Director, Emergency Services, Bikur Cholim Hospital
Let us answer some letters.
1) Can autism be diagnosed before birth?
Autism is a disorder of neurological development. These
children are characterized by three elements. First is poor
social interaction. They often withdraw or eschew social
interactions. We are not speaking about shyness, but rather
failure to acknowledge other people. They have problems with
Many do not speak at all. They engage in repetitive movements
and say things over and over again, as if they are in their
own little world. They do not like to be touched or hugged.
They often develop seizures. Some may have learning
difficulties or retardation, but some are very bright.
As with most disorders, there is a spectrum of disease and
not all autistic children exhibit all the symptoms. Cause is
unknown, and treatment requires a multi-disciplinary team of
psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists. There is not
too much evidence as far as a genetic basis for this
disorder. For Websites that offer help for this disorder,
check NINDS, an American Governmental Agency, at
The study mentioned in the letter only looked at thirteen
cases, and the results may be due to chance alone.
Furthermore, trying to diagnose diseases while the fetus is
still inside is problematic from a halachic view point.
2) Mrs. W. sent me an article which asked how to get Israelis
to live healthier lives. I think the answer is clear: Buy the
Yated and read my column!
3) Does losing a job kill?
It can. Stress does cause changes in the hormonal environment
of the body which can cause ulcers, heart attack and reduce
resistance to disease and cancer. Furthermore, people under
stress have unhappier marriages and are more likely to drink
What is the solution? Obviously to reduce stress — a
tall order for most people.
Here are some suggestions. Do not put off vacations. Realize
that your parnossoh is controlled from Above, and
pushing yourself to limits is not going to change anything.
No one asked anyone to be a superman or superwoman. If your
house is impeccably clean and you have 16 kids, I bet you are
stressed out. No one expects a clean house with little people
around. Exercise to blow off steam as well and do not hold
Do I practice what I preach? Not so well, but I should.
4) The FDA has put out an advisory — passed by the thin
margin of 8 to 7 — warning that the drugs used to
combat ADHD (formerly called hyperactivity) have heart risks.
They create a rise in blood pressure and in heart rate.
Related drugs that are labeled as "natural" — ma huang
(called ephedra) and phenylpropanamine (a decongestant)
— have already been taken off the market. However, the
New England Journal makes it clear that these drugs do
help a lot of people and they should not be banned, but only
given to those who really need them.
In the case of ma huang, people were taking this herb to get
"energy." There is no simple solution: sleep and refreshment
is the safest solution.
Write me in care of the Yated.