1. Dying Patients are still not getting relief from their pain

    Dying Patients are still not getting relief from their pain

    End-of-life care: How does your state measure up?

    A few months ago, I read an article in USA Today, which revealed that dying patients are still not getting relief from their pain.

    A coalition of health-care groups, called Last Acts, has released a very discouraging study involving all 50 states: Nearly half of the 1.6 million Americans living in nursing homes suffer from untreated pain. They said that life was being extended but it amounted to little more than an extension of pain and suffering.

    The report, which is the first comprehensive look at end-of-life care, ranked each state's ability to provide eight key elements of palliative care.

    Palliative care relieves the patient's pain and other physical symptoms while supporting the patient and his family emotionally and spiritually, and while respecting their cultural traditions. Most states got a "report card" littered with C's, D's and F's.

    Despite the growing need for end-of-life care, many doctors don't receive formal training in this field. Just 39 percent of the physicians caring for dying patients had been trained in issues that often come up as death approaches.

    If the situation is hopeless, then the "power of positive thinking" should be laid aside. The doctor should advise that all tubes and respiratory aids be removed, unless some of them contribute to the comfort of the patient.

    You, and only you, should decide how you should be cared for if you become seriously ill. Write it down. File it with your doctor. Discuss it with your family. This document will communicate your wishes even if you are unable to do so. You can find more information on the Web (try searching under "Advance Directives") or talk with your attorney.

    Keeping an eye on junk medicine,
    William Campbell Douglass II, MD

  2. Give arthritis the devil

    Give arthritis the devil

    It seems there's always something new emerging for arthritis treatment, especially some sort of expensive pharmaceutical drug with potentially dangerous side effects. So when a cheap, safe, traditional herbal therapy makes the news, it's worth a closer look.

    A double-blind study examined the effects of the herb devil's claw on osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. In the study, 122 people with osteoarthritis were given either devil's claw supplements or diacerhein, a prescription "super drug," for four months. Researchers found that both were equally effective in relieving arthritis pain. Furthermore, significantly fewer people in the devil's claw group needed to take additional pain relieving drugs.

    Although this doesn't seem to be headline news, it is significant that the herbal remedy held its own in symptom relief and exceeded the long-term relief of an expensive drug.

    Devil's claw supplements are available from health food stores and even some pharmacies. Follow the dosage recommendation for the brand you choose. While no major side effects appear to be associated with devil's claw, it may interfere with the action of blood thinning drugs like Coumadin; if you are currently taking such medications, you should not begin treatment with devil's claw.

  3. Stop sciatic pain in its tracks

    There is no adequate mainstream surgical or medical treatment for sciatica. Sciatic pain radiates down the course of the sciatic nerve on the backside of the thigh.

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