Medicine: Beds in Sheep's Clothing

Any hospital nurse worth her starch takes high pride in beds made with cotton sheets stretched tightly over a rubberized or plastic mattress cover, which is a tidy and sanitary practice-and one that can cause agonizing pain or even death from bedsores. Patients confined to bed in one position for long periods are almost certain to get blisters over the lower spine. Patients who develop ulcers, as sometimes happens among aged victims of broken hips, may die.

The cause of the trouble, explains Britain's Surgeon John Charnley, is either pressure that shuts off blood...

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