So it turns out that President Clinton wasn't asymptomatic at all. He had chest pains and shortness of breath that he wrote off to other factors, including the all-purpose "acid reflux." (I wonder how the marketing of acid reflux has given those with heart disease a convenient excuse, thus dangerously delaying diagnosis?)

It seems to me that now is a particularly challenging time to be asking consumers to focus on their own mortality. Living with the fear of terrorism -- both for oneself and one's loved ones -- requires a carapace of daily denial. When reality is too "real" we want to shut as much of it out as possible, including reminders of illness. We are in an environment, simply put, of bad-news overload.

So for a diabetic to check his blood pressure multiple times during the day is the physiological equivalent of checking the national terror alert with a high level of frequency.

In fact, post 9/11 we have become psychologically accustomed to living in a state of denial. To break through, drug and device manufacturers must recognize this reality and avoid advertising that defaults to the scare and fright tactics. If you want your customers -- Bill Clinton or your grandmother -- to take care of themselves, to check their cholsterol and their glucose, you need to make the world a less-threatening place, not a more frightening one.