Global Views

January 28, 2015
Predicting death within 30 days - Health

'Death test' brings up intriguing debate on accurate technology and its application

PLACING one's fate in the metallic hands of technology is an unwelcome prospect for many people. It hearkens to images of robotic customer service voice recordings inputting requesting our vital bank information and autopilot programming guiding our planes in the sky. A.I. fused with circuitry and bolts may seem un-human, but the reality is that we have become reliant on the use of technology. That being said, it is not blind faith that we entrust with machines, but rather endless hours of research, design and testing, conducted by human hands. Here lies an aspect of control and some sense of security and confidence.
     Over the years advances in technology have developed to such a degree in the medical profession that doctors now apparently have the ability to determine the relative expiration date of elderly patients. A new test, recently created by doctors, will seemingly be able to tell them if an older patient will die within 30 days of being admitted into hospital. Officially known as the Criteria for Screening and Triaging to Appropriate aLternative care (CriSTAL), the test looks at 29 indicators of health. The lengthy list includes age, illness, frailty, heart rate, mental impairment and previous emergency admissions. It then takes this data and creates a percentage chance of death between one month and 12 weeks. But what of its accuracy and whether the selection of parameters to evaluate is justifiable? What are the thoughts of the patients themselves?
     It is certainly eyebrow raising and controversial. The main idea behind the 'death test' will be to give a patient the chance to go home or bid farewell to loved ones. A seemingly depressing notion, however, there is science and logic even behind this phenomenal technological development. Health experts say that the test's checklist will reduce expensive, ineffective and inevitably futile medical treatments which only serve to extend a patient's suffering. It also delays unavoidable death and increases escalating healthcare costs, according to the experts. Understandably, the aforementioned reasons make sense from an overall standpoint and 'big picture' point of view. Expensive medical remedies do not necessarily change or even help the condition of an ailing patient. It may not improve their quality of life, causing stress for family members, while also frustrating health care professionals.
     Which brings everything back to accuracy and interpreting the technology correctly. What of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) controversy? Here was an end-of-life plan that ended up being abandoned after a review found that hospital staff incorrectly interpreted LCP, resulting in patients being drugged and fluids withheld from them in their final weeks of life.
     Ultimately, the overall idea needing contemplation here is whether or not CriSTAL will help families accept, honestly and openly, that dying is a part of life. Yes, no one wants a machine deciding a person's fate, life or death. However, at the same time, there should not be such immense pressure from family members and society itself on doctors and nurses to prolong the life of patients at any costs. This new test could very well be the deciding factor in helping families understand that further exposure to exceedingly pricey medical treatment will not help the cause of their ailing relative. In fact, it will only prolong their pain and struggle. CriSTAL could also potentially aid in giving families and patients some choice in the preferred place of death. However, confronting all parties involved compassionately and positively with all of these issues is a sensitive task that does not always go over well.
     Whether we as humans - filled with emotions and understandable attachment to our loved ones - can go so far as to accept and implement a percentage chance of death generated by an expensive piece of technology, is an issue that requires much more thought. Time will only tell.

January 21, 2015
Green Technology: Eco-conscious living one app at a time

Environmentally friendly purchases should increase with a growing number of “Green” apps in 2015

THE evolution of useful and meaningful mobile apps for the general populace to indulge in has been unwavering since they were first introduced in 2008. An abundant collection of touch-friendly applications have helped people in various ways, from checking e-mails and bus schedules to social media gratification and gaming. Over time, more and more distinctive apps have begun to be developed that help mankind in rather unique ways.
     Take the creation of the newest wave of “green” apps designed to reverse the negative aspects of human activity on the environment. They are conveniently aimed at the average, eco-friendly individual that will greatly assist consumers in the improvement of their lives, while also minimising their carbon footprints. For example, Think Dirty is an app any cosmetics savvy can use in their local beauty aisle or store to compare different products, particularly in the ingredients they use. One simply needs to scan a product’s bar code to find out whether it contains any neurotoxins, carcinogens or hormone disruptors.
     iRecycle can also be included among the apps of sound functionality. It lets the user know where to properly dispose of essentially any household item, whether it be electronics, household or construction. With a cache of more than 1.6m ways to recycle over 350 materials, it is bound to attract a wide range of users who want to find a quick way to get rid of their old summer gas grills and other defunct items.
     Another incredibly practical app is Food Tripping, which uses GPS to help people find local farmer’s markets, juice bars, healthy cafes, microbreweries and more when you are travelling. A collaboration from SHFT.com and Ford Motor Company, it is committed to helping the community of conscious consumers. Food Tripping has a fun, easy-to-use interface with a growing database of healthy food markets and eateries that is a more sensible alternative to the fast food establishments that litter the highways. It is another example of an innovative application that stresses the exposure of sustainable food options and businesses that are also local. SHFT.com has been steadily pushing their creation by establishing a growing hub of consumers who can share and suggest the places they discover with friends through Facebook and Twitter – thus promoting itself through popular use. These are all steps in the right direction for green technology.
     All three of these applications demonstrate the forward thinking solutions that some companies and independent developers are creating in order to give people options that are consumer-friendly, affordable and simple to use. More than that, their use and popularity can be spread relatively easy with their careful balance of services that give users more control of their self-improvement and assisting nature at the same time.
     Shopping with knowledge and confidence, while also consciously helping the environment and an individual’s well-being is a trend that has been gaining ground for some time now. What was once fashionable – eating organic produce and avoiding certain animal-tested products, among other consumer choices – is slowly but surely on the rise as the early 21st century slowly marches on. Old, self-defeating habits, such as smoking and not eating healthy, are becoming less commonplace today. With the innovations in green technology and their subsequent emergence in mainstream consumption, one can only hope that expensive solar panels and electric cars will not be the only saviours to mankind’s penchant for creating waste.

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