Man Bites Crocodile

Man they breed them tough in Australia’s Northern Territory. Tough like the territory they live in. It’s an area known for cyclones, tropical temperatures and hazardous critters like crocodiles. I am talking heaps and heaps of crocodiles.

Usually it’s the fatal attacks that make the news. Sometimes Territorians, but usually out of towners full of mad sauce who go swimming in a creek or river, even though there are signs warning of the danger. Salt-water crocodiles are nature’s apex predators. They are opportunistic and will stalk their prey, watching and waiting for the right time to strike. Why you would want to take them on, or think you can, has always been a source of great consternation to me. They will eat a human being just as easily as they eat any other prey. I’d like to think we are the smarter species and don’t give them that chance. But plenty of people have proved me wrong over the years .

So, when you hear the tables were turned it makes you sit up and take notice. It happened when a 20-year-old man was hunting geese in wetlands near a remote community in the NT. What he didn’t know, lurking under the water was a two-meter saltwater crocodile. A man-eater hunting him. And knowing crocs as I do, he would have watched that young man for some time. Watching and waiting for his opportunity. It’s was not long before it presented itself.

The man waded into the water to recover a goose he had shot. Talk about wading out of his comfort zone and into the crocs. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Talk about dinner on a plate. This croc was spoiled for choice. Start with the appetizer or the main course? Choices, choices. So many choices. No surprise which one, out of the two sets of prey, that big, old croc decided to go for.

According to the local policeman, the crocodile launched at the young man grabbing him by the arm, trying to pull him under water. That’s how crocs kill their prey. They drown them. But what the croc didn’t count on, he was attacking a true Northern Territorian. Just think Crocodile Dundee only younger. The 20-year-old man fought back. He wrestled with the croc and was finally able to loosen its grasp. But the Territorian wasn’t done. He proceeded to poke the croc in the eye, which was the smart thing to do. The croc took off and the man returned to shore.

But like I said they breed them tough in the territory. He received first aid to stop the bleeding from fairly severe puncture wounds and driven on a Quad bike to the station homestead. He was then given what some might describe as real first aid in the form of an ice-cold can of beer. Come to think of it there might have been more than one can drunk by the man. When ambulance staff arrived he was ‘mildly intoxicated’. I mean, wouldn’t you be?

When they took a good look at him he had puncture wounds, tears and claw marks on his arm and back. The ambulance officers told the young man they would fly him to Darwin hospital for further treatment. But oh, no. Air ambulance flights are for sissies. He decided to make the journey of hundreds of kilometers by road.

He is now in hospital in a satisfactory condition. No doubt telling everyone about the one that got away. Meaning himself.

How Can You Get Cancer So Wrong?

I read something the other day I found quite challenging in a personal sense primarily because someone close to me is battling breast cancer. The question I am posing is this: Should a Doctor whose misdiagnosis causes the death of a patient, be named and shamed?

This ethical and moral question was prompted by a case in New Zealand where a doctor was forced to apologise to the family of a woman who died from breast cancer because he “forgot” to tell his patient she had the disease.

Here’s the backstory. The woman was successfully treated for cancer in 2003. In November 2009, six years later, she presents herself at a clinic complaining of pain in her left shoulder. Now at this point alarm bells should be ringing in any event. Breast cancer can make a comeback and the timeframe is usually within five or six years.

Her treating Doctor knew her medical history, knew she was a cancer survivor. He referred her for an x-ray and the specialist radiologist said it revealed a tendon tear that appeared “highly suggestive of metastasis”, or the spread of cancerous lesions.

As this point alarm bells should have stopped ringing and treatment begun immediately but that didn’t happen.

The GP saw the woman again several days later. He told her about the tendon tear and gave her a steroid injection, which the woman said was “excruciating”.

But crucially he did not mention the cancer link nor did he refer her to a cancer specialist.

She was told to return in a month if the pain persisted, which she did twice, before the doctor finally referred her to an orthopaedic surgeon.

The woman was correctly diagnosed with recurring breast cancer in February 2010, after she changed doctors. Despite several years of aggressive treatment, the woman died.

The case became the subject of a complaint to the New Zealand Health And Disability Commissioner.

The doctor told the inquiry he either overlooked or completely forgot about the radiologist’s comment in relation to a suspicious lesion.

The Health and Disability Commissioner criticised the GP for failing to read his own notes, ask the right questions, or reflect on his patient’s medical history when assessing her.

He said Doctors owe patients a duty of care in handling test results, including advising patients of the need to follow up on those results.

The GP was referred to the Director of Proceedings for possible legal action.

Clearly neither the patient, nor the Doctor nor the clinic or its location has been identified. I can completely understand not identifying the patient now that she has passed away out of respect for her family.

But the Doctor, I’m not so sure. If we are going to be talking about duty of care, what about the duty owed to all the other women? Especially those with a history of cancer or symptoms of the disease or even the same symptoms as the woman who died?  They might visit that same Doctor and run the risk of a misdiagnosis. If they knew his name they could make a choice to either see him or go elsewhere.

Or is he entitled to the protection offered by the medical profession to Doctors like him who make a mistake? We all make mistakes. Has he paid enough of a price already? Well has he?

 

Making History

As the United States comes to grips with yet another young Black man shot dead by police and the inevitable civil unrest that follows, spare a thought for Iceland.

Yes Iceland. You know that Nordic country full of active volcanoes that sits at the top of the world.

This week Iceland made history. Its police force shot a man dead. In America where gun culture and the right to bear arms is as entrenched as apple pie this is everyday stuff. But not in Iceland. Police shooting anyone dead in Iceland simply does not happen. In fact this is the first time it has happened since 1944 when the country became independent.

The police in Iceland usually don’t carry guns. Violent crime in Iceland is almost non-existent. You might think that Iceland is anti-gun, but it isn’t. It ranks 15th in world in terms of per capital gun ownership. It’s just that they recognize that guns are dangerous, should be handled with care and are not to be used to randomly shoot people just because you happened to have a disagreement.

As you’d expect the news has the country reeling. The news editor at the Icelandic broadcasting service reported that the nation was in shock. This does not happen in our country, he said. So what did happen to trigger this unprecedented Icelandic police response?

Well it seems that a 59-year-old man, said to be suffering from mental problems, began behaving in a threatening manner at the building where he lives. Police were called but when they arrived he began shooting at them. Police exchanged fire and in the ensuing gun battle the man was killed. Like I said. Unprecedented. In Iceland.

Icelanders are worried because this has got the whole country debating the issue. They are also worried that this incident might change the country forever. And not in a good way. As one commentator said guns are part of the Icelandic culture. They are used for hunting as a sport but they don’t want to see their police force being forced to carry firearms, which are seen as dangerous and threatening.

The Icelandic police force says the officers involved in the incident will undergo grief counseling. And in a concept that will be pretty alien to most Americans the police have already apologized to the family of the man who died. Mind you not because they did the wrong thing but because it was the respectful thing to do. And also because the police were genuinely sorry they took a life. Could you see that happening in the United States?

There are still a number of outstanding questions that the Icelandic police are yet to answer such as why they didn’t try to negotiate with the man before entering the building. But most Icelanders are wondering where this is all going to lead.

This is a country where you can enter Parliament and the only request they make is to turn off your cellphone, so that you don’t disturb the politicians while they’re talking. Armed guards DON’T follow the Prime Minister or the country’s President. Icelanders don’t want that to change. But they might just find they have no choice.