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What We're Reading

Contributors: The Communications Team

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We’re back! This week we’ve picked funny, disturbing and thought-provoking pieces to be your conversation starters at Taylor. We recommend stories about unethical health practitioners, patient autonomy, humanitarian conflict and the odds of winning.  

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A Star Surgeon Left a Trail of Dead Patients—and His Whistleblowers Were Punished

Contributor Ramtin Hakimjavadi

This week, I come to you with a somewhat disturbing story of a star surgeon that abused his power and reputation to harm dozens of patients. Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a leading scientist in stem cell research, claimed that he was able to regenerate human windpipes by seeding plastic scaffolds with patient-specific stem cells. These synthetic trachea implants would be a miraculous breakthrough for people with breathing difficulties in theory. In practice, it turned out that  more than half of his patients ended up dying a slow and agonizing death. His motives at KI were not to help patients with no other option, but to basically conduct experimentation on living human subjects. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the story is the fact that the colleagues who discovered the surgeon’s horrific history were punished when they tried to report it. In fact, when evidence against Macchiarini was presented, higher ranking officials actively tried to sabotage and destroy the careers of the whistleblowers. Read the full story to see how lies, financial incentives and the desire to protect reputation can corrupt even those who have supposedly dedicated their lives to helping others.

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The Conflict in Yemen

Contributor Michelle Li

A photograph of a young emaciated seven year old girl named Amal Hussain from Yemen has raised awareness and discussion about the growing concerns in the war-torn country. Unfortunately, Amal is just one of the 1.8 million severely malnourished children in Yemen and the number of Yemen citizens that are relying on emergency rations might double in the near future, according to the United Nations. Some New York Times readers are hopeful that powerful images like the one of Amal can shed light on the war that is killing thousands of civilians with violence, hunger and disease.

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The Child Abuse Contrarian

Contributor Vivian Cheng

This piece looks at how a renowned doctor, Dr. Holick, uses controversial theories to offer explanations for cases of child abuse. In some cases, the parents won their case because of Dr. Holick. On the one hand, his exemplary resume lends much credibility to Dr. Holick as an expert witness. On the other, he often provides explanations for injuries without examining alleged victims, leading many to question his intentions. It’s an article that definitely gets you thinking about the rigours of scientific procedure and the merits of Dr. Holick’s methods.

What Happens When A Patient Denies Their Diagnosis

Contributor Vivian Cheng

This is an older piece (2011) that explores patient capacity in healthcare. The protagonist at the heart of this story is Linda Bishop, a schizophrenic patient who denies her diagnosis and refuses to take her medication. If you’re taking healthcare law, it’s a heartbreaking piece that complements the material about consent and decision-making. It also makes you you think about the philosophical underpinnings of paternalism and patient autonomy.

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McDonald’s Monopoly: A statistician explains the real odds of winning

Contributor Si-Cheng Dai

If you’re anything like me, then ordering McDonald’s on Uber Eats is a pretty recurrent phenomenon. You might have also noticed those peel-off tickets on your latest Big Mac or fries, signifying the ongoing Monopoly initiative — and your chance to win big. But what are the odds of winning? Statistician Michael Wallace is here to tell you. With probabilities ranging from one in 5.46 for simple meal add-ons to one in 16 066 918 for the $50 000 grand prize, there’s something for every dreamer.

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