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July 17, 1981

Remember Helen?

Author Affiliations

Waukee, IA

JAMA. 1981;246(3):265. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320030055033

Helen Hammond is the subject of a medical record that has sprawled into several volumes in the last decade. So dedicated is she to amiability that when I first saw her being wheeled out of an examining room in a charity hospital after what she called a "chewing out," she wore a slightly amused, totally self-accepting smile. I believe that Helen had never previously attempted self-discipline; her medical record is proof that the "chewing out" did not inspire her to curb her amazing appetite for pasta and cheap red wine.

Many of the illnesses that have since overtaken her are related to obesity and alcoholism; but her most recent disaster, carcinoma of the lung, is the result of another bad habit. She belongs to a generation hooked on tobacco before all of the dangers were known.

Today she is again in a wheelchair, her face pallid and edematous. Her arms,