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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(12):1762


Hindu priests in Bihar, an impoverished state in India, are blessing children with polio vaccine drops instead of holy water to help eradicate polio. Eleven cases of polio, which is also prevalent in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan, were reported in early 2007 in Bihar; more than 650 cases were reported across India the year before. The priests, who call the drops “god's blessings,” have been trained by Indian health officials to administer the polio drops to immunize children. Officials believe involving the temple priests is a good idea because residents trust that the priests cannot do them harm. (Reuters, April 18, 2007)


According to a survey published by the European Commission, per capita alcohol consumption is higher in Europe compared with the rest of the world. Although 10 percent of Europeans report that they drink five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting, Ireland has the highest percentage of people who binge drink (i.e., consume three or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting). Thirty-six percent of Irish citizens said they have three or four drinks in one sitting, and 34 percent said they consume five or more drinks in one sitting. Additionally, 37 percent of those in Ireland who drink five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting do so once a week; 17 percent binge drink several times a week. (Eurobarometer, March 2007)


According to study results published in Archives of General Psychiatry, torture that doesn't involve physical pain may cause as much trauma and mental suffering as physical torture. Researchers interviewed 279 survivors of torture from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Republic of Srpska, and Croatia. Each person rated different forms of torture; ratings for 16 of the psychological stressors (e.g., forced nudity, threats of rape, sham executions, witnessing the torture of others) matched the physical abuse ratings. More than 75 percent of the survivors had experienced torture-related post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives; 17 percent were currently depressed; and 17.4 percent had major depression in the past. Although the U.S. Justice Department has argued that mental pain and suffering should be excluded from the definition of torture, the authors note that a broader definition based on empiric evidence and scientific formulations of traumatic stress is needed. (Arch Gen Psychiatry, March 2007)


From 2003 to 2006, the number of organ donations more than doubled, partly because of an approach known as “donation after cardiac death,” which was the standard for pronouncing death before the early 1970s. Many experts are concerned that doctors and families may be pressured to end treatment prematurely or that surgeons may be removing organs before the patient is legally dead. The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine concluded that the procedure is ethical if surgeons wait at least five minutes after the patient's heart stops to harvest the organs. Although most doctors wait five minutes, some wait only two to three minutes; in the case of infants, some surgeons wait only 75 seconds to ensure the organs are still usable. The United Network for Organ Sharing and The Joint Commission are requiring all hospitals to decide whether to allow the practice. (Washington Post, March 18, 2007)


Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology may confirm that tanning under ultraviolet light is addictive. Of 385 college students who participated in the study, 76 percent of the women and 59 percent of the men reported purposely tanning their skin. Using a modified CAGE questionnaire, researchers asked the students questions about their personal views on tanning. Eighteen percent of the participants who regularly tanned outdoors and 28 percent who tanned indoors scored positively on the CAGE questions. Furthermore, 41 percent of students who tanned did so to relax, and those with a known family history of skin cancer were significantly more likely to tan than those without a known family history. The authors note that these results indicate the possible existence of a substance-related disorder with respect to ultraviolet light. (J Am Acad Dermatol, March 2007)

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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