Thursday, November 28, 2013


The Food and Drug Administration had been kept waiting long enough. On November 22nd the FDA, America’s public-health regulator, sent a stern letter to 23andMe, a genetic-testing firm. Despite “more than 14 face-to-face and teleconference meetings, hundreds of e-mail exchanges and dozens of written communications”, the FDA complained, the company had not met its requests for data—nor even contacted it since May. The FDA ordered 23andMe to stop selling its testing service forthwith. The company has 15 days to respond to the regulator’s concerns. Fights over genetic testing, however, are sure to go on for a lot longer. ------The Economist November 30, 2013

Wouldn’t we all like to predict the future?  A crystal ball in hand with a gypsy by your side, you could see yourself older,  wiser and generally steering clear of mistakes, correcting what was wrong and live happily ever after?

23andme tried to do that.  But even with all the money Google had to offer, it just wasn’t true.

I had a sobering revelation this Thanksgiving morning.  My sister had found a new website to discover news from New York City and the surrounding area from the 1920’s and 30’s.

We had always wondered the fate of a Great Grand Uncle who was described as “Poor Johnny” because of his exposure to mustard gas in WW1. Family stories had always been incomplete and usually ended with just head bowing and shaking with the accompanied “Tsk, Tsk.”  We thought we made progress when we found he had been shuttled back and forth between several “National Old Soldiers Homes,” a progenitor of the current VA hospitals.

The new search revealed a more sobering fate.  Johnny had a severe criminal and mental history and probably died in an institution for the criminally insane in Beacon New York.  His sister had the same fate at Pilgrim State Hospital although a decade later.

Nature vs. Nurture.  Nurture vs. Nature.  Are we fated to bad outcomes?  Are we fated toward good outcomes? Does the genes that made Poor Johnny mad live inside me? Am I mad for revealing this in a public blog?

A friend of mine wrote a blog today about his diagnosis of Leiden V disease AFTER the diagnosis of a blood clot that eventually lodged in his lung.  He lamented about how the self-acclaimed best physicians in this world could have ( should have? would have?) diagnosed this before and put him on preventative blood thinners heading off  weeks of suffering and near death.

Are we to screen everyone for everything? Should we medically screen everything to head off potentially fatal disasters ?  How much would this cost? Would it be cheaper than suffering the fate of its consequences?

We can’t predict the future.  At least not yet. Not sure I want to.

דער מענטש טראַכט און גאָט לאַכט.

Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.

“Man plans, God laughs”, so says the Yiddish proverb.

On this Thanksgiving day we should heed the sage advice a friend of mine told me years ago which I think about every morning.  He is a friend that knows me more than most. I  was boring him with complaint after complaint until he finally caught me and said “I just thank God I wake up every morning.”

Simple advice, seldom heeded.

I thank God (whatever the word “God” entails) I woke up this morning and did my best to make this a wonderful day. I made a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for my girls.  They made pie (yuk!). We ate,  dogs by our sides and a roaring fire in the adjoining living room.

I thank God for this day and wish for many more.  One morning at a time.

Genes, preconceived notions, gossip be damned.