What I'm Reading (Nov. 17)

What’s the deal with near-death experiences
Giving back “tainted” money can be more complex than it seems
In the rush to make medical records transparent, have we only succeeded in making them more opaque?

For any of you who follow my other writings, my reading this article is a no-brainer.

“The idea that near-death experiences, also known as NDEs, offer proof of an afterlife for the soul has been remarkably persistent, despite an accumulation of scientific evidence to the contrary. Such claims have existed in the historical record since at least Plato’s time; the earliest known account of near-death experiences appeared in the fifth century B.C. But they weren’t widely popularized until the 1970s, when American physician and philosopher Raymond Moody published his best-seller Life After Life, based on his collection of 150 coma survivor’s reports.

Many studies and books that bear witness to life after life have sprung up since Moody’s book, none more notorious than Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, a New York Times bestseller in 2012, by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander. Increasingly, these supernatural claims have taken on a scientific veneer.”

From Nautil.us, The Afterlife Is in Our Heads

“Charities face a dilemma when donors become an embarrassment. They need to decide whether to keep the money given by the now-tarnished donor or return the tainted funds.

But returning that money just because the donor’s reputation is now sullied may get the charity receiving the funds into trouble with state regulators. Further, the charity may not simply rebrand the program, building or fund bearing the donor’s name when that philanthropist becomes controversial.”

Ah, tainted money. I’ve pondered both how to address tainted money and how many years or generations that taint may last as part of my interest in how people, events, and institutions require an asterisk – like when Will Smith applied for one when slapping Chris Rock. This piece from the Conversation looks at some of the legal problems tainted money may cause. 

From the Conversation, Renaming California’s Hastings law school sparks $1.7 billion legal fight that shows how hard it is to ditch donors’ names

Open Notes is a federal requirement of medical records to have the notes, laboratory, and imaging findings immediately available to patients. It increases transparency, but at what cost? The law has been in effect for the last year, but only some patients have taken advantage of it because few know of its availability. It has altered how and what physicians write in their notes – not necessarily for the better; there remains a great deal of cutting and pasting from prior notes.

“Open notes are only part of this conversation. The new law also requires that test results be made immediately available to patients, meaning that patients might see their health information before their physician does. Although this is fine for the majority of tests, problems arise when results are harbingers of more complex, or just bad, news. Doctors I spoke with shared that some of their patients have suffered trauma from learning about their melanoma or pancreatic cancer or their child’s leukemia from an electronic message in the middle of the night, with no doctor to call and talk through the seriousness of that result with.”

Patient advocates bemoan that patients are not taking advantage of this wealth of new information, but information without a clinician's knowledge means very little. From The Atlantic, Do You Really Want to Read What Your Doctor Writes About You?