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Reading of the Week: “The Name of the Dog” – Dr. Tafder’s Excellent NEJM Paper & More

From the Editor

There is something often dehumanizing about the health-care experience – the way patients can be reduced to medical-record numbers, the way lives can be summarized in disease names and a few demographic details (“a 30 year old woman with schizophrenia”).

This week, we consider two essays that are about people who happen to be patients – and the lessons that our colleagues have drawn from their stories.

In the first selection, we look at a paper written by Dr. Taimur Safder that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It’s about the name of a dog – and much more. During his training, Dr. Safder presents the case of a person who develops chest pain when walking his dog. When the supervisor asks the name of the dog, the physician isn’t sure. “Four years later, I’m not sure anything I’ve carried from residency has been more useful than that question.”

dy_wosjwsamveozNo, this Reading isn’t really about dogs

And, in the second selection, we consider a short essay by Dr. Lee Lu. The Texas doctor describes her experiences working with a patient with substance use problems – and wrestling with her own biases.

Finally, returning to the topic of cannabis legalization, we consider some responses to last week’s Reading, and a CMAJ editorial on the topic.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Pushing Past the Headlines – Substances & Health Services, and Medically Assisted Death & Cost Savings

From the Editor

It makes sense that those with substance use problems and mental illness consume more health resources – but how much more? As Canadians opt for medical assistance in dying, what will the impact be on health spending?

Readings don’t necessarily follow a theme. But this week, we push past newspaper headlines to consider two topical issues in more detail, tapping the latest in the literature.

Pushing past the headlines

In the first paper, Graham et al. consider health costs and utilization for people with mental health and/or substance use problems. Spoiler alert: these individuals are much more likely to use health services, resulting in higher costs. That’s not exactly a surprise, but Graham et al. provide a detailed analysis in an area that has been understudied.

In the second paper, drawing from Dutch data, Trachtenberg and Manns estimate the savings from medically assisted death.

Both papers are timely. Both reach interesting conclusions.

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