Category : Health & Medicine

From Vermont, one Family’s devastating account of their daughter being lost to Opioid addiction: Madelyn Linsenmeir RIP

‘When she was 16, she moved with her parents from Vermont to Florida to attend a performing arts high school. Soon after she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party, and so began a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.

It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her….’

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(CT) Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

“Every moment in this man’s presence is sacred.”

So concluded the son of Eugene Peterson in a weekend announcement that the 85-year-old retired pastor and bestselling author of The Message and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction is receiving hospice care.

Robert Creech, a professor of Christian ministries at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, shared the announcement from Eric Peterson on Facebook.

“Eugene Peterson has encouraged, formed, and often literally saved the ministry of more than one pastor over the years through his writing and thinking (I would include myself in that list),” wrote Creech in a Saturday post now shared more than 1,000 times. “He has refreshed Scripture for many through his thoughtful paraphrase of the Bible published as The Message.

“He has taught us to pray,” Creech continued. “It is time for those who have benefited from his ministry to return the favor to him and his family with prayer over the next several weeks.”

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(IFS) Laurie DeRose–Cohabitation, Churning, and Children’s Diverging Destinies

I’m teaching a course at Georgetown this semester called “Family Diversity in America.” This week, my students are writing a short paper where they have to explain either how low incomes contribute to disadvantageous family situations, or how disadvantageous family situations contribute to low incomes. Heather Rackin and Christina Gibson-Davis would easily have gotten an “A” on my assignment because their recent study in the  Journal of Marriage and Family highlights one of the mechanisms through which today’s family patterns result in greater economic difficulties: cohabitation. Rackin and Gibson-Davis explain how the rise in cohabitation has disadvantaged children of lower and moderately-educated mothers more than children whose mothers have a college degree.

The authors use a term to describe a large volume of relationship turnovers that is fairly common in the academic literature: “churning,” which means lots of entrances and exits. I first learned of the term in the context of investments: an investment advisor who encourages you to change your market positions frequently can be suspected of wanting to benefit from churning, that is, in financial terms, to profit from the transaction fees themselves. While children certainly benefit from relationship transitions that remove them from abuse or lift them out of poverty, the evidence shows that kids who experience relationship churning typically pay a price (e.g., academic, economic, psychological, behavioral). Kids are not a party that pockets transaction fees.

What has happened over time in the U.S. is that disadvantaged kids have come to experience more relationship transitions and their associated costs. This is what we call diverging destinies: when socioeconomically disadvantaged kids are more likely to have experiences that impoverish—they started out behind richer kids, and their destinies diverged further because their family transitions tended to cost them, while richer kids were more likely to benefit from stability. If you were assigned the paper for my class, you would have to decide whether to write about how lower-income families face many barriers to stable marriage or how breaking up and re-forming families has costs of its own (e.g., lost economies of scale from break-ups or gained stress from forming complex families).

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(IV) Bethany Horvath–Living with Depression

I love the movie Silver Linings Playbook. Not because of the love story. Not because of Robert De Niro or Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence. Not because of the awesome dance moves.

I love the movie because of its honest portrayal of mental illness and the message that you can still live life if you have a mental illness. I love how Pat’s parents learn to suffer through it with him, loving him along the way—which isn’t easy.

I know, because I’ve been living with depression for the past 13 years.

Before experiencing depression myself, I never understood how or why someone would want to live life in a constant state of sadness, with thoughts of harming themself and no hope in sight in the world. Then I found out that no one wants to live life that way. It’s something beyond their control. Something that doesn’t make sense to them and that they don’t want to have present in their life.

I was diagnosed with depression as a freshman in college after already experiencing some difficult events in my life. I didn’t understand who I was, why I was thinking the way I was, or why everyone was out to get me.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Guardian) Net worth v self worth: do we all need inequality therapy?

Inequality isn’t just changing the way we deal with economics – it’s perversely altering how we see ourselves and what we value. And Glantz and J Gary Bernhard, authors of the new book Self Evaluation and Psychotherapy in the Market System, want us to understand that.

“What I would do is focus on the reality of the system which puts people in that kind of situation,” Glantz says of his work with Michael. “It has nothing to do with him.”

Welcome to the new world of what might be called inequality therapy.

In a hyper-capitalist world where advertising and financial pressures channel the drive for status into an obsession, no one can really win – even those who appear to have it all. Commerce infiltrates even the language we use to describe our deepest concerns: am I worth it? Am I valued? Do I count?

Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(The Age) Productivity Commission to examine mental health spending in wake of Australian suicide crisis

The Productivity Commission will undertake a major inquiry into the role of mental health in the economy as the Morrison government looks to extract better value from the $9 billion a year spent on mental wellbeing.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt have asked the commission to examine “whether the current investment in mental health is delivering value for money”, as well as how to improve economic and social participation for people struggling with their mental health.

Four million Australians deal with a chronic or episodic mental health issue each year, and one in five people affected by mental illness do not seek help because of the stigma, Mr Hunt said.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide

(CT) Nobel Peace Prize Goes in part to a Christian Doctor Who Heals Rape Victims

A Christian gynecologist who has dedicated his career to caring for victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been awarded a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Denis Mukwege, nicknamed “Dr. Miracle” for his specialized procedures, was a co-recipient for the annual honor alongside Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist who survived rape and kidnapping by ISIS in Iraq. The Nobel committee said both winners modeled “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.”

Over the past 20 years, Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of women in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, many of who had been gang raped by militants in the midst of the country’s conflict, left scarred and stigmatized.

His faith influences his approach to caring for patients holistically, “not only to treat women—their body, [but] also to fight for their own right, to bring them to be autonomous, and, of course, to support them psychologically. And all of this is a process of healing so women can regain their dignity,” he told NPR.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Republic of Congo, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

(Wa Po) Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data shows

“…it’s becoming increasingly clear that stereotypes of marijuana users as risk-taking disaffected youth are outdated in the era of legal marijuana, with middle-aged and even older Americans becoming more likely to use the drug than their children and grandchildren.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

(Christian Century) John Wahl from Ohio offers Reflections on Silence and Listening

From there:

My 12-year-old son, like many children with autism, is nonverbal. Through typing, writing, and signing, he is able to communicate many of his needs, though this patchwork of strategies still often leads to misinterpretation.

But one thing he knows how to tell me is when he is ready to walk. Most afternoons after school, or often early on Saturday mornings, we take walks together. Sometimes he listens to music to dull the sensory-interfering noises of the world, sometimes not. When time allows, we walk for miles and miles, often taking familiar routes in and around town, sometimes charting a new course. Side by side, and in silence, we walk. I discern this to be a part of my calling as a father.

The exercise is good for both of us, to be sure, but it also fills my soul. I am privileged to be there sometimes to guide and protect but also just to be alongside. Together, we experience both routine and surprise, stillness and movement, quiet and its varied interruptions. And there is mystery to be found in it all.

In other parts of my life as a pastor, I am not always so comfortable with silence. Sitting down to pray and meditate can be a challenge. I am prone to be thinking of the next meeting to attend, parishioner to visit, or sermon to write. In the quiet I fret about performance, worry about the future, dwell on all those many things that are so tempting to try to control. So often, it is so hard to just listen.

And so I walk. And my son, by walking with me, helps me embrace the quietness that we are allowed to share with one another. And in our shared silence I am reminded of the God who also walks alongside at all times and in all circumstances, the One who will speak if we are willing to listen.

John Wahl
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

quoted by yours truly in the Morning sermon (all of the essays on silence are commended to blog readers)–KSH.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(NPR) Bobi Wine Is Willing ‘To Die Trying’ To Win Freedom For Uganda

“I’m supposed to be a dead man,” says Bobi Wine, a Ugandan musician turned politician.

His driver Yasin Kawuma was shot dead on Aug. 13. Wine tweeted a graphic picture he said was of the man’s dead body. Wine says police were the ones who shot Kawuma, but Wine says he was their real target.

Bobi Wine’s real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu. He rose to fame as a musician — first with love songs and dance songs, but more recently turned to political themes in his music. His 2017 song “Freedom” has become a rallying cry for the country’s opposition.

In the same year, Wine was elected to the country’s Parliament as an independent.

He’s become a leader in opposing the country’s longtime President Yoweri Museveni — in power since 1986. Museveni is known for violently crushing dissent. Human Rights Watch says the government “continues to violate free association, expression, and assembly rights.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Music, Politics in General, Psychology, Uganda

(NBC) Montana had the highest suicide rate in the country. Then budget cuts hit.

Libby is in Lincoln County, which has a population of nearly 20,000 but just one behavioral health employee, Amy Fantozzi, a graduate student who oversees the county’s contracts with medical providers who do mental health assessments.

The town had a clinic run by the nonprofit Western Montana Mental Health Center, the largest service provider in the region, which had 12 clinics serving 15,000 clients across 15 counties. But after the cuts were announced last year, the center laid off more than 60 case managers and shut down three clinics, including the one in Libby. That left hundreds of patients without access to therapy, medication and a case manager to check on them.

Now, when those patients are in crisis, their only option is the emergency room at Lincoln County’s lone hospital. Once they check in, Fantozzi gets a call, and she must decide whether to spend $100 of her $18,500 annual budget on a mental health assessment. Depending on the results, she could then spend an additional $300 to have the patient evaluated and involuntarily committed at the nearest mental institution 90 miles away.

There have yet to be any publicly reported deaths by suicide as a result of the local clinic’s closure, but county officials fear the current system of mental health triage won’t hold up…

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, State Government, Suicide, Theology

(Guardian) Kwame Anthony Appiah–Can we choose our own identity?

“What I want to do is to widen the bandwidth of gender,” says Alex Drummond, the Cardiff psychologist and author and a trans woman, who decided to keep her beard, while also forgoing surgery or hormones. Drummond, who identifies as lesbian, told BuzzFeed: “If all you ever see is trans women who completely pass and are completely convincing as natal females, then those of us who just don’t have that kind of luck won’t have the confidence to come out.” (Most trans women have not had genital surgery, according to a recent survey by the American National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.) Her project of “gender queering” hasn’t met universal acceptance; one trans woman writer has likened her to “the older, oversized bully” who “throws himself into the toddlers’ sandpit and kicks everyone else out”. Did I mention quakes and tremors?

But a conversation – a negotiation – has begun, gloriously. Every day, men negotiate with one another about what masculinity means. And not just men. “Man” and “woman” are part of a system of interacting identities. Nor, for that matter, can black and white and Asian and brown racial identities be negotiated separately by black and white and Asian and brown people. That’s why we have to resist the liberal fantasy in which identities are merely chosen, so we are all free to be what we choose to be. In truth, identities without demands would be lifeless. Identities work only because, once they get their grip on us, they command us, speaking to us as an inner voice; and because others, seeing who they think we are, call on us, too. If you do not care for the shapes your identities have taken, you have to work with others inside and outside the labelled group in order to reframe them so they fit you better; and you can do that collective work only if you recognise that the results must serve others as well.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sexuality

(NYT Op-ed) Let Kids Play

“We’re in a climate where parents are feeling like they need to schedule every minute of structured time, and 30 percent of kindergartens offer no recess,” said Dr. Michael Yogman, chairman of the A.A.P. committee on psychosocial aspects of child family health and the lead author of the statement. To some, he said, “play is seen as irrelevant and old-fashioned.”

Dr. Benard Dreyer, the director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, “The old saying is, play is the work of children. Play is the way they learn and the way they develop. It’s important to understand how all of us, and especially parents, can encourage play.”

“Kids develop 21st-century skills in play,” said Dr. Yogman, who is chief of the division of ambulatory pediatrics at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. These include social and emotional skills and executive function, “skills that are crucial for adults in the new economy, that help them collaborate and innovate.”

A fundamental job in pediatric primary care is to strengthen the parent-child relationship, he said, and play is important in that area as well….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

A Former Sex Trafficking Victim Describes Her Ordeal and Rescue

You need to take the time to watch it all. If you cannot handle it visually please read the transcript there.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Women

Scott Sauls–When Pastors Crash and Burn

Many of us pastors, including Spurgeon and including me, have fallen into the emotional abyss—not in spite of the fact that we are in ministry, but because we are in ministry.

Studies show that pastors experience anxiety and depression at a rate that is disproportionately high compared to the rest of the population. Due to the unique pressures associated with spiritual warfare, unrealistic expectations from congregants and oneself, the freedom many feel to criticize and gossip about pastors with zero accountability (especially in the digital age), failure to take time off for rest and replenishment, marriage and family tensions due to the demands of ministry, financial strains and self-comparison, pastors are prime candidates for relational isolation, emotional turmoil, and moral collapse.

Studies also show that some pastors face unreasonable, even impossible, demands placed on them by their people. I am NOT one of those pastors, thanks to a church that both receives my gifts and embraces my limitations. All in all, the people of Christ Presbyterian Church treat me with extraordinary love and kindness. But, sadly, not all pastors are as lucky as I am.

Dr. Thom Rainer, a leading pastoral ministry guru, once conducted a survey asking church members what they expected from their pastors. Specifically, Dr. Rainer wanted to know the minimum amount of time church members believed their pastors should give each week to various areas of ministry, including prayer, sermon preparation, outreach and evangelism, counseling, administrative tasks, visiting the sick, community involvement, denominational engagement, church meetings, worship services, and so on. On average, the minimum amount of time church members expected their pastors to give to the ministry was 114 hours per week.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Stress, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

A story to Brighten Your Wednesday–Toddler with spina bifida warms hearts after showing his dog he can walk

Go here to watch and enjoy it all and you can read more there.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(Commentary) Christine Rosen–The Suicide Epidemic

The recent suicides of fashion entrepreneur Kate Spade and chef-turned-TV-star Anthony Bourdain have sparked a culture-wide discussion, as often happens when a celebrity dies in a horrible fashion. But unlike previous celebrity suicides, the anxieties prompted by these deaths took on a different coloration when it became clear in their wake that their deaths are part of a larger and disturbing public-health crisis we’ve failed to acknowledge. 

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing twice as many people (45,000) as homicide does each year. In more than 25 states across the country, the suicide rate has increased by more than 30 percent since 1999.  

Most of the deaths are people (like Spade and Bourdain) at an age once considered the prime of  life, which suggests a kind of epic, deadly new form of the midlife crisis: The largest number of suicides are happening among white men and white women between the ages of 45 and 65 (although rates are rising steadily for nearly all racial and ethnic groups). The news is grimmest for men, who account for three-quarters of all suicides. The CDC’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, told Business Insider that the new data are “disturbing.”

Disturbing and confusing. Suicide has often increased during times of economic hardship; in 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, for example, the rate was 22 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the New York Times. But in the U.S. today, during an economic recovery under way for nearly a decade, the rate is 15.4 per 100,000. And the number of deaths has stubbornly increased despite much better screening and mental-health diagnosis. As the CDC researchers who worked on the recent report noted, “More than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.” Rather, the researchers listed substance abuse, job loss, relationship problems, and financial woes as some of the many factors potentially implicated in rising suicide rates.

How did suicide, a disease of despair, a last resort, become a solution to the challenges of everyday life for so many people?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide

(DM) Christian doctor is sacked by the Government for refusing to identify patients by their preferred gender because he believes sex is established at birth

A doctor has been fired from a top government role for suggesting gender is determined at birth.

Dr David Mackereth, 55, who has worked as an NHS doctor for 26 years, was deemed to be ‘unfit to work’ after he said he would refuse to identify patients by their preferred gender.

The senior doctor was set to become a disability assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions claims a person’s gender is biological and said his right to freedom of speech had been denied.

The medic, from Dudley in the West Midlands, fears other ‘professional people of faith’ could lose their jobs simply for holding opinions about gender that are ‘centuries old’.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Sexuality

(NPR) More Screen Time For Teens Linked To ADHD Symptoms

Most teens today own a smartphone and go online every day, and about a quarter of them use the internet “almost constantly,” according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center.

Now a study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that such frequent use of digital media by adolescents might increase their odds of developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“It’s one of the first studies to look at modern digital media and ADHD risk,” says psychologist Adam Leventhal, an associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California and an author of the study.

When considered with previous research showing that greater social media use is associated with depression in teens, the new study suggests that “excessive digital media use doesn’t seem to be great for [their] mental health,” he adds.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

(NYT) Swift Gene-Editing Method May Revolutionize Treatments for Cancer and Infectious Diseases

For the first time, scientists have found a way to efficiently and precisely remove genes from white blood cells of the immune system and to insert beneficial replacements, all in far less time than it normally takes to edit genes.

If the technique can be replicated in other labs, experts said, it may open up profound new possibilities for treating an array of diseases, including cancer, infections like H.I.V. and autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The new work, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, “is a major advance,” said Dr. John Wherry, director of the Institute of Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study.

But because the technique is so new, no patients have yet been treated with white blood cells engineered with it….

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Kids Today Are Actually More Patient Than Kids 50 Years Ago

Kids today. The phrase is usually followed by eye-rolling and words like self-absorbed, impatient and entitled. But the idea that today’s children need immediate gratification turns out to be wrong. In fact, research published last month in the journal Developmental Psychology shows that they are much more patient than kids were 50 years ago.

Yes, you read that correctly. Twenty-first century children are able to wait longer for a reward than children of the same age a generation ago, and a generation before that. The new study shows that today’s preschoolers are better at what psychologists call self-regulation, which is the conscious control of one’s immediate desires—the ability to hold off and wait until the time is right.

Stephanie Carlson, the lead author of the paper and a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, knows that her findings will come as a surprise: “The implicit assumption is that there’s no way that kids can delay. They’re used to being gratified immediately and don’t know what it’s like to be bored anymore.”

But faithful re-enactments of the famous “marshmallow experiment” have upended that notion.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology

(Newsroom) New Zealand Anglican Bishops are Divided on Assisted Suicide

The eight top Anglican bishops of New Zealand have come out against David Seymour’s proposed euthanasia bill but three other bishops have voiced their support.

The two very different submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill are a sign of the differences of opinion within the country’s second largest church and among its 450,000 adherents.

The eight bishops, the church’s top leaders, have told Parliament’s Justice select committee that more money should be put into palliative care and helping families looking after the terminally ill, rather than allowing euthanasia or assisted dying.

The submission – by the bishops of Dunedin, Christchurch, Waiapu, Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Te Waipounamu and Waikato/Taranaki – is one of 35,000 to the committee and among thousands made public this month.

But three other bishops – two former bishops, John Bluck and David Coles, and Assistant bishop of Auckland, Jim White – have published a contrary opinion saying for some people with a terminal illness, assisted dying “is a good and moral choice”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Atlantic) When Children Say They’re Trans Hormones? Surgery? The choices are fraught—and there are no easy answers

Claire humored her parents, even as her frustration with them mounted. Eventually, though, something shifted. In a journal entry Claire wrote last November, she traced her realization that she wasn’t a boy to one key moment. Looking in the mirror at a time when she was trying to present in a very male way—at “my baggy, uncomfortable clothes; my damaged, short hair; and my depressed-looking face”—she found that “it didn’t make me feel any better. I was still miserable, and I still hated myself.” From there, her distress gradually began to lift. “It was kind of sudden when I thought: You know, maybe this isn’t the right answer—maybe it’s something else,” Claire told me. “But it took a while to actually set in that yes, I was definitely a girl.”

Claire believes that her feeling that she was a boy stemmed from rigid views of gender roles that she had internalized. “I think I really had it set in stone what a guy was supposed to be like and what a girl was supposed to be like. I thought that if you didn’t follow the stereotypes of a girl, you were a guy, and if you didn’t follow the stereotypes of a guy, you were a girl.” She hadn’t seen herself in the other girls in her middle-school class, who were breaking into cliques and growing more gossipy. As she got a bit older, she found girls who shared her interests, and started to feel at home in her body.

Heather thinks that if she and Mike had heeded the information they found online, Claire would have started a physical transition and regretted it later. These days, Claire is a generally happy teenager whose mental-health issues have improved markedly. She still admires people, like Miles McKenna, who benefited from transitioning. But she’s come to realize that’s just not who she happens to be.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth

(Bloomberg) Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.

Then came Google’s turn. An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(NYT Op-ed) Clay Routledge–Suicides Have Increased. Is This an Existential Crisis?

As a behavioral scientist who studies basic psychological needs, including the need for meaning, I am convinced that our nation’s suicide crisis is in part a crisis of meaninglessness. Fully addressing it will require an understanding of how recent changes in American society — changes in the direction of greater detachment and a weaker sense of belonging — are increasing the risk of existential despair….

Critically, studies indicate that it isn’t enough to simply be around or even liked by other people. We need to feel valued by them, to feel we are making important contributions to a world that matters. This helps explain why people can feel lonely and meaningless even if they are regularly surrounded by others who treat them well: Merely pleasant or enjoyable social encounters aren’t enough to stave off despair.

All of which brings us to the changing social landscape of America. To bemoan the decline of neighborliness, the shrinking of the family and the diminishing role of religion may sound like the complaining of a crotchety old man. Yet from the standpoint of psychological science, these changes, regardless of what you otherwise think about them, pose serious threats to a life of meaning.

Consider that Americans today, compared with those of past generations, are less likely to know and interact with their neighbors, to believe that people are generally trustworthy and to feel that they have individuals they can confide in. This is a worrisome development from an existential perspective: Studies have shown that the more people feel a strong sense of belongingness, the more they perceive life as meaningful. Other studies have shown that lonely people view life as less meaningful than those who feel strongly connected to others.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(Wash Post) American Medical Association rejects maintaining its opposition to medically assisted death, deciding instead to keep reviewing the matter

A recommendation that the American Medical Association maintain its opposition to medically assisted death was rejected Monday, with delegates at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago instead voting for the organization to continue reviewing its guidance on the issue.

Following a debate on whether the nation’s most prominent doctors’ group should revise its Code of Medical Ethics, the House of Delegates voted by a margin of 56 to 44 percent to have the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs keep studying the current guidance. That position, adopted a quarter-century ago, labels the practice “physician-assisted suicide” and calls it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

The council spent two years reviewing resolutions, not so much on whether to support the practice but on whether to take a neutral stance on what has become a divisive issue among health-care providers. The group’s report sought to find common ground, noting, “Where one physician understands providing the means to hasten death to be an abrogation of the physician’s fundamental role as healer that forecloses any possibility of offering care that respects dignity, another in equally good faith understands supporting a patient’s request for aid in hastening a foreseen death to be an expression of care and compassion.”

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology

(LA Times) Church attendance linked with reduced suicide risk, especially for R Catholics, study says

Against a grim backdrop of rising suicide rates among American women, new research has revealed a blinding shaft of light: One group of women — practicing Catholics — appears to have bucked the national trend toward despair and self-harm.

Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry.

It’s not clear how widely the findings can be applied to a diverse population of American women. In a study population made up of nurses and dominated by women who identified themselves as either Catholic or Protestant, the suicide rate observed was about half that for U.S. women as a whole. Of 89,708 participants aged 30 to 55, 36 committed suicide at some point over 15 years.

Read it all from 2016.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(NY Post) Salina Zito–How suicide became my ‘family secret’ — and shaped who I am

Three generations later, my great-grandfather’s suicide is still impacting my life.

I distinctly remember the moment my mother told me about the family secret. I was a teenager, and she let me know with the firmness and compassion only a mother possesses that the choice her grandfather made was one nobody should ever face.

Not only did it rob him of his life, it delivered countless blows to his immediate family. His children lost their father, they lost their home, my great-grandmother was forced to become a boarder who worked three backbreaking jobs to make ends meet, but it wasn’t enough.

Eventually, my 12-year-old grandfather was forced to quit school to help support the family.

Despite never meeting him and despite my grandfather never speaking of it, three generations later Clifford’s decision shaped who I became. Not because it was something I ever considered doing, but because I felt the importance of looking for signs of hopelessness and despair in the people I knew.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide

(USA Today) Kirsten Powers–Americans are depressed and suicidal because something is wrong with our culture

In September of 2004, I received the call that every person dreads: My father had dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 61. It came at a time when I was already grappling with other issues, including watching my mother fight breast cancer for the preceding six months, a breakup with a boyfriend and a lack of structure in my life as I was freelancing as a consultant while I tried to determine what I wanted to do next with my career.

I was in an emotional free fall, so I visited a psychiatrist. He said the antidepressant my general practitioner prescribed to help with my life-long struggle with anxiety wasn’t what I needed, so he prescribed a new one. This seemed to only make things worse. Within a few days, I found myself thinking the unthinkable: I want to die.

I couldn’t imagine a life without my father and our hours-long conversations about, well, everything. The pain was debilitating, getting out of bed was an Olympian event, and life was utterly devoid of meaning. I stopped eating and shed 15 pounds in a month. I couldn’t see any reason to be alive.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide

A NY Times Article on this week’s CDC Report–Defying Prevention Efforts, Suicide Rates Are Climbing Across the Nation

The analysis found that slightly more than half of people who had committed suicide did not have any known mental health condition. But other problems — such as the loss of a relationship, financial setbacks, substance abuse and eviction — were common precursors, both among those who had a mental health diagnosis and those who did not.

Other studies have found much higher rates of mental health disorders among people at high risk of suicide, experts noted.

The reason most suicide decedents don’t have a known mental disorder is that they were never diagnosed, not that they didn’t have one,” said Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.

Access to guns can make it more likely that an impulsive or intoxicated person will attempt suicide even if he or she has no clear mental health problem, Dr. Brent added.

“We have worked really hard to explain to the public that suicide is not simply a matter of too much stress, but that it involves the identification and treatment of mental disorders as one important component,” he said.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide