Curbside Consultation

This department addresses legal, psychological, and ethical issues physicians may encounter in their day-to-day practice. Each article contains a brief case scenario, followed by a commentary section written by a consultant who responds to the particular issue addressed in the scenario.

Jan 1, 2018 Issue
Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting
FGM/C involves partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons. It is considered a human rights violation. It has no known health benefits, but many reported harmful consequences.

Nov 1, 2017 Issue
Tapering Patients Off of Benzodiazepines
When prescribed at a low dosage for a short time (fewer than 30 days), benzodiazepines can effectively treat generalized and social anxiety, panic disorder, and sleep disorders. Long-term use for anxiety and sleep disorders is not supported by research because it is associated with the development of physiologic and psychological dependence characterized by tolerance, withdrawal, and reluctance to reduce or discontinue use despite the objective lack of effectiveness.

Oct 15, 2017 Issue
Social Media Use and Mood Disorders: When Is It Time to Unplug?
Americans spend more time on Facebook, the world's largest online social network, than any other website. On the surface, social media networks provide an “invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection.” However, rather than enhancing well-being by fulfilling communication needs that are deeply human, current research suggests that these online platforms may actually undermine it.

Aug 1, 2017 Issue
Patients with Disabilities: Avoiding Unconscious Bias When Discussing Goals of Care
False assumptions about patients' quality of life can affect prognosis, the treatment options that we present, and the types of referrals that we offer. In this case, the physician equated complex disability with terminal illness.

May 15, 2017 Issue
Providing Trauma-Informed Care
Family physicians commonly care for survivors of trauma, but they may not always realize it. Trauma, which can affect any patient regardless of age or sex, is broadly defined as the experience of violence or victimization, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, loss, domestic violence or the witnessing of violence, and terrorism or disasters.

Mar 15, 2017 Issue
Palliative Care Through Illness Trajectory
Persons with multimorbidity often have unmet multidimensional needs related to their health. For example, Y.S. may also be experiencing poorly controlled symptoms, financial distress, and increasing anxiety. His family is likely distressed by his decline in health and unsure about what to expect next. Palliative care specialists employ a systematic approach to evaluating unmet needs across a range of physical, mental, social, and existential and spiritual dimensions, and then develop care plans that explicitly reflect patients' goals for their health.

Jan 15, 2017 Issue
Taking Care of Disadvantaged Patients
No single person can be responsible for the health of a population. However, there are a number of strategies for taking care of members of disadvantaged populations. These range from targeted compassion and interventions for the individual patient to broad advocacy for disadvantaged groups.

Nov 1, 2016 Issue
Pet Therapy: Enhancing Patient Care Through Time with Animals
A 16-year-old girl and her parents presented to my office for her wellness evaluation. The patient has generalized anxiety disorder with comorbid major depression, for which she has been prescribed a serotonergic antidepressant. She is a high school student, lives with her parents, and is currently preparing college applications. She has occasional headaches and disturbed sleep. She takes daily three-mile walks and plays on her school tennis team, both of which help relieve her anxiety symptoms. The therapist she sees once a week has suggested enrollment in a therapeutic foster dog walking program to help further relieve her anxiety symptoms.

Sep 15, 2016 Issue
Helping Pregnant Women Keep Their Jobs
At 7.5 months pregnant, my patient found herself increasingly uncomfortable at work. Her varicose veins ached from standing on the job, where she was required to work a cash register and walk prescriptions from the pharmacy to the checkout area. I wrote a note to her boss explaining that she was pregnant and needed light-duty work for the duration of her pregnancy. Her employer's human resources department told her that there were no available alternative positions, and that she did not meet the eligibility criteria for leave as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Jul 15, 2016 Issue
Caring for Patients with Job Insecurity Who Are Experiencing Chronic Work-Related Pain
In addition to providing direct medical care, the physician can help this patient by obtaining an occupational history, formulating hypotheses about the cause of the pain and potential interventions, and establishing a therapeutic relationship.

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