Hospitals: The Rectal Thermometer

HOSPITALS The Rectal Thermometer

Near dawn every morning, a nurse walks into the hospital room, wakes the patient and subjects him to what for many remains a humiliating procedure, although it has become routine: insertion of a rectal thermometer. "The importance of this entrenched practice," said last week's Journal of the American Medical Association, "is so universally accepted that, like the mechanics of normal breathing, it is rarely discussed or even considered."

The time has come for doctors to reflect on it, says the A.M.A., because the entrenched practice can be fatal. The University of Minnesota's Dr. Justin J. Wolfson recently reported...

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