Medicine: Death at the Bedside

The hospital patient who complains that the water in his bedside carafe is not fit to drink is usually right, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, the stuff could kill him. It was patients' complaints that set a team of Harvard University physicians and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital bacteriologists to checking bedside water in 24 of Boston's nongovernment hospitals. What they found was far worse than they had feared.

Two-thirds of the carafes examined were "grossly unhygienic"—meaning that in many there were the partly decomposed bodies of insects, or "islands"...

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