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Copyright (c) 2009 Nat'l Legal Center for Medically Dependent & Disabled, Inc.
Issues in Law & Medicine

VERBATIM: Other People's Lives: Reflections on Medicine, Ethics, and Euthanasia

Fall, 2009

Issues In Law & Medicine

25 Issues L. & Med. 169


Richard Fenigsen, M.D., Ph.D. *


Part One: In Defense of Medicine

Chapter XIII. Farewell to Clinical Medicine?

My Left Kidney. I recently complained of pain in my left side; it appeared during a urinary infection, and recurred four months later. I examined myself as well as I could, and told my HMO internist that I had palpated the lower pole of my left kidney, that it was tender, and that squeezing the organ reproduced my complaint. I was not really worried, that is, didn't think of a tumor; if the pain were due to a tumor, why should it appear during a urinary infection, or disappear for several months? I rather thought of a cyst, or an impairment of the outflow of urine with, as a result, hydronephrosis, that is, overfilling of the kidney's urine-collecting spaces, distending the organ. I asked the doctor if he would consider examining the kidney with ultrasound. I told him that I duly identified the kidney by its rounded, slightly flattened shape, resiliency, "ballottement" between the two palpating hands, and typical mobility with respiration.

The doctor gave me a long look, as if I were telling him I was seeing ghosts. Then he patiently explained to me that "palpation of kidneys was a method of low sensitivity"; that what I had felt could have been the colon, or anything else; and that the kidney, being situated outside the peritoneal cavity, could not move with respiration.

All these explanations were complete rubbish. When ...
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