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New anatomical term in Holby City

In yesterday's Holby City Harry, a junior doctor in training, told a patient that he had a fracture of his "tibula". You can see why Harry is currently experiencing some difficulty in completing his CT2 trainee year satisfactorily.

Medical error in 'Endeavour'

In ITV-1's 'Endeavour', the youthful Morse, still a detective constable at this early stage of his career, found a girl who had died with digoxin in her stomach. "Is that dangerous?" he asked a GP who was involved in the case peripherally (the partner of another doctor who was murdered).

"It certainly is. The clue is in the name of the plant it comes from, deadly nightshade," the GP replied.

But deadly nightshade doesn't give us digitalis or digoxin, it gives us belladonna. Digitalis, from which digoxin is derived, comes from the leaf of the foxglove. I thought that perhaps this wasn't really a medical howler and we were being given an artfully planted clue; the GP was going to turn out to be an imposter. But no, it wasn't the doctor who was ignorant, it was his creator.

A real comic gem on BBC Radio 4

If you haven't already heard it, I urge you to listen to the dinosaurs' hymn to Captain Dinosaur at the end of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programe (Thursday 18 October). It's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. Only five days left to hear it - there doesn't seem to be a podcast available, otherwise I'd certain keep it.

End of the world on my birthday?

An American preacher, Harold Camping of Oakland, California, is predicting the Second Coming and the 'rapture' for tomorrow, 21 May. As this is my birthday I suppose you could say this will be an unexpected birthday present for me, except that, as a non-believer, I don't think I shall be among the two per cent of the population who qualifies for immediate translation to heaven. Oh well ...

Exorcising a ghost at the Royal Hospital in Derby

The Today programme had an item about a ghost at the new Royal Hospital in Derby. A hooded figure is stalking the corridors and terrifying people. "Experts" (sic) say it is the ghost of a Roman soldier, disturbed because the hospital was built on the site of a Roman road.

The programme interviewed Dom Anthony Sutch, formerly a headmaster of my old school, Downside. He agreed that it was quite likely to be the case that a ghost of a Roman soldier would be patrolling the hospital but thought it probably wouldn't be malevolent, so prayers to reassure it that it was safe to move on would be more appropriate than exorcism. However, he does believe in possession of people by evil demons and in the power of evil. We need to distinguish between spirits (i.e. ghosts) and demons, he thinks.

Subsequently Today had a phone call from the chaplain at the hospital; she refused, in the time-honoured phrase, to confirm or deny the truth of the story.

It occurs to me that if dead Roman soldiers object to disturbing Roman roads they should be popping up all over the place, since many of our modern roads and motorways are built over Roman roads.

Heard on the radio

Yesterday I heard a radio reporter talking about the shortage of dentists in Britain. "Things are beginning to improve but there are still teething problems," she said.

An offer of help

I've just had a personalised letter from someone calling herself, rather improbably, Karina Natalia. There is a photograph of Ms Natalia, which shows a rather attractive blonde in her thirties.

She describes herself as world-famous psychic healer and also as "The Woman with X-Ray Eyes". She seems to have appropriated this sobriquet, without acknowledgement, from Natasha, the Russian girl who was investigated in the West last year (entry on my blog about this).

However, she is not offering to diagnose my illnesses but to act as my intermediary at Lourdes, where she is going shortly. While there she will offer up prayers for friends like me. All I need to do is indicate on the form she supplies which wishes she should pray for.

The choices include:

1. a prayer for wealth (indicate the amount requested - £15,000, £25,000, £50,000, or £75,000);

2. a protective prayer for my pet (indicate the kind of animal);

3. a prayer to resolve a problem with my husband, boy friend, wife, girl friend (tick one only, which would be difficult in the case of complex relationships);

4. a prayer to resolve problems with my children or grandchildren;

5. a prayer to bring love and romance into my life;

6. a prayer to counter the spell I feel has been cast over me;

7. a prayer to improve my health and wellbeing;

8. a prayer for luck, especially (tick 1 only), the lottery, horses, cards, gambling in casinos, or bingo.

I hadn't realized that Lourdes provided this kind of service, but perhaps it's expanding its range.

Rather surprisingly, Ms Natalia does not ask for any money; in fact, she specifically asks me not to send any. She concludes with "Love from your friend, healer and guide." How nice to know that I have such a caring friend.

The floods are our fault for neglecting the Bible

According to today's Daily Telegraph, several Church of England bishop are saying that the floods currently affecting northern England are a judgement of God. Laws that have undermined marriage and recognized gay unions have provoked God to send the rains.

Flooding is a sign of God's anger at Western civilizations' neglect of Biblical teaching, it appears.

You might have thought that this way of thinking had gone out of fashion since the Black Death was blamed on the sins of the populace, but seemingly it is still alive and well in the C of E.

And then we complain of Muslim fundamentalism!

Astrologers advise the minister

The science page in today's Daily Telegraph carries an article by Roger Highfield on alien life. Highfield informs us that "Seven leading British astrologers" were advising the Science minister on this question. If that is where the government is going for advice, no wonder they are also seriously contemplating allowing the teaching of intelligent design in British state schools.

MOD funds research on remote viewing

The Ministry of Defence funded a secret study in 2002 to see if psychic powers could be useful for defence. This information was released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The MOD started by trying to recruit professional "psychics", but when these refused to participate they resorted to amateur volunteers. The research cost £18,000. Apparently 28% of these people did have some success but in general the experiment was adjudged a failure and it was abandoned.

Source: The Remote Viewer

Absurdities and anachronisms on TV

The new ITV series Primeval, about dinosaurs coming through a time warp in the Forest of Dean, had its fair share of absurdities but the one I particularly liked occurred when the Professor went through the time warp himself in quest of his wife, who had disappeared eight years previously.

He and his paratroop companion soon came across a half-buried skeleton.

"Is it your wife?" the paratrooper asked.

The professor ran his fingers quickly along the tips of the vertebral spines, which was pretty much all of the bones that could be seen.

"No, it's a man," he replied.

Given that it is impossible to sex a skeleton from an inspection of the vertebrae I thought his confidence was rather misplaced.

Even the usually impeccable Foyle's War let us down in the plausibility department. No one in that period would have said "it was down to Grace"; they would have said "it was thanks to Grace".