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Robert Klitzman, M.D.
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Entries by Robert Klitzman, M.D.

A Few Confederate Flags Down, But Thousands of Trappings Remain

(19) Comments | Posted June 26, 2015 | 11:38 AM

No portrait in any house had ever shocked me more. I recently drove through Mississippi, and stopped in a town known for its extensive pre-Civil War architecture. Plantation houses still stood with tiny outbuildings that guides called "the servants' quarters," but in fact housed slaves.

A local woman invited...

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Morality, Religion and Experimenting on You

(2) Comments | Posted June 4, 2015 | 2:04 PM

To help their soldiers on the front, Nazi physicians sawed off the limbs of concentration camp prisoners and then tried to reattach these body parts, but failed. Other prisoners were forced into the snow to measure how long it took for them to freeze to death.

In response, the Nuremberg...

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The End of Ebola? Lessons at the Epidemic's One Year Anniversary

(0) Comments | Posted March 30, 2015 | 9:14 AM

"That's the anthrax building," a colleague told me several years ago, pointing to a squat reddish-brown brick building in the middle of Fort Detrick, for many years the U.S. Army's center for biological warfare research. Cinderblocks now sealed up all of the doors and windows. Inside, anthrax --...

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What We Should Do About Fears of Germs on the Subway

(1) Comments | Posted March 19, 2015 | 12:56 PM


"They're finding bubonic plague on the subway!" a friend recently said to me. "How afraid should I be?" Some subway riders are scared.

The discovery that a wide range of germs lurk in the subway should motivate us to change our...

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How Fraud Underlies Anti-Vaccine Claims

(64) Comments | Posted February 6, 2015 | 5:18 PM

I don't like to get vaccines. Even as a doctor, I look away and take a deep breath. I don't like pain, even if it's quick. But every year I make sure I get a flu shot.

So I understand that parents don't like getting their kids vaccinated. But refusing...

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Combatting Ebola: Quarantine Is Vital, But Also Cultural Education

(0) Comments | Posted September 5, 2014 | 12:22 PM

In a tiny thatched bamboo hut, I squat by the patient, but was afraid to touch her. I could barely see her in the darkness, laying on a rough wooden platform -- her bed. I feared I could catch her disease.

Her illness had killed up to two-thirds of the...

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What We Need to Learn From the Ebola Epidemic

(5) Comments | Posted August 9, 2014 | 1:12 AM

Luckily, the two Americans who received ZMapp, the new experimental drug for Ebola, seem to be improving, which holds great promise and hope for thousands of other people but also raises broader ethical issues and questions.

The virus was first discovered by scientists in 1976, and several outbreaks of Ebola...

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Why Facebook Should Follow Ethical Standards -- LIke Everybody Else

(0) Comments | Posted July 7, 2014 | 3:51 PM

On July 2, 2014, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, defended the company's recent controversial experiment, which manipulated users' newsfeeds to change their moods. But in so doing, she raised more concerns than she answered.

She argued that the company and other social media sites regularly engage in research,...

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The New 9/11 Museum and The Nature of Evil: Needs for Larger Contexts and Questions

(4) Comments | Posted May 27, 2014 | 4:00 PM


My sister, Karen, died on 9/11, working at the World Trade Center; and hence, I visited the new Museum, which opened this week, with my family.

All visitors to the museum must first pass through airport-like security -- removing and dumping into...

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The Future of Testing Your Genetic Future

(3) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 3:50 PM

"It's my body and my genes, and I have the right to know what's in them," a woman once told me. She was at risk of breast cancer and had been tested for that gene as part of research study but wanted to know what else was in her DNA....

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Henrietta Lacks' Genes and All of Yours?

(2) Comments | Posted September 2, 2013 | 7:20 PM

"I don't know what information I want," a woman whose whole genome was being mapped recently told me. Her son was born with a severe disease, and she agreed to have her genes examined to help find the cause. Scientists were about to sequence the 3 billion molecules that encode...

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Angelina Jolie, Doctors, Patenting Genes, and You

(11) Comments | Posted May 20, 2013 | 11:29 AM

"I called my internist, because she's a good friend," a woman recently told me. "To help me make a decision" about whether to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy because of the presence of a breast cancer mutation. "But she just felt she really couldn't. A lot of information comes at you...

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Tenth Anniversary of the Mapping of the Human Genome: What It Means for Us All

(1) Comments | Posted April 16, 2013 | 2:20 PM

"It's like Star Wars," a woman with the Huntington's disease mutation recently told me. This lethal gene had killed her relatives in every generation for hundreds of years, but she could now test her embryos to ensure that her children do not get it. "I don't understand it all," she...

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HIV, Infants, Science and Sequestration

(1) Comments | Posted March 6, 2013 | 3:04 PM

No one knew what was wrong with the boy. He had fevers, diarrhea, unusual infections and abnormal blood counts. For weeks, doctors prodded and tested him, but he did not seem to fit any clear diagnosis, or get better. No one could figure it out.

Finally, a medical student suggested...

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Insights vs. Myths About the Brain

(9) Comments | Posted January 6, 2013 | 4:00 PM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

When I trained as a psychiatrist, one of my wisest professors kept on an old wooden filing cabinet in his office a 19th century shiny white ceramic phrenology head. Thick black lines divided the shiny life-sized white skull into...

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Medical Privacy for Royalty and the Rest of Us

(4) Comments | Posted December 21, 2012 | 12:54 PM

"What's happening with my son?" a woman on the other end of the phone asked me. I wasn't sure what to say. I was training to be a psychiatrist and was treating him -- a young man in his early 20s. I had never met her, and sensed they had...

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The Politics and Psychology of Time

(2) Comments | Posted September 10, 2012 | 3:49 PM

"Time is relative," Einstein discovered. So, too, is political time. But these two facts together cause many problems, as reflected in current debates over the seemingly simple question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" In fact, many of our political controversies today center on what time...

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'The Doctor Will See You ... When?': Patients, Patience and Health Care

(6) Comments | Posted May 30, 2012 | 3:09 PM

"A person waiting is a person suffering," a doctor told me recently. "I never realized that -- until I became a patient myself. The difference between being a doctor and not being a doctor is the timing."

The word "patient" has two meanings - referring to a person with illness,...

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Sharing Office Cubicles... and Diagnoses

(5) Comments | Posted May 8, 2012 | 3:03 PM

"I told a woman I share a little office with," a woman at risk of Huntington's Disease recently told me. This woman's father had this disease, caused by a lethal mutation; and she feared she had it, too.

"Somehow, it just spilled out," she added. "Then I felt, 'Oh...

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Autism and Genes: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(6) Comments | Posted April 12, 2012 | 4:43 PM

"Three generations of imbeciles are enough," Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in 1927. He thus ruled that 18-year-old Carrie Buck should be sterilized against her will. In many ways, we have come a long way since then. Clearly, no one advocates forced sterilization for patients.

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