Monthly Archives: May 2017

Book Review – Madness and Memory

On the eve of AS exams, I have just finished reading ‘Madness and Memory’ by Stanley B. Prisoner, M.D. It is a book I found when researching for my EPQ and bought back in February, however because of its scientific content, it has taken me a while to get my head around and work through.

Despite this however, I have found it an incredibly interesting book, which appealed to both my love of science and medicine. It is written almost like a diary, a documentation of the events which led to the discovery of prions but explained for those without a science degree (definitely aiding my understanding a huge amount!) making it much more of an easy read.

To me this book highlighted the sheer amount of dedication which goes into research, not something I aspire to do but definitely something I respect. It reflects the skepticisms of new ideas and the rivalries between scientists in bucketloads – a perfect balance of drama and science. The transformation of an unconventional hypothesis – that of protein only (prion) diseases – into what I think is one of the greatest discoveries since the DNA double helix.

I would recommend this book to any budding medical professional or scientist not only because of the way it is written but largely down to its content. Prions are incredibly interesting diseases, and further discoveries could help unravel the unknown about brain diseases – mad cow, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s. The debate about the origins of such diseases is what I intend to focus my EPQ on, are they due to cannibalism, food supplements or BSE infected beef? This book has certainly succeeded in piquing my interest in the topic further, and I can’t wait to pick my research up again in a months time, after my exams.

The amazon link to ‘Madness and Memory’ is: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Madness-Memory-Discovery-Prions-Biological-Principle-Disease/0300216904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494614063&sr=8-1&keywords=madness+and+memory

Ian Patterson – playing God?

As an aspiring medic, it has been impossible to ignore the news this week. In fact, I was trying to drag my way through an uninspiring gym session having forgotten my headphones when this news story caught my eye. Ian Patterson was a name I hadn’t heard of before last week, yet he is now a person I just cannot seem to fathom.

Ian Patterson is a breast cancer surgeon, meeting people, often young women, when they are scared and vulnerable. He has carried out unnecessary operations on 10 known patients [1] however the exact number of his victims could be in the thousands, leaving them feeling both mutilated and violated. The crown court stated that he carried out ‘extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason” [1].

As despicable as this is, the real question I cannot be alone in asking is how did this go on for so long? The first of these ten patients was operated on in 1997 [1] and concerns have been raised since. Ian Patterson worked in the private healthcare system, and if any positives can come from this hugely negative situation it is that issues which need to be address have become evident. Restrictions and regulations must now come as a result of this medical crisis, helping to protect those across the healthcare system – including the private sector.

A doctor has a huge amount of responsibility, and a worried or anxious patient can easily believe everything that comes out of a healthcare professional’s mouth. I hope that this incident does not prevent patients trusting their doctors and nurses, but that it does stimulate the necessary questions to be asked. I hope the NHS and other organisations act quickly to help improve protocol, as a situation like this can never happen again.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/28/ian-paterson-the-likable-breast-surgeon-who-wounded-his-patients

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/28/ian-paterson-charmed-patients-scrimping-treatments-funding-luxury/