This week: Facing mortality California recently passed a law that bans the use of trans-fats in restaurants and baked goods. It's a great idea and highlights the weak health policies we have in Hong Kong, especially considering the recently passed but greatly weakened food-labelling law. I understand the hands-off approach of our government when it comes to economic policy. This freedom has helped create our thriving economy, with its multitude of businesses. But when it comes to issues of health, there should be no business or market freedom. It is rarely in the interest of business to promote public health, apart from medical professionals who directly benefit from it. Simply put, things that are bad for you are usually tastier, more convenient, stylish, cheap or easy. These values make selling a fatty burger much easier than a salad sandwich. If left to the open market, the fatty burger would probably win and the salad sandwich would forever be in the niche market. The same analogy can be applied to many other things, and this is where the government should govern. It should protect its citizens from unscrupulous business practices that adversely affect public health. It should always lean on the side of caution rather than ban something only if that something goes wrong. There should be no benefit of the doubt. If in doubt, ban it until it is proven safe. Sure, it will upset some people but, to use a common government slogan, 'We will allow the market to adjust itself.' These healthy policies will inevitably create new business opportunities, as consumers still have the same amount of money ready to spend. Why leave these great health policy firsts for the state of California? It should be us first. The cause of this tirade is that I just had a horrid surprise. How I hate surprises. It began with an excruciating toothache. I've had toothaches before, most of which were attributed to gum disease and the very occasional cavity, but this toothache was something from the depths of Dante's inferno. The pain is more like that from a broken shoulder I received during a close encounter with a tree on a double black-diamond ski slope. I figured this toothache wasn't a run-of-the-mill toothache. So I visited the dentist with much trepidation. I told her I was a vet so she could use her technical vocabulary more freely. After a few questions to figure out where to start, she took an X-ray of my incisors. The film was processed in moments and, after a brief look at the X-ray viewer, she came over with a very scary look on her face. It was the same look I give to people when I discover something horribly surprising and totally unexpected on X-rays. She took me over to the viewer, and while she was stuttering about needing to refer me to a specialist orthodontist as she wasn't qualified to handle the problem, I studied my X-rays. Above my incisor was a round area of differing density. It was very discrete, and the tooth with which it was associated wasn't particularly diseased, especially when compared to the tooth next to it. I'm not a hypochondriac and I'm not an orthodontist, but I have seen many X-rays in my time and I know the options for such a lesion. With a bit of luck, it could be a bone cyst from a possible trauma or, slightly worse, an abscess on the tooth root. But I certainly couldn't rule out cancer - and any cancer that involves bone is probably malignant. It scares the hell out of me just typing it. I will be seeing a specialist as this column goes to print - and it is going to be good news (I hope.) This episode and the extreme pain I'm experiencing as I write this column are a reminder of my mortality. I have never faced the possibility of my own demise before, and it really makes me cherish the people and things I have around me. I had always thought I understood stress, and that I was a tough cookie. I have gone through trials in every stage of my life. I was stressed by exam and homework pressures at school and university. I was stressed about making mistakes and all the responsibilities and pressures of being a young vet in my early career. I have made many mistakes during my relationships and been through many unhappy trials. And now that I have my own practice, I have the stress of managing my employees and meeting their often almost impossible needs while maintaining the business and, all the while, updating my skills. How I hope for good news today so that I can have the chance to experience these frustrations, anxieties and possible emotional breakdowns many more times. So treasure your health, and cherish life.