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Control rods and the Jackson case

Dearest Reader,

I have recently told you about the tellurium and silver radioactivity maps and given you my thoughts on control rods. Now I will give you some more details about control rods. Now firstly I have to confess that I am getting a little irked, the data files for cadmium isotopes are so large that MS office keeps on protesting but I will try as hard as I can for you.

The nice thing about boron-10 is that it has a very simple graph of neutron cross section against neutron energy, this is likely to help in the design of a reactor system. On the other hand cadmium isotopes typically have very complex graphs. This is because the energy of the neutron can make the product nucleus enter a range of excited states

Now back towards some chemistry, it is important to understand that the bonds between carbon and the chalcogens (oxygen, sulphur, selenium, tellurium and polonium) get weaker as you go down the group.

We will continue with the main group chemistry another day, lets for a moment consider the outcome of a famous court case. I will assume that you all know that Micheal Jackson’s personal doctor has been found guilty of manslaughter in a criminal trial in the USA.

He has not been sentenced yet, but here are my thoughts on the matter.

I think that this case of manslaughter is towards the most grave end of the spectrum, I am ignoring the fact that the doctor has killed someone famous and popular. I hold the view that the sentence should be the same if the doctor has killed a pop star, a nun or the vilest offender in the US
prison system (I have no idea who is the vilest offender and perhaps I am better off not knowing).

The doctor killed Mr Jackson by recklessly giving him a drug for an off label purpose (2,6-diisopropyl phenol is not approved as a sleep aid), he also failed to take reasonable care. The nature of the drug would suggest to the reasonable lay man that a series of qualified persons must be present if this drug is used, also a series of tools should be within easy reach of a person who is using this drug. Next the heart doctor did a very poor job of CPR on Mr Jackson and failed to call for help quickly or to supply the full facts to the emergency medical team.

I like to think that I am a “reasonable man”, as a reasonable man I can see a series of grave derelictions of duty and if I can recognise the incredible and unwarranted risk to life then surely a trained medical doctor should be even more aware of these things.

The off label use of a drug is not an absolute wrong, if the medical doctor can give a reasoned argument for the off label use of a drug then it is perfectly OK. Off label use means a use for which the drug was not formally licensed for use, for example Viagra has been used on some neonates. I sincerely doubt if babies need (or should get help with) having a sex life (they are way too young), but the drug was judged by a reasonable and rational doctor to be in the best interests of the child.

In the case of Mr Jackson, he had a problem sleeping. It might have been reasonable for the doctor to talk to him and try to encourage his patient to relax. Maybe a mild calming or hypnotic drug (perhaps Valium) might have helped Mr Jackson to go to the land of nod. Instead the doctor gave him a drug which is only normally used to make a person become deeply unconscious. The doctors choice of drug is not reasonable to me as so
many milder sleep inducing drugs exist which do not have such great potential to kill exist.

The doctor neither had the skills or equipment required for the job, I would like to paraphrase the IAEA. In their advice to industrial radiographers they say “radiographers should refuse work for which they are either not equipped or trained to perform”. I would like to suggest that the same reasoning should be applied to a medical doctor who chooses under non emergency conditions to work on a person.


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