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June 2, 1999

HypochondriasisThe Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death

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JAMA. 1999;281(21):2050-2051. doi:10.1001/jama.281.21.2050-JBK0602-2-1

A friend of my parents, who incidentally bore an uncanny resemblance to the comedian Bert Lahr, was perpetually obsessed with the thought that he was on the verge of a fatal heart attack. To reassure himself that his circulation was in order, he would throughout the day continually check for his radial pulse. One evening at the dinner table, as we observed him attempting his pulse check, a look of fear suddenly clouded his face as he failed, momentarily, to detect a pulse. He shook his wrist, as though wearing a watch that had stopped ticking, and felt again. This time the beats could be detected, and he smiled and sighed with relief. He died shortly thereafter from colon cancer.

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