Archive for the ‘Health care’ Category

Lyndon Baty attends school as a robot

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Thanks to Sacha for this.

Stroke of Insight

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

A friend of mine sent me this the other day. It’s really so powerful, Jill Bolte Taylor is the most emotive speaker I think I’ve ever seen from the Ted talks. For alot of it there’s a strange and very uncomfortable dynamic going on- sort of attraction/repulsion in that, for me, it was so attractive to hear about this immediate and powerfully felt connection to the larger universe, and yet, so horrifyingly compromised by her utter helplessness. A profoundly left brain/right brain story. Which, It turns out, is being adapted by Ron Howard for a film that’s possibly going to star Jodie Foster. I probably shouldn’t use my left brain to think about that.

Framingham Heart Study

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009


Both the New York Times Magazine (Is Happiness Catching?) and Wired (The Buddy System: How Medical Data Revealed Secret to Health and Happiness) have reported on the work of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler on the Framingham Heart Study; suggesting that behaviors are “contagious”. The New York Times piece includes some thoughtful discussion on the usefulness and limitations of social network analysis;

Social-network science ultimately offers a new perspective on an age-old question: to what extent are we autonomous individuals? “If someone does a good thing merely because they’re copying others, or they do something bad merely because they’re copying others, what credit do they deserve, or what blame do they deserve?” Christakis asks. “If I quit smoking because everyone around me quits smoking, what credit do I get for demonstrating self-control?” If you’re one of the people who are partly driven by his DNA to hang out on the periphery of society, well, that’s also where the smokers are, which means you are also more likely to pick up their habit.

To look at society as a social network — instead of a collection of individuals — can lead to some thorny conclusions. In a column published last fall in The British Medical Journal, Christakis wrote that a strictly utilitarian point of view would suggest we should give better medical care to well-connected individuals, because they’re the ones more likely to pass on the benefits contagiously to others. “This conclusion,” Christakis wrote, “makes me uneasy.”

Reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote; “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation”. Although the idea that we can pick up internal states like happiness, through mirror neurons, essentially mimicking those around us seems a little less dark.

“Psychiatric diagnoses are less reliable than star signs”

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

This is brilliant- a Times online article about Richard Bentall, who’s book “Doctoring the Mind” is out in September. He rages against the biomedical model and the failure of psychiatry to work with patients in psychotherapy, relying instead on drugs. A familar story, but there’s some astonishing stuff here. Not least his conviction that it would be better to be treated in Nigeria than in london, because “In Nigeria, people with severe mental illness tend to be looked after in an extended family system or by supportive religious leaders, who tell them not to worry about hearing voices.” Hence the recovery rate is better. Or that whilst the studies published by drug companies about SSRI drugs seem to show that they work, they suppress data, which when added to the mix under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that they work only slightly better than placebos. Anyway, if you know anyone who’s on this shit, and if you live in New York then chances are you do, point them to this article.

Down and out in Brooklyn

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

CCTV footage of a woman dying in the waiting room of a psychiatric unit in Brooklyn. Around her it’s business as usual. At the beginning of the footage a security guard stands with his head cocked, looking at her, then ambles of. In total, three workers notice her and do nothing. She had been there for nearly 24 hours. The family announced today that they intend to file for a $25 million lawsuit. The family’s lawyer claims that the staff attempted to cover up neglect. In patient records marked 6 and 6.20 am, staff wrote that she was “awake, up and about”, or sitting quietly. The surveillance footage shows otherwise.

There’s something about the banality of this footage that makes it very disturbing. Michael Bloomberg was quoted as saying “Look I saw the footage and I was… horrified is much too nice a word”. It speaks of a culture of neglect and isolation.