Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Free curly fries: Hat trick of error

We're up to two corrections so far on this Personal Health column at the Nation's Newspaper of Record. Should we go for the hat trick?

Decades ago, I met a surprisingly quiet, withdrawn young man. Surprising because I knew his bright, vibrant wife and wondered what had attracted her to him. He barely participated in conversations even at friendly family gatherings.

Some years later, the same man seemed to have undergone a personality transplant. He was forthright and funny, intelligent and interesting. I asked a mutual friend what could have accounted for the apparent transformation.

The answer: surgical removal of his chronically inflamed colon to treat ulcerative colitis. Once free of painful abdominal cramps, persistent diarrhea, fatigue, nausea and the depression and anxiety that can accompany these symptoms, he came to life. Even having to cope with a colostomy bag did not dampen his newly awakened spirit.

Uh, no. If his colon was removed, he has an ileostomy, not a colostomy. (The operation is a colectomy or proctocolectomy.) The writer's pop-psych opinions are a little bizarre, but the site of the ostomy is a matter of anatomy, not opinion.

Regular readers may have noted the low opinion held in these parts of reader comments in general. It's worth noting that not only has one reader picked on the writer's characterization of surgery as "rather draconian," but another has already ("five days ago," as it's marked) pointed out the factual error. When can we pick up our curly fries?

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