Rectal temperature taking

Pain killers and Olympic athletes

fluid from membranes surrounding the fetus within the mother's uterus) will enable them to determine before birth whether future family members will be predisposed to having kidney cancer. While they admit that inheritance of this kind of cancer is rare and thus far only one affected family has been discovered, the doctors hypothesize that some- day similar techniques will enable them to find the seeds of other kinds of cancer in the unborn. Thus, once these "tainted" babies are identi- fied, abortion can be carried out.

I am particularly interested in this latest method of cancer prevention since my own university medical appointment is as Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine. I began to become somewhat concerned years ago when geneticists began practicing preventive medicine by identifying and aborting infants presumably affected with mongolism and Tay—Sachs disease, since mistakes occurred frequently enough so that normal babies were also destroyed.

I became even more concerned when some cancer surgeons proposed preventing breast cancer by performing bilateral mastectomies on healthy young women whose families had a history of breast cancer. And my alarm level became even higher recently when prestigious medical centers around the country began to abort fetuses of the "wrong" sex. Now, latest macabre achievement, aborting fetuses who may someday develop cancer, makes me suspect that the field of preventive medicine is now becoming one of the most dangerous specialties of modern medicine. As a matter of fact, the term "preventive medicine" is rapidly becoming a codeword for abortion. I used to think it was a good idea to tell your doctor as much as possible about your family history. But now, I'm not so sure.


From London comes a report that rectal measurement of a newborn's temperature is a dangerous and unnecessary practice. Drs. J. D. Frank and Susan M. Brown of the Hospital for Sick Children report that three infants suffered rectal perforations probably caused by the use of the rectal thermometer. Pediatric News (March 1980) says that l0 similar incidents of rectal perforation from thermometers have been reported since 1957 and death occurs in almost half the babies so afflicted. Axillary (armpit) temperature-taking is recommended, but perhaps the best solution is to ask if this routine every—four—hour procedure is a medical necessity or a medical ceremony.

Some of the most important medical news is found on the sports pages, particularly during Olympic competition. I know that sports writers try their best to present and interpret this medical news, but their prose usually leaves me with more questions than answers. Take the case of figure skater Randy Gardner who was forced to with- draw from the Winter Olympics (forfeiting his and his partner's chance of a gold medal) because of a groin injury. Gardner had suffered this trauma (a pulled adductor muscle high in the left thigh) two weeks before the competition. One of the major drugs used in his treatment was Xylocaine, a pain-killer like Procaine or Novocaine, which frequently is used in dental anesthesia.

Although this kind of numbing treatment is not all that unusual, particularly for star athletes, it always has seemed strange to me that a doctor would want to knock out the mechanism (i.e., pain and discom- fort) by which the body informs itself whether an injury is healing. And in the absence of pain, what is there to prevent an athlete, or indeed anyone suffering an injury, from returning to the arena, thus adding further insult to the original injury?