breast enlargements, lipsuction and nose jobs. For free. At taxpayer expense. So that military surgeons can "practice their skills."

And the medical profession has the gall to call alternative health-care providers "unproven" or "weird" or "unscientific"? Excuse me???

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