Winter is Coming

I always thought Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was a myth, an excuse people used for hating winter with a passion. Even the acronym SAD takes away from the seriousness of the condition, almost making it sound fabricated.

However, ever since a close friend of mine has admitted to being diagnosed with it, I have decided to overcome my ignorance and try and understand it further.


The Rising Threat of Superbugs

Antimicrobial resistance is an ongoing threat to the treatment of viral, bacterial and fungal infections. While relatively unknown in the early stages of antimicrobial treatment, it soon emerged, posing the threat of rendering common drugs ineffective.

Most worrying is that trends in antimicrobial resistance are very widespread, threatening medical treatment on an global scale. Although the process of microbes developing resistance to drugs is natural – it is an example of natural selection – we can take more steps to slow the rate of resistance development.

The WHO have suggested regulating infection control procedures, lowering the chance of microbes being exposed to drugs and therefore developing resistance. Similarly, they suggest monitoring the prescription of drugs, as their misuse can speed up the process.

Antibacterial drugs in the UK are in a similar position; tighter regulations on prescriptions at the forefront, alongside campaigns raising awareness about the importance of seeing a course of antibiotics through to completion.

Hopefully, with a more vigilant approach, we can keep the emergence of new strains of superbugs at bay.


Theranos: Medical Revolution or PR Hype?

As a follow up to my last post, I decided to do more research into the actual technology that Theranos has used to innovate blood tests. The fact that it is impossible to find any conclusive data about the actual ins and outs of Theranos’ working process is the very reason why many are suspicious of its claims. It’s hard not to notice the irony in an ambiguous company that values transparency above all.

Elizabeth Holmes, the original brain behind the company, claims that the company has received FDA approval for its blood test technology. What she fails to mention is that Theranos has only been granted approval for one of its fifty blood tests: the herpes simplex 1. While this is undoubtedly an superb feat, her giant overstatement leaves a slight sour taste. The fact that the other forty nine have yet to be approved extends the realistic time scale of the tests’ wide scale delivery, and perhaps even questions their viability.

Until more details are revealed, it is impossible to say that blood tests have been revolutionised. Oh, except herpes simplex 1. Did you hear they can do that with just a single drop of blood now?


The Future of Medical Diagnosis

Blood tests are the key indicator of a patient’s health on a biochemical level. They detect illnesses from haemophilia to COPD, test the functioning of organs, confirm the presence of a bacterial/viral illness and are even used in genetic screening.

Theranos, a company started by Stanford University dropout Elizabeth Holmes, is revolutionising diagnostics. Currently blood test prices in the US are through the roof, with everyone from private hospitals to insurance companies affecting  patients’ right to accessible information about their bodies. Not only are they expensive, but vials of blood are required, making the process long and inefficient. The answer? Theranos.

Theranos claims to be able to offer up to fifty blood tests using just a drop of blood, drawn by a single pinprick. Transparency is at the heart of the company, along with fairness and equality when it comes to healthcare. The website already offers an extensive list of blood tests available, accompanied by the astonishingly low prices, undercutting regular phlebotomy tests by a tenth to a quarter. Holmes is definitely one to watch as she expands her company and creates the future of medical diagnostics.


The Daily Mile

A school in Scotland has introduced a compulsory scheme forcing children to run or walk a mile a day. St Ninian’s Primary School’s ‘Daily Mile’ scheme takes just fifteen minutes out of lesson time; a small price to pay for improving pupils’ fitness. Some children have started to notice the effect not only on their general fitness, but also their emotional wellbeing. Children say ‘it gives them time to think’, and that they go back to lessons refreshed and full of new ideas. This appears to be an effective way of tackling childhood obesity; St Ninians School is certainly one to watch as it paves the way for other schools to prioritise the health of their pupils.


Childhood Obesity

Obesity has definitely grown to be a problem in developing countries as our lifestyles become more sedentary and junk food becomes more available. It is well known that being overweight has links to a range of different health issues such as diabetes, arthiritis, etc which all take their toll on the NHS. But what is being done to reduce the nation’s obesity levels?

In order to have a healthy future generation, the young and impressionable must be taught how to have a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, childhood obesity levels appear as if they are plateauing. This is probably due to increased education in schools about the benefits of having a balanced diet and increasing awareness of the dangers of being very overweight.

Physical education is compulsory in all schools, forcing children to get their hearts racing for at least an hour a week. But what if the government brought in legislation requiring children to participate in teacher-supervised exercise on a daily basis? Instilling the importance of daily exercise in young children will be extremely beneficial to them in the future. Many children do not have the time or support at home to exercise for the daily recommendation of half an hour, bringing the responsibility to schools. Schools in China follow this structure, with benefits to not only the children’s health, but also their level of self-discipline. Is it time for healthier, more disciplined British children?


Freedom of Choice

Since my last post on assisted dying, the decision has been made resulting in a torn nation. Although the bill was rejected, many have been left wishing for a different result.

I myself have always been subconsciously against assisted dying for the mere reason that once it becomes legalised, vulnerable will be pushed down the slippery slope by societal pressure. So I did a bit of research to explore the impact legalising assisted dying has had on countries that have already taken the plunge.

Active, voluntary euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002. This is where anyone who is suffering pain (under a number of specific conditions) can ask a doctor to prescribe and administer a lethal drug. This is not limited to patients suffering from terminal illness, thereby introducing a very grey area. Statistics show that the number of mentally ill patients who sought euthanasia treatment trebled in 2013 from the previous year. The number of patients who are choosing to die through this treatment is steadily on the rise as numbers have doubled since its legalisation.

Switzerland doesn’t allow active, voluntary euthanasia but has legalised some forms of assisted suicide and passive euthanasia. However, figures show that assisted deaths have been up by 700% in the eleven years.

Death is a tricky topic that instils fear in a lot of people. Uttering the words ‘I want to die’ is considered dirty, resulting in people feeling uncomfortable about speaking about it further. Death is a natural part of the life cycle. Although we don’t have any choice as to when we begin life, choosing when to end life is something many are in favouring of choosing.

Assisted suicide is all about choice and power. Keeping it illegal allows the power to remain firmly in the government’s hands, leaving the ones who suffer utterly helpless.

I think it is wrong for us as a nation to rob the freedom of those who suffer from debilitating terminal illness. Choosing when their death will be is one of the only things they will be able to determine themselves. We should respect their freedom of choice, and allow them the autonomy of deciding their own future.