Tag Archives: vancouver

Patients’ ‘leap of faith’ make stories possible, prompt changes

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Pamela Fayerman of The Vancouver Sun has been writing about a genetic counselor who has been “relieved of her duties” at the BC Cancer Agency, part of the Provincial Health Services Authority, for allegedly failing to document cases.

Part of the counselor’s duties included making arrangements for genetic testing for people who fit the criteria for having a predisposition to cancer. But patients told Fayerman that “tardiness and lack of communication was part of a disturbing pattern” that led to the personnel action.

Fayerman, through one woman’s story, explains how the delays and lack of communication have affected patients and their families and the decisions they have made while waiting for testing. In the case of one patient:

If she had received results of genetic testing right after being diagnosed, she said, she would have been in a better position to make a decision about having her breasts removed or whether a lumpectomy (which she had) was sufficient. And her other organs might have been spared from damage due to chemotherapy treatment, she says. In addition, she would know sooner about whether her daughter faces an increased risk of breast cancer.

In a blog post, Fayerman says the stories wouldn’t have happened if patients had not called her to tell her their stories. She discusses the “leap of faith” such sources must make and how she handles patients who decide to step forward and share their stories publicly.

Antipsychotic use booms among Canadian kids

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Writing for The Vancouver Sun and Postmedia News, Sharon Kirkey and Pamela Fayerman, report that, in an environment where the rate at which physicians are recommending certain antipsychotics for children has doubled since 2006, a local children’s hospital has launched what the reporters call “the world’s first clinic to help children cope with the side effects of such medications.

The clinic, which helps children and their parents prepare for antipsychotic use or cope with its side effects, opened in April and has a four-week waiting list.

(Dr. Jana Davidson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who helped establish the specialized clinic) said she helped create the clinic because of her increasing alarm over the side effects of treatment in her patients. While she believes the medications are sometimes prescribed inappropriately, they are often useful for a range of disorders including severe aggression, mania in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But the side effects can be serious.

“I would see kids with psychosis in the emergency department and then I would see them again 10 months later and they would be 30 to 50 pounds heavier,” she said.

Despite sometimes serious neurological side effects, more Canadian families are turning to the drugs and antipsychotic drug recommendations for youth jumped 114 percent in Canada from 2005 to 2009.

The drugs — which have not been approved in Canada for use in children under 18 — are being used for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, irritability related to autism, mood disorders, physical or verbal aggression and other behavioural problems.