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Steve Heilig
Steve Heilig is a healthcare ethicist, editor, epidemiologist, environmentalist, and ethnomusicologist based in San Francisco and Marin. Trained in public health, economics, and biology at five UC campuses, he has worked with many nonprofit organizations and hospitals and in biotechnology, and has authored over 500 articles on a wide range of topics, as well as over 100 diverse book reviews. With particular interest in reproductive health and rights, death and dying, environmental science and policy, and addiction medicine, he has lectured at the University of California, Stanford, and Harvard, is a co-editor of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, and is currently formally affiliated with the San Francisco Medical Society, California Pacific Medical Center, and Commonweal, a health and environmental institute. He is also a widely-published music journalist and author of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism, and a "City Brights" blogger for SFGate. His views here are his own.

Entries by Steve Heilig

Physician-Assisted Dying: Honest Choices

(0) Comments | Posted July 6, 2015 | 12:48 PM

Physician-assisted dying (not "suicide" - a term that is not truly relevant here) is a complex and emotional issue. Here is a new perspective done with a leading physician with much direct experience - and who has quit one of his professional medical associations due to their lack of integrity...

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Walter Mitty at the Plate: Confessions of a Fantasy Giant

(2) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 2:45 PM


Game tied, bottom of the ninth. Two runners on base, and any one of us scoring now means we win the whole enchilada. The pennant hangs in the balance. But I can't afford to even begin...

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Dog Regulations: A Canine Opines or Barking up the Wrong Beach?

(3) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 5:41 PM

(A guest column)


Greetings, Humans:

I have been asked to express some thoughts about proposed changes -- meaning, more restrictions -- to dog policy in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). I cannot speak for my estimated 100,000 fellow canines in...

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The Abortion Wars: Men Who Trust Women

(1) Comments | Posted December 2, 2013 | 4:43 PM

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" is an oft-used and abused quotation, oft-attributed to Thomas Jefferson -- but there is some controversy there. But regardless of who first said it, the warning applies to reproductive rights as much as anywhere else.

Right now, as for throughout the four decades...

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Commercialized Genomics: Caveat Emptor

(7) Comments | Posted November 15, 2013 | 9:48 AM

My dog is a mutt -- part Australian shepherd, maybe some kind of retriever, Bernese mountain dog, who knows. I could, maybe, find out more about his genetic heritage; for years now, companies have surfaced who will, for a fee, examine some of your dog's spit and tell you that...

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Ken Kesey: The Formative Years of a Literary Revolutionary

(0) Comments | Posted November 11, 2013 | 6:27 PM


It's All A Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey
Rick Dodgson
University of Wisconsin; 250 pages;$26.95/e-book $16.95

In the mid-1960s, Ken Kesey stormed the public stage like few writers ever have. His first two novels, One Flew Over...

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Torture: Military Violations of Medical Ethics and Undeniable Evidence -- Again

(1) Comments | Posted November 11, 2013 | 4:52 PM

Some deja vu experiences are welcome, some not so. Remember the photos from Abu Ghraib, showing humiliating and pointless abuse of prisoners in the "war on terror"? I was unpleasantly reminded of those when I read a New York Times story this week titled "Medical Ethics Violated at...

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The Agony of Ecstasy or "Molly": Let the Buyer Beware

(0) Comments | Posted October 16, 2013 | 5:06 PM

"Ecstasy" is back in the news, although now it's being called "Molly." A few young partiers have died at big "Electronic Dance Music" (EDM) festivals around the nation, even prompting cancellation of some such events. Many more have wound up in hospital emergency rooms for a visit, and countless others...

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Charlie Manson: The Life and Delusions

(4) Comments | Posted October 14, 2013 | 7:02 PM


More than one friend, when told I was reading the "definitive" new biography of Charles Manson, said, "Why would anybody want to read that?"

It's a reasonable question. The Manson murders, almost 45 years ago, were gruesome,...

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Wake Up, Burners! Time to Get "Radical"

(5) Comments | Posted September 9, 2013 | 11:15 AM

Wake up! The world is on fire! -- Lawrence Ferlinghetti


The giant Burning Man structure went up in flames on Labor Day weekend as usual, and I watched it -- online. It looked very dramatic and impressive. As the tens of thousands of "BM"...

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Agricultural Abuse of Antibiotics: Looming Crisis Warrants Big Changes

(0) Comments | Posted August 22, 2013 | 1:10 PM

Note: This is a revised version of an article originally authored with Dr. Robert Gould and just published in a medical publication -- bios and source information below.

By Robert Gould and Steve Heilig

"Centers for Disease Control sounds alarm on deadly, untreatable superbugs," USA Today, March 2013

"Study shows...

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Abortion: Doctors Know Best but Politicians Ignore Them

(6) Comments | Posted August 21, 2013 | 11:30 AM

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."
-- Stephen Hawking

Once upon a time, modern people were taught to give some respect to education, expertise, training, position, and so forth -- especially in the difficult and demanding fields such as science...

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Genetically-Modified Food: Fantastic or 'Frankenfood'?

(7) Comments | Posted August 8, 2013 | 4:05 PM

The debate over GMOs seems far from being resolved, and many consumers are confused. Here is a new blog I co-authored with a leading physician who researches and writes on environmental health and other issues; we strove for a "fair and balanced" science-based review of the issues that concern many...

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Nanao Sakaki Breaks the Mirrors: An Appreciation of a One-of-a-Kind Poet

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2013 | 6:28 PM


"One hundred years from now Nanao will be considered the major poetic influence in Japan," said Gary Snyder at a recent gathering in the late Nanao Sakaki's honor. Considering the source, that's very high praise indeed. But most Americans, even those who...

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City Lights Books At 60: An International Treasure

(1) Comments | Posted July 24, 2013 | 10:47 AM

The fabled City Lights bookstore in San Francisco is sixty years old this year. They're having a lot of celebratory events to mark the birthday. Even without the past decade's steady and precipitous decline in the fortunes of independent bookstores, City Lights' survival and thriving is literally extraordinary....

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Abortion Politics, Filibusters, Two New Heroes -- And Five Tips for Anti-Choice Politicians

(2) Comments | Posted July 1, 2013 | 8:25 PM

"She was a state senator Tuesday morning. By Wednesday, she was a political celebrity known across the nation. But also hoarse, hungry and thirsty." --The New York Times

Late on a recent evening, along with about 180,000 other people, I watched a live telecast of the Texas state...

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The World's Best World Music Festival?

(2) Comments | Posted June 19, 2013 | 7:23 PM


The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival returns to Mendocino County's scenic and mysterious hamlet Boonville this weekend, starting Friday evening and running through Sunday night. Just two hours north of San Francisco, the festival draws attendees of all ages from around the...

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Genocide and Justice and Empathy in Guatemala

(0) Comments | Posted June 11, 2013 | 8:22 PM

Just after dawn on a recent morning, I picked up a hitch-hiker on my way over the hill to the coast; he was a Guatemalan construction worker I'd given rides to before. From past conversations, I knew he's up before dawn to get to work and often not back until...

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War -- What Is It Good For? Some Memorial Day Reflections

(2) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 4:10 AM

Memorial Day, like Veteran's Day, always brings conflicted thoughts and emotions. Here are some of them, spurred by some recent books and other reports. Americans have a longtime romance with war movies, books and stories, but these are a little different.

I hate war as only a soldier who has...
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Still Drug Crazed After All These Years

(10) Comments | Posted May 15, 2013 | 12:39 PM

Mike Graydied recently, at 77 years of age, with prominent obituaries in some publications due to his status as a successful movie screenwriter -- his most famous screenplay being for The China Syndrome, which was released in 1979 and garnered him an Oscar nomination. The film had considerable...

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