Blog | Monday, June 8, 2009

Medical news of the obvious

Look what the cat dragged in ... or, don't take a dead bat for show-and-tell. A lesson learned the hard way by parents of two students at a Ravalli County elementary school in Montana who, upon being presented with a bat carcass by the family cat, proceeded to store it in a jar overnight and take it to school the next day to be examined by budding young scientists. The parents not only encouraged students and teachers to remove and handle the bat but also took it along to after-school soccer practice, according to an account in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report . Enter the school nurse, who orders tests and--shockingly!--reports back that the bat tested positive for rabies. After further evaluation, one student was referred for postexposure prophylaxis but most opted for it anyway, just to be on the safe side. Fortunately, it all ended well. And in case you're wondering, the cat emerged unscathed.

A picture is worth a thousand words, in this case, not in a good way. The old maxim is proven once again in a recent study published in BMJ that tests the effectiveness of video support tools vs. verbal descriptions for helping patients with dementia with advanced care planning. After watching a video of an elderly woman in the advanced stages of dementia, the age 65-plus participants were more likely to choose "comfort care" over life-prolonging or limited care in a hospital. Draw your own conclusions by watching the video, a disturbing depiction of a woman lying helpless in a wheelchair unable to speak, feed herself or otherwise function independently. The study's conclusions may be obvious, but painfully so.