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Death with dignity and medical marijuana on the ballot

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven October 31, 2012 06:24 AM

vote button.jpgOn November 6th, Massachusetts voters will have some important choices--other than Brown vs. Warren and Obama vs. Romney. Two questions, one concerning a terminally ill person's ability to end his or her own life and the other regarding medical use of marijuana, will be on the ballot. In both cases complex issues that medical professionals, policy makers, and ethicists have struggled with for years will be put before voters in dense summaries that many, realistically, will skim while standing on line at the polls.

I won't tell you how to vote on these questions, but maybe I can help you make your own decision by providing some details about the choices and summarizing their opponents' and supporters' points of view.


Time to scrub SOAP notes

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven October 10, 2012 09:53 AM

soap.jpgMedicine, like law, the military, and many other professions, has its own language--a kind of verbal secret handshake by which its members recognize one another and close ranks against outsiders.

Sometimes, the use of technical terms, abbreviations, and other forms of jargon can impair patients' understanding of their medical care. This article discusses the extent to which clinicians overestimate patients' "health literacy"--with potentially dangerous results.

But sometimes, medical lingo has a more subtle negative effect: it reinforces our false sense of being less human, less fallible than our patients.


More thoughts on parents with ill adult children

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven October 3, 2012 07:03 AM

images.jpegSometimes I feel that my readers are collaborators on my columns and blogs. They invariably e-mail me with perspectives and information I hadn't thought to include initially, and then I have the opportunity to incorporate those valuable additions here.

For example, after my recent column, When An Adult Child Is Ill, two readers offered insights I found especially interesting:

1) When an adult child is ill, and demands extra attention from his or her aging parents, siblings often suffer, too. Of course, adult siblings are likely to be helpful to a brother or sister suffering from an illness, and might feel guilty about feeling neglected (or feeing that their own kids are being neglected) by their parents when, after all, they're healthy, independent adults. But, as one parent of a mentally ill daughter wrote: "The issues of when to draw the line between helping and enabling can be very difficult, not only on parents, but siblings. After spending multiple years in helping [my daughter] stay alive due to her mental/emotional problems we realized that her sibling was unfortunately not getting the attention he needed."

Any individual's illness can throw an entire family's relationships out of balance, and family therapy is often helpful in moving through the anger, guilt, and conflicted feelings that can accompany illness.


About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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