Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Topical treatment

Vasu Iyengar has been in the news recently for failing to diagnose a complication after surgery in time to stop it killing Moina Simcock. Vasu is busy hitting back, she is quoted on www.stuff.co.nz from a letter to the Health and Disability Commissioner: "I apologised to the Simcock family several times and did my very best to pay retribution ... It was not enough for any of you". Then as more complaints come to light Vasu is quoted saying to the Dominion Post: "patients will say these things to get publicity in the wake of what I have endured."

I find it offensive that she appears to think that apologies and a payment might be "enough" and that she is undermining all her patients' credibility. (Although I do realise that these quotes may have been deliberately selected to make her look bad.)

Vasu Iyengar was my gynaecologist until she:
a) diagnosed an incurable condition missing that I actually had eczema (optional gynaecological detail),
b) referred me to the person who specialises in that condition in Wellington without telling me that the person's role was as a counsellor,
c) wanted to treat my PCOS following a recipe that ignored my particular symptoms.
Thanks to Vasu I endured months of unnecessary discomfort. I would not recommend her to anyone.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Do not try this at home

Warning: the following post may put you off your food.

Every morning this week I have taken dried apricots out of the container and put them in H & K's lunch boxes. Some mornings I've eaten some too. This morning I put in three apricots, picked up the fourth "ready to eat" "moist & juicy" apricot and noticed it had a brown think on it. "Stalk," I thought. Then I looked closer... and closer... and said to D, remarkably calmly as I took the first three apricots, out of the school lunches "Can you come and look at this and see if you think it is what I think it is?"

There, nestled in the fourth apricot, was a moist and juicy rat poo. I used to have rats so I know a rat poo when I see one.

Fortunately I had a holiday job once as telephonist/receptionist for the Wellington Health Development Unit which at that time dealt with such complaints so I knew what to do. I put the apricot with poo in a clear plastic bag, found the packet the apricots came in and rang the Public Health Service. They came and collected the evidence this afternoon.

The apricots were imported ones packed in New Zealand. Is it strange to be hoping that it was a New Zealand rat poo? Somehow it seems slightly less disgusting than an overseas one importing who knows what foreign diseases.

I am thankful to my morbid sense of humour which is helping me enjoy the sheer awfulness of finding a ready to eat poo.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You can't make me talk

New Scientist published an interview with, Darius Rejali, a researcher who studies torture which got me thinking. The preview of the interview is on the New Scientist site, the full article is on a blog over here.

The bits which particularly grabbed me were:

Where do [methods for clean torture] come from?

The techniques migrate. Every time Americans have been involved in a war where there has been torture, those techniques have come back to local or private policing, since that is where military policemen get jobs. There is migration the other way too: techniques used by US military policemen in Iraq had been recorded in immigration and naturalisation prisons in Miami in the 1990s. Most often, torture techniques originate not in some deep vault in the CIA but in dark parts of our society where they are tolerated. They live in barracks and fraternities and university pranks and movies. Hence most torture is not sophisticated: electricity is about as sophisticated as it gets.


How often do interrogators obtain useful information or truthful confessions using torture?

The few statistical studies on this suggest the return is incredibly poor. There are several reasons. How do you know you have the right person? And even if you do, how do you know they're telling the truth? Third, torture can damage the brain, and anything that affects the brain's capacity to withhold information also affects its capacity to retrieve it.

If it doesn't work, why does it persist?

Myths and rumours. There is a perception that democracy makes us weak and only "real men" know how to do this stuff. People think torture worked for the Gestapo, for example. It didn't. What made the Gestapo so scarily efficient was its dependence on public cooperation. Informers betrayed the resistance repeatedly in Europe, and everyone knew this, but it was more convenient to say the Gestapo got the truth by beating it out of us. Public cooperation is the best way to gather information. After the failed bomb attacks in London in 2005, the British police found every one of the gang within a week. One was caught after his parents turned him in. They would not have done that if they'd thought he'd be tortured.

This left me thinking about how torture is portrayed and propagated by the movies and TV shows that I watch. 24, for example, actively propagates the myth that torture works. What can I do about that? Not much. I don't write movies, books or TV shows that propagate the myth that torture works but I do roleplay and I've been thinking what the implications of the article are for that. Maybe I should campaign for an effective torture free Kapcon. What do you think?