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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Joseph I. Sirven, MD, and Joseph F. Drazkowski, MD, neurologists at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, led a recent study in partnership with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University (ASU) to determine how well medical risks and treatment advances for neurologic conditions are conveyed in US newspaper articles.

Joseph I. Sirven, MD, and Joseph F. Drazkowski, MD, neurologists at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, led a recent study in partnership with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University (ASU) to determine how well medical risks and treatment advances for neurologic conditions are conveyed in US newspaper articles.1 Their findings reveal that coverage of neurologic disorders does not always correlate with the prevalence of the disorders and that more collaboration is needed between journalists and neurologists to better educate the public.

Since its 1999 appearance in New York, West Nile virus (WNV) has spread relentlessly westward each year, opening up new fronts in the Midwest and the mountain states until pummeling California in the summer of 2004. The flavivirus, which is spread primarily by mosquitos, affects a variety of animals, including humans, horses, and nearly 300 bird species. As of October 15, 2004, about 940,000 Americans had been infected, of whom 190,000 became ill and 6790 developed WNV's most feared complications: neuroinvasive disease, including meningitis, encephalitis, and acute flaccid paralysis.1

"No longer a pipe dream," is the suggestive lead-in of a widely distributed press release issued last October touting the potential benefits of cannabinoid compounds in the treatment of Parkinson disease (PD), Lou Gehrig disease-or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-and a number of other debilitating conditions, as reported during last fall's 2004 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. According to Daniele Piomelli, PhD, an expert in cannabinoid research and professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, certain cannabinoid compounds can be harnessed to "provide select benefits to patients while avoiding some of the unwanted effects" associated with marijuana use. Compounds of greatest interest have been WIN 55212-2, delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and anandamide.

Dr. Cummings, the originator of Psychiatric Times' "Brain and Behavior" column, looks back over his career in neurology. Looking forward, he predicts that psychiatry and neurology will become ever-more intertwined.

Euthanasia is a word coined from Greek in the 17th century to refer to an easy, painless, happy death. In modern times, however, it has come to mean a physician's causing a patient's death by injection of a lethal dose of medication. In physician-assisted suicide, the physician prescribes the lethal dose, knowing the patient intends to end their life.

According to a survey done in 1999, 54% of Oregon's psychiatrists and 75% of the state's psychologists supported physician-assisted suicide, whereas between 20% and 33% of all health care professionals opposed it. The debate continues, as the federal government is trying to take away prescribing privileges for physicians who prescribe life-ending medications.

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