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Newtown – What’s Next? (Update)

The pain of this tragedy is almost unbearable. I have dealt with the issue of gun violence for more than 20 years. As a trauma surgeon, I have wallowed in this issue. I’ve seen gun violence from every angle. I’ve seen these weapons used for combat. I’ve seen these weapons used in self defense. I’ve seen these weapons used in anger. I’ve seen these weapons accidentally discharged, maiming or killing a loved one. I’ve even seen an unfortunate gentleman accidentally shoot himself with a gun that was held together with duct tape as he was trying to kill dinner.

I think that the tragedy in Newtown brings up two very important questions. First of all, what can we do to address mental illness in the United States? Yes, I know we do not have a full picture of the gunmen. But, what we do know is that mental illness has played a huge role in the mass killings over the past several years. Secondly, a modified M-16 rifle was used to kill the majority of the victims. Would some sort of gun control measure fix this problem?

I think that addressing mental illness is critical. We desperately need more psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other people trained in helping patients with mental illness. Over the last 30 years, we’ve poorly address this problem. I simply don’t see this Congress standing up and pouring money into the mental health issue. I might be wrong. It is possible that Newtown has changed the politics, but I doubt it. I look for passionate speeches in the House and in the Senate. I just don’t see that much is going to get done on this issue.

On the issue of gun control, I think that we’ve reached a critical point in which something will get done. Unfortunate, I simply don’t see major changes. I see some sort of bill that will address assault weapons. There might be a second bill that would address Americans with mental illness owning or having access to weapons. I don’t look for this measure to be written very strongly.

Over the next several days, I think that the reaction of the American people will help to form legislation. If the anger, frustration and horror of Newtown fades into memory, then not much will get done on Capitol Hill. On the other hand, if the American people begin to channel their anger into pressuring Congress to do something, Congress will act. I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming days.

Update: Are you wondering what assault rifles you can buy at Wal-Mart? Here’s your answer. (You can buy hollow-point bullets at Wal-Mart also…in case you are wondering.)

By |2012-12-18T21:29:53-04:00December 18th, 2012|Domestic Issues, Mass Shooting|Comments Off on Newtown – What’s Next? (Update)

Mental Illness, up close and personal

A few people have posted this poignant story from the Internet. It is clearly worth a read:

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

By |2012-12-18T21:25:18-04:00December 18th, 2012|Healthcare|Comments Off on Mental Illness, up close and personal
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