Transit of Venus, Solar eclipse and lunar eclipse: the health effects

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On June 5-6, 2012, Venus will pass in front of the Sun. This year, 2012, is our last chance to view this phenomenon, which will not be seen for another 100 years. During the transit, Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth. The planet becomes visible from Earth as a small dot against the Sun’s disk. Venus is almost four times larger than the moon; it blocks a much smaller portion of the Sun’s face than the moon does during a solar eclipse. This is because it is much further away from Earth. The transit of Venus requires similar precautions as are observed while viewing a solar eclipse.

Myths and facts about venous transit and solar/lunar eclipses
1.      One should protect their eyes and never look directly at the sun without proper protection. This applies to both the solar eclipse as well the Venus transit.
2.       The sun emits intense infrared and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV light can damage the skin and retina but retinal damage occurs earlier. The eyes can suffer permanent damage if they are exposed to direct sunlight for even just a few seconds.

3.      Protective eyewear should be worn to observe the sun safely. One can filter the solar photosphere’s rays or project its image onto a screen, like normal white paper or cardboard. Projection works well with or without a telescope or binoculars. However, you must never look through the telescope’s eyepiece or side-mounted finder scope when aiming a telescope or binocular at the sun to project a magnified sun’s image on a screen of white cardboard.  Solar filters can also be used to view the sun during a partial eclipse or eyepiece, solar filter, solar projection screen, camera with
sufficient memory and appropriate lens, cable release (including a spare), video camera, videotape, space blanket, sunscreen and a hat can be used.
4.       Watching lunar eclipse does not damage the eyes.

5.      There is no mention about the harmful effects of eclipse on pregnancy in Allopathy literature.  In Mexico and in many parts of India there is a ‘belief’ that pregnant women are in danger of having a baby with a harelip during a solar eclipse. No such belief is prevalent for the lunar eclipse.
6.       Ayurveda indirectly mentions it under “air space vikrity” (disorders) and writes that the effect of these disorders on pregnancy can lead to the birth of a blind child or a child with low body energy. It also says that the child may be born with dog and elephant characteristics. It does not mention the word “eclipse” anywhere.
7.       Both Ayurveda and Dharma Shastra direct pregnant ladies to take precautions one should take them as otherwise the fear of giving birth to an abnormal child can cause abnormalities in the child.
Those who have faith or fear that the eclipse can harm pregnant ladies should take precautions.
8.       Lunar eclipse may be associated with exacerbation of mental illnesses. In an Institute of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Goa study a significant trend was observed for greater numbers of patients with
non-affective psychoses on full moon days and on days of visible lunar eclipse, but no pattern was observed for mania or depression [Indian J Psychiatry. 1999 Jan; 41(1):60-5].  There are some studies which talk about effects of full moon on rise in blood pressure, pulse and abnormal mental behavior and have linked them to high tides in the ocean.
9.       The traditional Ekadashi vrata (fast) 3 days before and fast on the day of full moon are advocated in Indian mythology to tame or control the mind, which is likely to get disturbed during full moon and lunar eclipse time.  The ritual of observing Nirjala ekadashi 3 days before the current lunar eclipse on full moon day with vrata is also done with the belief that it prevents mental disturbances during full moon and during lunar eclipse by producing some dehydration in the body and the brain.
10.      More mosquitoes may grow during a lunar eclipse. A study on mosquitoes done in coastal marshland site in Chambers County, TX done in 1989 found that the density of certain species of the mosquitoes Aedes, Anopheles, Culex and Psorophora increased during the lunar eclipse and decreased when the full moon was exposed [J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 1994 Jun; 10 (2 Pt 1):222-4]. In another study Dr. Thornton observed that dogs reject food while an eclipse was in progress.

11.      There are also some Vedic beliefs on this subject:  There is a mention of eclipse in Shikshapatri where Bhagwan Swaminarayan says that at the time of a solar or lunar eclipse in areas where it is visible, one should stop all activities, meditate or chant the name of God in a purified state. After the eclipse, one should take cold bath with the clothes they are wearing and then make donations (especially cereals) according to their means (Shik 86/87). One should also not eat 12 hours before the solar and 9 hours before the lunar eclipse begins. One can drink water. No meals should be offered to the Gods during this pre-eclipse period; but, aarti and prayer can be done. One should get rid of the extra cooked food after the solar or lunar eclipse.  One should not touch anything such as clothes, food, personal items, etc. during the eclipse.
12.      The only scientific explanation for the above is that during the lunar eclipse, the atmosphere behaves like amavasya (new moon) on purnima (full moon) day. Therefore one needs to observe precautions of both purnima (observe fast to prevent mental disturbances) and of new moon or amavasya (to prevent causalities occurring due to darkness in the outside atmosphere). Also, the full moon day can be windy and dusty. With a possible dark, windy and dusty atmosphere on lunar eclipse full moon day, dust may settle on the food or clothes. This may be a reason why food that has been kept for more than 9 hours before the eclipse is not eaten till the eclipse has passed. The same is true for the dirt-filled clothes, which should be washed when the eclipse ends.

13.      On the day of the lunar eclipse, a “full moon” is present in an atmosphere of “new moon”. The full moon effect on the environment also reflects on the mood and mind of a person. The high tides in the ocean reflect in the mind as mood disturbance. These mood changes may occur during every full moon and that is the reason why in India mythology it is advised to control the mind by observing a fast either on ekadashi ( 3 days before full moon) or on the day of full moon.
14.      The ‘sutak’ (9-hour period before the lunar eclipse starts) is also observed in Indian mythology as a period of physical and mental fast so as to avoid the effect of eclipse on the mind. During this period one is required not to eat cereals, if possible nothing by mouth and do pranayama and meditation.  About 10% of the society, at any given point of time, is affected with anxiety or depression. The full moon as per Ayurveda is said to affect and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or depression. The fluctuations in the mind can also be associated with fluctuations in upper systolic blood pressure. In a study from the Institute of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Goa, a significant trend was observed for greater numbers of patients with non-affective psychoses on full moon days and on days of visible lunar eclipse, but no pattern was observed for mania or depression [Indian J Psychiatry. 1999 Jan; 41(1):60-5].
15.      If one believes in Indian mythology then one should observe the rituals as the fear of harmful effects of the mind, for example, in a pregnant lady can harm the fetus based on a common Vedic saying and principle “You are what you think”.

Thin line between ethical and unethical acts

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1.      Giving commissions and cut is an unfair trade practice in terms of section 2(r) (6) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It is also violation of regulation no. 6.4 and 6.5 of the MCI, 2002, regulations.
“6.4 Rebates and Commission:

6.4.1 A physician shall not give, solicit, or receive nor shall he offer to give solicit or receive, any gift, gratuity, commission or bonus in consideration of or return for the referring, recommending or procuring of any patient for medical, surgical or other treatment. A physician shall not directly or indirectly, participate in or be a party to act of division, transference, assignment, subordination, rebating, splitting or refunding of any fee for medical, surgical or other treatment.

6.4.2 Provisions of Para 6.4.1 shall apply with equal force to the referring, recommending or procuring by a physician or any person, specimen or material for diagnostic purposes or other study / work. Nothing in this section, however, shall prohibit payment of salaries by a qualified physician to other duly qualified person rendering medical care under his supervision.”

2. A treating physician, a path lab, an imaging centre and a surgeon – are all service providers and provide service under a contract of service against service charges. The contract of service, whether written or unwritten or implied, does not include a term of contract that the service provider, in addition to providing service against payment received in cash, will also obtain from or give further payment to another service provider. (Dr M C Gupta)

3. A physician is not a businessman or a trader. He is a service provider. It is legal to charge a commission in many trades. The sellers of stocks and debentures and even the government organizations like the LIC and the PPF organization give commission to their agents. But the LIC agent gives a service to the person who gets his life insured and, as a service provider; it is illegal for him to pass on a part of the commission received to the beneficiary of his services. (Dr M C Gupta)

4. A doctor purchases drugs from the stockist at concession rates and dispenses it at MRP. This cannot come under cut, commission or an unethical act. But the doctor cannot bill the drug separately. It has to be a part of dispensing service. Many GPs buy generic drugs and charge for the drugs as part of service fee.

5. Most doctors run a lab collection centre and collect the charges and pay 75% to the labs. They are providing the service.

6. Most hospitals are buying the services of full time doctors and selling it for a premium to the patients.

7.      In the United States, for every imaging test (for example CT scan) there are establishment charges, operator charges and reading charges. The referring doctor often gets trained in reading and interpretation imaging tests and can charge money for the same. The service provider only sends the CD and does not report the test.

8.       For charging any money it has to be established that a service has been provided. A service is said to be provided if:

  • If you accompany a patient for CT scan or MRI test
  • If you discuss with the reporting doctors about the clinical condition and share all the reports
  • If the patient comes to you with the report and you give your opinion.
  • If you order for a test after seeing a patient.
  • If you are present in OT when surgery is being done to your patient.
  • If you visit your patient daily while he is admitted in a hospital.
  • If you make a referral note with all the details.
  • If you make a summary of a case.
  • If you are involved in the interpretation of any test.
  • A pharma representative comes and consults you about the efficacy of their molecule.
  • If a pharma company invites you to an industry symposium and wants you to listen and react to the molecule.
  • If a CRO representative comes and wants you to be a part of a survey.
  • If you are a panelist, speaker or a chairperson in any symposia whether by an association or pharma sponsored.
  • If you issue a medical certificate
  • If the patient wants a second opinion and wants you to discuss with the treating doctor.
  • If you assist in any procedure in a health care setting.

For any service if you are paid, it’s ethical and legal. But the client must know about the same and it should be legal and accounted for. The following come under the purview of what is unethical or when is it a cut and not a service.

1.      When you do not provide any service and you charge for it.
2.     When you are not entitled to private practice and you charge for the services provided.