Friday, December 30, 2011

I wouldn't get too excited, but...

"Crikey, two posts in under a month-- what's he playing at? You wait months and months and nothing at all, then this..."

"Shh I think he's trying to say something!"

"Well I for one am not holding my breath so there!"

(And you're right not too. It's been a bit quiet round here of late I know, but here goes...)

As you can probably gather 2011 has hardly been a vintage year at Jest Acres. In fact we’ll none of us be too unhappy to see it go. There have been times this year when it’s been hard to string a coherent thought together, let alone get anything down on the page—virtual or literal. I miss writing hugely, but for large chunks of this year the words just wouldn’t come. There have been moments and punters worthy of anecdote, but it’s just not been possible, and for that I apologize to those of you who might have stopped by from time to time.

I’m hoping for better things in 2012, though if we’re to start looking after 25% of the inpatient population in addition to doing the day job (as one boffin seems to think we ought, to the rapturous reception of Mr Lansley among others) that might be a trifle ambitious. Whatever the case I’m determined to try harder to put virtual pen to paper as it were.

I hope ’11 was good to you all, and whether or not, I hope ’12 will be fantastic for us all. There’s a lot of doom and gloom about pretty much everywhere at the moment, but despite it all there is much to be grateful for (among many other blessings I’m especially looking forward to sampling some home made Mars Bar Vodka over the New Year holiday—if I survive I’ll report back).

So a slightly early Happy New Year one and all, and I’ll be back, soon I hope, to see you all next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

East of Eden

Whether you take it as revealed truth or allegorical myth there’s something compelling about the argument that we live in a flawed and imperfect world. Perfection is there to be striven for, but it’s unrealistic to expect that we shall get there alone. We allow in our oral histories that transcendence *is* possible, but only to a very few very special individuals, and then generally with the help or agency of some higher power. For the rest of us East of Eden is where we are expected and expecting to remain—in this life at least.

Indeed, if anything just now it feels we’re heading further and further east, away from calm, plenty and fulfilment as each day passes. Perhaps it doesn’t help that it’s winter now for real in Ambridge, after an Autumn so mild half the bulbs at Jest Acres seem to think it’s Spring again, but the old Crystal Ball resembles more a Snow Globe than anything else looking to the next year or two.

In the midst of all this gloom and angst we get a bizarre assertion in the news today. 24,000 deaths a year could be avoided if diabetes were treated better. With a token apology for pedantry, avoided? Really? Now I know modern medicine is pretty hot stuff, but I’m not aware of any innovation potent enough to permit us to avoid death. It’s not clear from the reporting whether this is a verbatim quote of a grandiose claim or just sloppy journalese, but I fear I have to disappoint you all. The best we can attain for now is a deferral, which in the colloquial idiom “ ain’t nothin’" but I fear falls far short of the alleged outcome.

I’m also a little uncomfortable at the assertion that there’s some kind of blame to be attached in each of these 24,000 “un-avoided deaths”. It’s almost certainly true that a great many could be helped to look after their diabetes better and in so doing delay or avert death from this condition, but it is equally the case that a number of them would prefer to be let alone, not seeing a prolonged existence as desirable for any of a number of reasons, some well thought through and some, to external scrutiny apparently frivolous.

I worry that in seeking to target this group of patients for “better” care we risk trampling on their autonomy. This is an increasing trend in all areas of modern patient care, where we are pressed to treat to a target—evidence based for sure, but paying little or no regard to the individual on the receiving end.

This is in no way to suggest that trying to offer better holistic care would be a bad thing, and if by so doing patients can be engaged and encouraged to try a bit harder to reach the targets then this can only be a good thing, but where like Mme. Voizin in Chocolat there are patients who know their choices are unhealthy, but opt to continue to indulge, accepting a shortened rather than an impoverished span, who are we to deny them.