Tag Archives: patient education

Quality and Safety Measurement

In regards to the incident surrounding the death of Josie King (Josie King Foundation, 2002), there have been many great improvements in the delivery of care at Johns Hopkins (Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004). Those aside, and if I was faced with having to develop performance measures of quality and safety in the context of such a tragedy, I would strive to ensure that my measures were accurate and valid to identify areas of grave concern where Johns Hopkins would do good to improve.

First, I would consider measuring the structure of the care delivered. In Josie’s case, a medical response team responded when it was identified that she was in the midst of a medical crisis. The first measurement would serve to identify the availability of such teams and the adequacy of the team’s staffing. The measure would indicate the response time of the team and the licensing and certification level of each team member.

Second, I would consider measuring processes that might have contributed to the death of Josie King. In this instance, Josie was administered a narcotic while suffering acute dehydration. The administration of this medication was contrary to the physician’s orders regarding pain medication for this patient. This measure would indicate the appropriate use of narcotic analgesia in patients faced with contraindications, such as acute dehydration or shock. This measure would be a cross tabulation of recent vital signs and laboratory results.

Third, I would consider measuring outcomes. In cases where pediatric patients are downgraded from the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to a general ward, any adverse condition should prompt an upgrade back to the PICU. This measure would identify the number of cases in each reporting period that any recently downgraded patient was upgraded back to the PICU. This measure should account for the time between a crisis and upgrade along with a statement indicating the cause of the crisis and resultant upgrade. This measure should be augmented by a mortality and morbidity subset involving any patients who were downgraded from PICU.

My considerations for these processes are to determine if general ward nurses should be administering any medications on standing order or if there should be a requirement to ensure that any medication administered to a general ward patient is explicitly written in the patient’s chart at the time of administration. Also, nurses should be acutely aware of the contraindications of any medications that they are administering. The process measure will, hopefully, identify misuse of narcotic analgesia and any failure to assess the patient for other possible causes of distress before assuming the distress is in response to pain. Ultimately, a more timely and efficient use of medical response teams should result, which would avail physicians and more experienced nurses to the original patient care team. This should lead to an open discussion of how to better manage the patient post crisis. Also, a greater understanding of medication administration concepts should result, benefiting all patients.


Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from http://www.josieking.org/page.cfm?pageID=10

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from http://teacherweb.com/NY/StBarnabas/Quality/JohnsHopkinsErrors.pdf

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ new tool to fight lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from http://www.theoma.org/files/wsj%20-%20medical%20error%20-%2005-18-2004.pdf

Comparing Hospital Care in My Area

Living in northeastern Connecticut, I find myself equidistant from two area hospitals. As a health care provider and consumer, I feel that it is important to choose the professionals who will provide my care based on fact. Websites created by the Joint Commission (2011) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS; 2011) prove to be a helpful repository of information regarding the safety and quality of care delivered by hospitals and practitioners across the country.

Using these two websites, I will compare the three closest hospitals to my zip code: 1) Day Kimball Hospital (10.3 mi), 2) Harrington Memorial Hospital (10.0 mi), and 3) Windham Community Memorial Hospital (21.7 mi). The mean distance from my home to these hospitals is 15.85 mi. with all three being acceptable by me in distance and time in the case of an emergency. Day Kimball Hospital (DKH; 2011) is a 104-bed acute care facility located in Putnam, Connecticut. Harrington Memorial Hospital (HMH; 2009) is a 114-bed acute care facility located in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH; n.d.) is a 130-bed acute care facility located in Windham, Connecticut.

General process of care measures account for best practices in medicine and health care. The Surgical Care Improvement Project has set goals preventing untoward cardiac effects during certain surgical procedures along with infection control measures. According to Health Compare (HHS, 2011), cumulative scores for each hospital based on general process of care measures in the Surgical Care Improvement Project are as follows: DKH=0.954, HMH=0.901, WCMH=0.935. Another general process measure aimed at providing the standard of care of heart attack victims is the Heart Attack or Chest Pain Process of Care. The cumulative scores for these reported measures are: DKH=0.967, HMH=0.973, WCMH=0.956. Another cardiac related measure is the heart failure process of care measure. The cumulative results are: DKH=0.950, HMH=0.873, WCMH=0.893. Pneumonia process of care measures are important to gauge the appropriateness of treatments provided to stave off further development of respiratory failure and sepsis, two highly conditions with increase mortality. The cumulative scores for the pneumonia process of care measures are: DKH=0.932, HMH=0.860, WCMH=0.955. The last general process of care measure reflects the adherence to best practices in treating and managing children’s asthma; however, none of the three hospitals provided data for any of the process measures of this category.

Along with process of care measures, outcome of care measures are also important as they reflect the ability of each hospital to manage the risks of mortality and morbidity in caring for their patients. Outcome measures are based on both death and readmission of heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia patients. For all three hospitals, DKH, HMH, and WCMH, the cumulative results for outcome of care measures were not statistically different from than the national rates in all categories. Health Compare (HHS, 2011) reports these measures as such.

One final measure that I find important in choosing a hospital is the patient satisfaction scores. Cumulative scores of the Survey of Patients’ Hospital Experience allow us to compare the three hospitals: DKH=0.695, HMH=0.701, WCMH=0.677.

In ranking each of the three hospitals, I used an average of the cumulative scores for each hospital’s measure discussed above. The final score, according to the averages of the Hospital Compare (HHS, 2011) scores, is: DKH=0.900, HMH=0.862, WCMH=0.883; therefore, my first choice of hospitals, according to the data presented in Hospital Compare is DKH with WCMH being second and HMH third. According to this data, though, each of the three hospitals appears to be equitable with the others striving in some measures and faltering in others. This is also evidenced by Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011), which shows a graphic representation of the same overall data, National Quality Improvement Goals and the Surgical Care Improvement Project, used by HHS (2011). Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011) compares quality data with the target ranges of other hospitals.

According to Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011), DKH met all the target goals while exceeding the goals set for infection prevention. HMH failed to meet the pneumonia care goal, but met all other goals. HMH did not exceed any of the goals. WCMH failed to meet the heart failure care goal, but met all other goals. WCMH did not exceed any of the goals.

In considering the data from Hospital Compare (HHS, 2011) and Quality Check (The Joint Commission, 2011), it is clear that this data can be used by consumers to make more informed decisions regarding their health care. Though the methods in this paper might be questionable and simple, consumers may disregard some measures while favoring others, depending on their perception of what measures are important in judging the provision of the care that they might receive. Additionally, the data used for the comparisons, many times, accounted for a small patient population; however, each hospital serves comparable communities with comparable levels of service. This may be a consideration when performing scientific statistical analyses, but that would be beyond the scope of this paper.

The provision of health care must be ethical, just, and equitable. Allowing consumers access to data regarding the performance of hospitals in their area can provide additional insight to patients when choosing their health care provider.


Day Kimball Hospital. (2011). Sevices and locations: Day Kimball Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.daykimball.org/services-and-locations/day-kimball-hospital/

Harrington Memorial Hospital. (2009). About us: Harrington at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.harringtonhospital.org/about_us/harrington_at_a_glance

The Joint Commission. (2011). Quality check. Retrieved from http://www.qualitycheck.org/ consumer/searchQCR.aspx

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Hospital compare. Retrieved from http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/

Windham Community Memorial Hospital. (n.d.). CEO’s message. Retrieved from http://www.windhamhospital.org/wh.nsf/View/CEOsMessage

Medical Error: The Josie King Story

Josie King’s story (Josie King Foundation, 2002; Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004) is heartbreaking, but the events told herein empowered Sorrel King, Josie’s mother, to take on a mission responsible for numerous patient care recommendations that have enhanced the safety of pediatric patients throughout the country. Josie King was only 18 months old when she climbed into a hot bath and suffered 1st and 2nd degree burns which led to her being admitted to Johns Hopkins pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Within 10 days, Josie was released from the PICU and brought to the intermediate floor with all assurances that she was making a remarkable recovery and would be released home in a few days. Josie did not continue her remarkable recovery, however.

According to Sorrel King (Josie King Foundation, 2002), Josie began acting strangely, exhibiting extreme thirst and lethargy, after her central intravenous line had been removed. After much demanding by Sorrel, a medication was administered to Josie to counteract the narcotic analgesia she had been administered. Josie was also allowed to drink, which she did fervently. Josie, again, began recovering quickly. Unfortunately, the next day, a nurse administered methadone, a narcotic, to Josie as Sorrel told her that Josie was not supposed to have any narcotics… that the order had been removed. Josie became limp and the medical team had to rush to her aid. Josie was moved back up to the PICU and placed on life support, but it was fruitless. Josie died two days later and was taken off life support.

The Institute of Medicine (2001) published six dimensions of health care: safety, effectiveness, patient-centered, timeliness, efficiency, and equality. In Josie’s case, the care was not delivered efficiently, effectively, safely, or in a patient- or family-centered fashion. The overuse of narcotics in Josie’s case was certainly not effective or safe. Additionally, withholding fluids and allowing her to become dehydrated was detrimental to her recovery, which was neither safe nor effective. As Josie exhibited extreme thirst, her symptoms were dismissed, which does not follow patient-centeredness. Moreso, when the nurse administered the narcotic to Josie despite the pleadings of her mother, it demonstrated a lack of family-centered care, safety (in that, the order should have been double checked), efficacy (further demonstrating overuse of narcotic analgesia), and efficiency, as medication orders were either unclearly written or removed.

This story is clearly a demonstration that mistakes can happen at even the best of hospitals.


Institute of Medicine. (2001, July). Crossing the quality chasm: A new health system for the 21st century. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from http://www.josieking.org/page.cfm?pageID=10

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from http://teacherweb.com/NY/StBarnabas/Quality/JohnsHopkinsErrors.pdf

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ New Tool To Fight Lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m Sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from http://www.theoma.org/files/wsj%20-%20medical%20error%20-%2005-18-2004.pdf

A Novel Approach to Combat Heart Disease

According to Hansson (2005), cardiovascular disease is fast becoming the number one killer in the world among in developing countries and the Western world, due mainly to the correlation of increased rates of obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Miller, 2011; Willer et al., 2008). The goal of eradicating heart disease by the end of the twentieth century has been missed as cardiovascular disease is still responsible for 38% of deaths in North America. There has been much research over the last three decades regarding correlations between cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Miller et al. (2011) identifies, based on the current literature, a number of metabolic syndromes in which elevated triglyceride levels are responsible for significantly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of death from a cardiac event.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes, which have positive predictive value for CVD, include a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005; Koliaki, 2011).

Demographically, according to NHANES 1999-2008 (as cited in Miller, 2011), Mexican American men (50 to 59 years old, 58.8%) are at the greatest risk with the highest prevalence of elevated triglyceride levels ( 150 mg/dL) followed by (in order of decreasing prevalence) Mexican American women ( 70 years old, 50.5%), non-Hispanic White men (60 to 69 years old, 43.6%), non-Hispanic White women (60 to 69 years old, 42.2%), non-Hispanic Black men (40 to 49 years old, 30.4%), and non-Hispanic Black women (60 to 69 years old, 25.3%).

Haffner et al. (1998) describe the importance of lowering cholesterol levels in those with diabetes mellitus type II as they both contribute to increases in mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease; therefore, efforts should be focused on identifying risks to heart health starting at age 30 with concomitant risk factors of diabetes or dyslipidemia, or any combination of two or more identified risk factors. More specific screening should begin at age 40 with Mexican American males and all other demographics suffering from any one of the secondary risk-factors, and at age 50 with all other ethnic demographics, regardless of the presence of risk-factors.

Specific screening for the at-risk population should include diagnostic percutaneous transthoracic coronary angiography (PTCA) and angioplasty, if needed. PTCA is a method of introducing a catheter through an artery to the coronary arteries of the heart, guided by radiology, to diagnose specific narrowing of these vessels, at which time a repair (angioplasty) can proceed immediately. PTCA, according to Koliaki et al. (2011), is the gold standard of diagnosing the presence and degree of atherosclerotic CVD. Currently, the standard for initiating PTCA requires a more acute presentation, typically complaints of chest pain or some other cardiac related illness. However, the proven safety and efficacy of PTCA may allow it to be used more as a screening tool as well as a primary coronary intervention in acute cases.

Utilizing the diffusions of innovations model of behavior change, public health entities can provide specific information to encourage interventional cardiologists to employ this technique as a focused CVD screening tool for at-risk populations (“Culture and health,” 2012). Adoption, however, is conditional on remuneration; therefore, a public health task force at the national level should investigate the potential for spending versus savings, and if significant, should disseminate the information to third-party payors (heath insurance providers, etc.) to ensure coverage when required. Additionally, grassroots efforts should be two-pronged, focusing on both the affected communities and the physicians most likely to contact the at-risk community. For the at-risk community, using mass-media, the message should simply be to discuss your risk with your physician, stop smoking, eat healthy, and exercise. The message, itself, needs to be conveyed in an effective manner, however. For the physicians, using mass-mailing and professional development campaigns, the message needs to more complex outlining risk versus reward, cost-effectiveness, and the potential for impacting a growing trend of heart-related death and disability. The American Heart Association has a proven track record of effective mass-media campaigns as well as professional development programs. So long as PTCA can be considered as an effective and cost-saving screening tool, the American Heart Association should certainly be involved in sending the message out.

Like with the proliferation of television advertisement of pharmaceuticals, using diffusions of innovations, we can get the heart-healthy message to the communities that would most benefit and the providers who can facilitate appropriate and novel screening and treatment techniques. We have already failed to eradicate CVD by the turn of the century, but if we think outside the box and develop novel approaches to consider, we may still have a chance at effectively lowering the incidence and prevalence of CVD in the years to come.


Culture and health. (2012). Public health and global essentials (Custom ed.; pp. 213-226). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Haffner, S. M., Lehto, S., Rönnemaa, T., Pyörälä, K., & Laakso, M. (1998). Mortality from coronary heart disease in subjects with type 2 diabetes and in nondiabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, 339(4), 229-234. doi:10.1056/NEJM199807233390404

Hansson, G. K. (2005). Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(16), 1685-1695. doi:10.1056/NEJMra043430

Koliaki, C., Sanidas, E., Dalianis, N., Panagiotakos, D., Papadopoulos, D., Votteas, V., & Katsilambros, N. (2011). Relationship between established cardiovascular risk factors and specific coronary angiographic findings in a large cohort of Greek catheterized patients. Angiology, 62(1), 74-80. doi:10.1177/0003319710370960

Miller, M., Stone, N. J., Ballantyne, C., Bittner, V., Criqui, M. H., Henry N. Ginsberg, H. N., … Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20), 2292-2333. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182160726

Willer, C. J., Sanna, S., Jackson, A. U., Scuteri, A., Bonnycastle, L. L., Clarke, R., … Abecasis, G. R. (2008). Newly identified loci that influence lipid concentrations and risk of coronary artery disease. Nature, 40(2), 161-169. doi:10.1038/ng.76


P.E.R.I. Problem Identification

The health problem I have identified is cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to Hansson (2005), CVD was expected to be significantly reduced or eliminated by the turn of the century; however, cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading cause of death globally with a rise in obesity and diabetes incidence (Willer et al., 2008). The two primary factors contributing to CVD are thought to be hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol levels in the blood, and hypertension, or high blood pressure, and although Koliaki et al. (2011) shows no predictive value between obesity and CVD, there remains a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005). A better look at the emerging literature might provide insight as to why attempts to control cholesterol and blood pressure have largely failed to eradicate CVD.

Koliaki et al. (2011) contend that smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes have positive predictive value for CVD while a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age, though predictive, are significantly less specific. Considering the causative risk factors and admitting the difficulty in changing age, family history, and gender, altering smoking status, cholesterol levels, and severity of diabetes and blood pressure have all been shown to decrease the risk of CVD. However, like genetic factors such as family history and gender, researchers are finding difficulty in controlling cholesterol levels effectively in many patients, especially those with concommitant diabetes mellitus (Haffner et al., 1998; Willer, 2008). However, statin-type cholesterol-lowering medications appear to have other protective effects than merely lowering cholesterol (Hansson, 2005).

In order to combat the growing concern of cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, the increasing mortality from the same, the American Heart Association (AHA) has published a scientific statement paper regarding the latest literature and research (Miller et al., 2011). AHA has taken the lead in cardiovascular health and strives to promote best practices based on the available evidence. By promoting AHA’s position using mass-mailing campaigns to physicians practicing in primary care, emergency, cardiology, and endocrinology, we can be assured that the right message is being disseminated rapidly to those most inclined to intervene. As more physicans in the identified roles adopt the latest evidence-based practice, more at-risk patients can be screened for CVD and the contributing factors. As screening paradigms become more focused, more of the at-risk population will be identified sooner which will allow for earlier intervention decreasing overall mortality and morbidity from CVD.

P cardiovascular disease
E Causes: DM, type II; dyslipidemia (hypercholesterolemia); smoking; diet; exercise; gender; age
Burden: increasing mortality and morbidity globally
R Diabetes mellitus screening and control, HTN screening and control, statin-type medication prescription, PTCA screening recommendations, smoking cessation
I AHA position, public health mailing campaign, cadre of physician groups

Physician-assisted Suicide

I have always maintained that the best thing that I have ever done for a patient was to hold their hand as they died; however, there are few scenarios that I can posit where I would ever cause the death of another, and I would never do it in my capacity as a medical professional. In the State of Connecticut, assisting a patient in their suicide is illegal (Kasprak, 2003; Saunders & Smith, 2010). Saunders and Smith (2010) describe the use of “semantic ploys” (para. 3) in arguing for physician-assisted suicide and how the court deemed the “issue rests with the legislature, not with the court” (para 4).

Two states have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide, Oregon and Washington (Death with Dignity Act, 1997; Death with Dignity Act, 2008). The other 48 states either have laws forbidding assisted suicide, such as Connecticut, rely on common law, or have no laws permitting or forbidding the practice (Kasprak, 2003). Personally, my thoughts on the matter are clearly reflected in my opening statement. More compelling, however, is a recent discussion on the discontinuation of implanted cardiac devices in patients with a desire to “refuse continued life-sustaining therapy” (Kapa, Mueller, Hayes, & Asirvatham, 2010, p. 989). Many of the respondants to this study viewed the discontinuation of pacemakers akin to physician-assisted suicide, whereas less felt the termination of cardioverter-defibrillator therapy was an ethical issue. Oddly, lawyers indicated less problems discontinuing therapy than did physicians.

There are conditions that are so intractably painful and wrought with suffering that I would not even consider thinking less of a person suffering such a malady who took their own life. Death, for many people, is a fear beyond fear, and for a person (of considerable sound mind) to choose death as a viable alternative to such suffering, I commend their bravery and choose not to judge them negatively. No physician or other health care provider should cause the death of a person directly, but acknowledging the patient’s will to die is another matter. In lieu of providing a chemical means of ending life, a physician could, in my mind, counsel a patient on the means and methods that might be viewed as more effective and humane than other means which might result in unwanted suffering. I do believe that a person has the right to choose an alternative to a surely painful and agonizing death, regardless of the presence of depression. If a person is suffering from depression because of a terminal illness that is causing physical suffering, it is hard to imagine this person will resolve the depression before succumbing to the causal disease process. In these cases, the person has the right to choose a more dignified death. For those cases where the person is incapacitated and cannot make health care decisions, I feel that any friend or family member, or a consensus of available friends and family members, should be able to make the decision to continue or discontinue life-sustaining measures. Even if the decision is wrong for the patient, most of the time the decision is for the benefit of the family and friends and lacks medical relevance aside from resource management, though there are spiritual, emotional, and moral considerations that the next of kin may face which are no less relevant.

Personally, I grant any person permission to end my life if they see me engulfed in flame or if taken on the battlefield by an enemy known for public torture. Beyond these two circumstances, I will always choose to live so long as I have my thoughts. I have heard some people intimate that they would wish to die if they were conscious but perpetually paralyzed (i.e. locked-in syndrome); however, I am not so sure that I would want to die just for lacking the ability to communicate with others. I would want to view the world, though, perhaps by television or radio. I am too curious as to what comes next for the world. As we interfere with the dying process, it does make sense that we address the morality in which we do this. It does not seem right to have brain dead patients connected to ventilators and feeding tubes forever. It’s Orwellian.


Death with Dignity Act of 1997, O.R.S. 127.800 et seq. (1997).

Death with Dignity Act of 2009, R.C.W. 70.245 (2008).

Kapa, S., Mueller, P. S., Hayes, D. L., & Asirvatham, S. J. (2010). Perspectives on withdrawing pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapies at end of life: Results of a survey of medical and legal professionals and patients. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(11), 981-990. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0431

Kasprak, J. (2003, July 9). Assisted suicide (OLR Research Report No. 2003-R-0515). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/ph/rpt/2003-R-0515.htm

Saunders, W. L. & Smith, M. R. (2010, June 21). Assisted-suicide advocates fail in Connecticut. National Review Online. Retrieved from http://www.nationalreview.com

Henrietta Lacks

Grady (2010) offers the circumstances of Henrietta Lacks for discussion as it pertains to medical ethics. Henrietta Lacks was a young woman who succumbed to cervical cancer in the early 1950s at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Grady, 2010; Sorrell, 2010). Grady describes Henrietta Lacks and her family as “poor, with little education and no health insurance” (para. 10), yet she was cared for and her cancer was treated with radium, the standard treatment of the day. Despite treatment, Henrietta passed away. During the course of her treatment, however, a small sample of cancer cells were removed from her cervix for testing, and they continue to be tested to this day (Grady, 2010; Sorrell, 2010). Additionally, this line of cells, now known as the HeLa cells, has become commercialized, as they are bought and sold for millions on the biomedical research market (Grady, 2010).

Assuming no consent was given by Henrietta or her family, this raises a few questions. Did the physicians at Johns Hopkins have a right to these cancer cells? Did they have a right to transfer ownership to third parties? Does the estate of Henrietta Lacks require royalties be paid when others profit from what amounts to a donation to the public domain?

No person can own another person (or, a part thereof). This is consistent with the moral society of the United States. However, Henrietta Lacks presented herself to Johns Hopkins hospital with the express desire to rid herself of the cancer cells causing her illness. This alone could mean that the cells are refuse and able to be salvaged, and according to Fost (2010), this is agreed to be the law of the land. Fost describes the circumstances surrounding the HeLa cells as normal course of medical business, and I agree for the most part: “If tissue removed during an operation is about to be thrown out with the garbage and has no identifying information, it should be permissible to use it for research without the patient’s consent” (2010, para. 1). In this case, however, the researchers later approach the Lacks family to obtain DNA samples to discriminate between HeLa cell cultures and non-HeLa cell cultures. This mere fact offers evidence that the tissue is identifiable with Henrietta Lacks and her lineage, and I feel, as does Fost, that this is where the researchers erred, in asking for continued support of the cells by obtaining further comparative specimens for analysis yet not clarifying the misconceptions of the family. The researchers should not have requested further tissue (i.e. blood) donation without obtaining informed consent from the donors. Further, the cell line were given a name representative of Henrietta Lacks, HeLa, and she was named as the donor and widely known as such throughout the biomedical research community. Ergo, there were certainly identifying data linking Henrietta Lacks to the specimen.


Certainly under normal circumstances the cells should be made available for research purposes, but they should not be sold for profit, only for the costs of storage and maintenance. Any tissue freely used for medical science should be in the public domain. Further, if a specimen is found to have financial worth, I feel that the custodial researchers should set aside a royalty account allowing a small percentage of the proceeds to be returned to the donor’s estate. I also feel that if researchers have any special interest in further donation, then those donors should be offered remuneration for their donation which should be commensurate to the gains assumed to be made by their donation.

I find no issue with how the cancer cells were used initially, however, the sample should not have been attached in name to the donor. Though not required, it would have been nice if the researchers provided a royalty to the estate of Ms. Lacks, however, to thank her for her contribution to medicine and science.


Fost, N. (2010). A cell’s life: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Issues in Science and Technology, 26(4), 87+. Retrieved from http://ic.galegroup.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org

Grady, G. (2010, February 1). Second opinion: A lasting gift to medicine that wasn’t really a gift. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Sorrell, J. M. (2010). First do no harm: Looking Back to the Future [Editorial]. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 48(9), 2-3. doi:10.3928/02793695-20100730-07

Living Longer and Happier Lives

As we age, we tend to question our mortality and how much longer we have left to live. Not that we can do much about this in order to extend our lives by this time, but if we question our health earlier, we may be able to affect positive change in order to have a longer and more productive quality of life. Dan Buettner (National Public Radio [NPR], 2008; TED, 2009) discusses how difficult it can be to control the effects of aging, but he also offers some options based on his observations of what are termed blue zones. Blue zones are geographic and cultural areas of the where people tend to live longer and healthier lives.

Buettner (NPR, 2008; TED, 2009) describes simple measures that can contribute to increasing a productive life. More importantly, he has uncovered what they do not do. The people who live in these blue zones, according to Buettner, do not tend to take daily supplements, pills, or extracts. Instead, continuous and simple movement for exercise coupled with a sensible cultural diet seems to have the biggest impact.

One of the observations that I have made over the years is that as physical movement declines, physical and emotional strength wane. For example, an otherwise healthy 70 year old woman who accidentally falls and breaks her hip decreases her life expectancy drastically unless physical rehabilitation is utilized to regain her activity level (Keene, Parker, & Pryor, 1993; Lyons, 1997). It is vitally important to maintain a healthy level of activity throughout life.

Diet is very important. Buettner (NPR, 2008; TED, 2009) credits adding nuts to the diet for an average increase of three years of life. The way in which our bodies use energy is very important, and we must supply it with a fuel that is efficient. A wholesome diet, I believe, is the best diet, especially if divided by five or more meals a day.

We cannot have a conversation about improving overall health without addressing some of the unhealthy vices that we tend to indulge in. Instead of outlining each and every thing that is detrimental to our health, I will say that moderation should be the way to combat the effects of vices. We need to enjoy life, and I feel that the mere enjoyment leads to a longer and healthier life; therefore, to strictly limit indulgences would seem to be counter-productive. Moderation should certainly be the way in which to address these issues.

We all want to live longer and healthier lives, but genetics does play a role. There are some aspects of our lifestyle that we are finding that we can change for the better, and the alternatives are not that bad. So long as we live healthy lives, we can enjoy life more completely.


Keene, G. S., Parker, M. J., & Pryor, G. A. (1993). Mortality and morbidity after hip fractures. British Medical Journal, 307, 1248-1250. doi:10.1136/bmj.307.6914.1248

Lyons, A. R. (1997). Clinical outcomes and treatment of hip fractures. American Journal of Medicine, 103(2), S51-S64. doi:10.1016/S0002-9343(97)90027-9

National Public Radio (Producer). (2008, June 8). Can ‘blue zones’ help turn back the biological clock? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91285403&from=mobile

TED (Producer). (2009, September). Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+ [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100.html

Social Ecology of Immunization and Infectious Diseases

Vaccines are very useful as preventive medicine in public health to reduce morbidity and mortality due to communicable diseases, though they are not a substitute to safe drinking water, sanitation, nutrition and environmental health in the long run.
(Madhavi et al., 2010, p. 618)

In dealing with infectious diseases, two primary methods of prevention are worthwhile: immunization and avoidance. Avoidance is nearly impossible as valence for various pathogens vary so greatly and community network structure influences (Ciccaroneet al., 2010; Salathé & Jones, 2010). Immunization, on the other hand, allows for proximal contact with a specific pathogen without the likelihood to effective transmission, or active infection. Immunization, or innoculation, is the process of introducing the immune system to potential future pathogens so that it may form lifelong antibodies that can readily attack the pathogen if infected in the future (Centers for Disease Control, 2009). Immunization is gaining stronger support in the face of a growing number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens and pathogens with a propensity for recombination under heavy environmentally selective pressures, and though antibiotic therapy is a reliable and effective secondary prevention method, it seems to be true that antibiotic therapy is becoming less effective the more we rely on it as a prophylaxis (Laxminarayan & Brown, 2001). Additionally, antibiotics are only effective in the treatment of bacterial infections and have no effect on viral infections. Antiviral medications are typically more expensive and less available.

Luckily, when speaking about infectious processes, there is little need for continuous care after the acute presentation (Ciccarone et al., 2010). The pathogen is typically eradicated from the host by means of the natural combative effects of the immune system in combination, when required, with pharmacological assistance, and there is only a small chance of the host suffering any lasting effects. Unfortunately, there are some pathogens that continue to cause harm well after the acute phase of infection. Pathogens, such as the human immunodeficiency virus, ravage the immune system making the host susceptible to a number of other opportunistic infections that can become life-threatening. Other pathogens, such as hepatitis, can damage the natural filtration system of the host’s body that other deleterious effects surface creating a chronic disease process of the organs. In these, and other, cases, tertiary prevention strategies can help to offer the host a meaningful quality of life with the presence of the disease process. Some effective tertiary methods include medications aimed at improving the function of certain organs or systems. Diet and exercise also plays a major role in tertiary prevention strategies (Stokols, 1992).

Depending on the particular pathogen, infection might not affect me as much as others. As a paramedic, I have a comfortable knowledge of infectious disease processes, and I understand that a simple regimen of antibiotic medication, along with rest and fluid intake, will cure most of the infectious bacterial diseases that I might face, albeit some drug-resistant pathogens are not so easy to manage. Additionally, I have isolation equipment at my disposal that allows me to create a barrier from these and other infectious diseases. Ciccarone et al. (2010) further describe many of the psychosocial barriers Asian and Pacific Islanders face when confronted with the early stages of some infections. “Psychosocial issues such as depression, embarrassment, and shyness were reported to have influenced time to seeking medical attention” (Ciccarone et al., 2010, p. 143). Although I accept that I may suffer one or more of these barriers, my education, along with mandatory workplace reporting requirements, empower me to seek medical care when needed.

Addressing prevention strategies, Stokols (1992) introduces a model using the social ecology of health. Though he does not categorize primary, secondary, and tertiary means, he does hint at prevention strategies being proximal or distal. Further, Stokols outlines a variety of means related directly to an understanding of environmental roles and pressures. Understanding how an individual relates to, from, and within his or her ecology allows the health practitioner to provide more focused means of prevention and education.


Centers for Disease Control. (2009). Parent’s Guide to Immunizations [Excerpt]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/downloads/pg_how_vacc_work.pdf

Ciccarone, R. M., Kim, M., Tice, A. D., Nakata, M., Effler, P., Jernigan, D. B., … & Sinkowitz-Cochran, R. L. (2010). Prevention of community-associated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection among Asian/Pacific Islanders: A qualitative assessment. Hawai‘i Medical Journal, 69(6), 142-144. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/

Laxminarayan, R. & Brown, G. M. (2001). Economics of antibiotic resistance: A theory of optimal use. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 42(2), 183-206. doi:10.1006/jeem.2000.1156

Madhavi, Y., Puliyel, J. M., Mathew, J. L., Raghuram, N., Phadke, A., Shiva, M., … & Banerji, D. (2010). Evidence-based national vaccine policy. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 131, 617-628. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/

Salathé, M. & Jones, J. H. (2010). Dynamics and control of diseases in networks with community structure. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(4), e1000736. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000736

Stokols, D. (1992). Establishing and maintaining healthy environments: Toward a social ecology of health promotion. American Psychologist, 47(1), 6-22. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.47.1.6

Direct To Consumer Advertising: Patient Education

Today, we are familiar with mass-media marketing of prescription drugs not only to physicians but to patients as well, known as direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA). Though, many argue that a better informed patient allows for more autonomy in physcian-directed care (Buckley, 2004; Lyles, 2002; Sumpradit, Fors, & McCormick, 2002), “the evidence for DTCA’s increase in pharmaceutical sales is as impressive as is the lack of evidence concerning its impact on the health of the public” (Lyles, 2002, p. 73). Concerns abound regarding the ability of the physician to direct the care of a patient driven by DTCA. Many researcher’s, including Buckley (2004) and Green (2007) believe that many physicians prescribe medications solely on the request of the patient without providing guidance or education to the patient.

As a paramedic, I hear the concerns of patient’s regarding physician refusals to prescribe name-brand drugs to patients. These patients are almost militant about their beliefs of their illness and that the physician should honor the requests of their patients. While these patients never seem to find a resolution, I also see many people who trust in their physicians’ role and, with education, discuss with their physicians the possibilities and concerns of advertised medications. As one secondary data analysis (Sumpradit et al, 2002) suggests, though there is no demographic difference in the propensity of patients to ask their doctor for a medication based on DTCA alone versus seeking more information from their doctor, those with chronic conditions and who have poorer perception of health status tend to engage their physicians more often to clarify information garnered from DTCA’s.

I feel that DTCA is can be an empowering tool for the patient as long as it is educational, honest, and forthcoming. Empowering the patient to take an active role in his or her medical care is very important, but this empowerment comes with responsibility to be as fully educated as possible, allowing the physician his or her role in the relationship as the ultimate patient advocate, which some physicians lack.


Buckley, J. (2004). Pharmaceutical marketing: Time for change. Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies, 9(2), 4-11.

Green, J. A. (2007). Pharmaceutical Marketing Research and the Prescribing Physician. Annals of Internal Medicine, 146(10), 742-748.

Lyles, A. (2002). Direct marketing of pharmaceuticals to consumers [Abstract]. Annual Review of Public Health, 23, 73-91.

Sumpradit, N., Fors, S. W., McCormick, L. (2002). Consumers’ attitudes and behavior toward prescription drug advertising. American Journal of Health Behavior, 26(1), 68-75.