Friday, September 07, 2007

Regarding Oscar the Cat

The recent New England Journal of Medicine perspective on "A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat" prompted me to write a letter to that most august of medical journals. Surely we all recall the poignant story about the cat that, anticipating death amongst nursing home patients, would cuddle up with them just prior to their shuffling off this mortal coil.

Imagine my disappointment at discovering today that their editors rejected my contribution. However, still believing my message to be both sound and relevant, I shall post it here:
To the Editor,

Dosa’s Perspective on Oscar the cat1 suggests that Oscar is a gifted clinician with an aptitude for predicting patients' imminent demise. Of course, science must guard itself from spurious results and alternative explanations for his behavior will no doubt be raised by others.

Yet, as painful as it is to consider, someone must speak to the possibility that Oscar is not the benevolent care provider he appears to be. Given my predisposition towards insomnia combined with a gift for putting off more important priorities, I choose to accept this role. To wit, is Oscar truly a harbinger of death...or might he instead be its cause?

Concern that this cat is in fact a vector for a virulent agent leading to untimely demise cannot be discounted. At worse, and the thought itself leaves me bereft; Oscar may be a serial killer, a possibility for which there is precedent.2

1. Dosa DM. A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat. N Engl J Med 2007;357:328-9.

2. Yorker BC, Kizer KW, Lampe P, Forrest AR, Lannan JM, Russell DA. Serial Murder by Healthcare Professionals. J Forensic Sci 2006;51(6):1362-71.
We should all strive to support clarity of thought within the medical community.



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