Sick Notes

PORTLAND, OREGON: A jury found a urologist guilty of malpractice, and awarded a patient $900,000 damages, in a suit in which a car salesman had claimed that his doctor had kept him addicted to painkillers in order to get free tune-ups, tyres and petrol. Larry Benson said that he had endured 15 years of virtual servitude, beginning when he was a general store manager and Dr David Rosencrantz used drugs as bait to get free pizzas, cans of soda and pieces of cheese.

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TUCSON, ARIZONA: According to a report in New Scientist, researchers at the University of Arizona have found that toilet seats are the cleanest places in the house. Over 30 weeks, samples of bacteria were taken from 14 sites in the kitchens and lavatories of 15 homes, and analysis showed that toilet seats were the most germ-free. Kitchen chopping-boards had three times as many bacteria as toilet seats, and dishcloths had a million times as many.

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BOSTON: ACCORDING to a paper in the current New England Journal of Medicine, research at the University of Maryland suggests that Alexander the Great may not have died from poisoning or malaria, as had previously been thought, but from typhoid fever.

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BRAZIL: JOSE Serra, the Brazilian Minister of Health, had to interrupt a news conference on Tuesday because he was feeling unwell.

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INDIA: MEMBERS of the Bathini Goud family in Hyderabad last week performed an astrological ritual dating back to 1845 which involves stuffing medicine inside a small live fish and thrusting it into people's mouths. Two hundred and fifty members of the clan administered the medicine - which is believed to cure asthma and respiratory ailments - to an estimated 350,000-400,000 people. The medicine is free, but the huge demand led to an increase in the price of the fish from 10 rupees to 60 rupees.

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ISRAEL: A parliamentary science committee of the Israeli parliament faces considerable embarrassment following the disappearance, at a meeting last week, of four Viagra anti-impotence pills. Doctors and other experts had been called before the committee to advise on the safety of the pill, but as the meeting came to an end, it was noticed that half the pills an impotence specialist had brought with him had disappeared. Later, the empty box the pills had been in was also found to have gone missing.

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SCOTLAND: ACCORDING to a report in the magazine Poultry World, an "enhanced egg" bred by researchers at the Scottish Agricultural College in Ayr is "so healthy for you, it is verging on the medicinal". The super-egg was produced by enhancing the diet of hens. It is said to contain the equivalent of 64p-worth of health supplement capsules.

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CALIFORNIA: ACCORDING to an AP report on alcohol research at the University of California: "... fruit flies act remarkably like humans on a bender. They become hyperactive and unco-ordinated, buzzing about erratically. After a few minutes, they fall into a dazed stupor and then pass out." The research has identified one type of genetically modified fruit fly, known as "cheapdate" which gets drunk more quickly than others. This result may have profound implications on theories of drunkenness in human beings.

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