What we’re reading: 26 March 2010

blogsIn the BMJ editorial office, we often come across interesting articles, blogs, and web pages. We thought we would share these with you. Some are medical, some techie, and some just general.



Helen Jaques, technical editor:
The big news this week is the passing of Obama’s healthcare bill in the US.  My colleague Sally Carter covers the main points of the bill and the controversy surrounding its passage in this week’s podcast, whereas I’ve been looking at some of the less sensational aspects of the bill.  An article in Nature News highlights all the changes for biomedical researchers included in the healthcare bill, such as a new NIH grant for translational research and an increase in the duration of patents for high tech biologic drugs.

New England Journal of Medicine has just published an interesting article on how the internet has changed the doctor-patient relationship.  “Information traditionally flowed from doctor to patient,” say the authors, “the internet has upended that scenario.”  The article highlights the problem of patients turning to the internet at the slightest sign of ill health – cyberchondria – and how doctors also are using search engines and more reliable primary source data to make diagnoses.

Sally Carter, technical editor:
I’d read a lot about Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly before I picked the book up. The story surrounding the process of its writing seemed so amazing I didn’t think the book could be as good. I was wrong. Bauby, the editor of French Elle magazine had a stroke and woke from a coma with locked in syndrome, unable to move anything but his left eyelid. He wrote the book in 200 000 blinks with a transcriber reciting the alphabet until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. He died two days after the book was first published. Not surprisingly, it’s a short book in which Bauby described his life before and after his stroke.

“My hands, lying curled on the yellow sheets, are hurting, although I can’t tell if they are burning hot or ice cold. To fight off stiffness, I instinctively stretch, my arms and legs moving only a fraction of an inch. It is often enough to bring relief to a painful limb.

My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court.”

His body let him down, but that didn’t stop him living and imagining and feeling. It’s beautiful.