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Our Body, Our Selves (Part 1)

When we talk about healthcare, we spend a lot of time talking about individuals—patient's rights, privacy, the doctor-patient relationship. Of course, it is as individuals that we experience our illnesses and our encounters with doctors. But medicine is by its nature a matter of populations. The meaningful relationship to discuss is not doctor and patient but medical professionals and the populations they treat—and the institutions in which they all live and work. No disease is cured by individuals or for an individual. They are cured by teams, often collaborating (and competing) across generations. They are cured for populations, whose odds improve as knowledge of the disease and its cure disseminates across the profession and roots itself in curriculum and practice.

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My 21st-Century Social Science

I have spent much time over the last year trying to understand why social media so often leaves me despondent. Only very rarely, after all, are there moments when individuals on my feeds "act out" in a way that is personally distressing to me, and I am extremely grateful that I myself have acted badly on these platforms only a few times (I am especially grateful to all my friends of social media for forgiving me my trespasses). For the most part my feeds are overwhelmingly dominated by good and funny people sharing stories of their everyday triumphs and struggles, baby and puppy pictures, news stories about outrageous (and, more rarely, heroic) people and institutions—and (since my feeds are overwhelmingly dominated by creative and talented people) works-in-progress. These are all things I deeply enjoy, shared by people I care about and admire.

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Selling It

In opposition to the push for greater and more equal access to health care—which means more affordable health care—lobbyists and conservative commentators have constructed the fantasy that patients are the ones responsible for the high cost of medicine in the U.S. If we became "better consumers" of our health care, they insist, making the same kind of informed economic decisions we make in other aspects of our lives, then price competition will drive down prices. As one health care "think tanker," Merrill Matthews, recently put it in Forbes "liberals ... are convinced that people are too stupid to make good decisions." By his logic, a single-payer health plan is the height of nanny-state condescension, while free market capitalism is an arena where consumers can exercise free choice to make informed decisions about their health care.

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The Anti-Facters

“You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump ... it looks just like it’s meant for a horse," Donald Trump said of vaccines last night. "We’ve had so many instances ... a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic." With two doctors on the stage at the second Republican debate, one might have hoped for a clear response to Trump's third-favorite hobbyhorse (behind his fear of immigrants and his increasingly undisguised loathing of women). But no. Both punted, afraid of contradicting any hysterical belief embraced by one of their voters—no matter how irrational and destructive.

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Other Voices, Other Rooms

I always imagined that it was my lifetime of poor health that left me so alienated from my body, living instead fully in my anxious and loquacious mind. But now, in the midst of my most profound period illness, I find I have taken on a new intimacy with my body.

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