Rachel Pearson, a resident physician who holds a doctorate from the Institute for the Medical Humanities, is the author of No Apparent Distress: A Doctor’s Coming of Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine (2018). Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Guardian, The Texas Observer, and The New York Times Book Review. (July 2018)

Follow Rachel Pearson on Twitter: @HumanitiesMD.


Among the Vitamin K ‘Anti-Vaxxers’

A mother looking at her newborn baby, Long Island, New York, 1959

Babies are at the highest risk for Vitamin-K Deficiency Bleeding in the first week of life, so the standard of care is to give the shot within an hour after birth. Many parents don’t know that the risk of VKDB is high in untreated newborns. I, like many pediatricians, see an increasing number of refusals. These parents see a vulnerability similar to the one that I see in their children, but in their minds the threats come from society. The way I see it, society is by no means benign, but it does offer vaccines and Vitamin K as safeguards against threats that come from nature.

The Challenge of ‘Chronic Lyme’

Nicolas Poussin: Et In Arcadia Ego (Arcadian Shepherds), 1637–1638

That chronic Lyme exists in the realm of experience doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When medicine does not acknowledge the reality of the subjective—the thick reality of lived experience—we fall laughably short in our efforts to serve patients. When it comes to tick-borne Lyme disease itself, we all need to expand our horizons. That suffering is real. It must be attended to. But to insist beyond all plausibility that one’s suffering is related to a tick bite is not feminist; it’s absurd. And to prey on suffering people who crave that certainty, offering them expensive, intensive, and dangerous treatments is worse than absurd; it’s cruel.