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April 24, 2014

A Fatal Wait: Veterans Languish and Die on a VA Hospital’s Secret List

(CNN) – At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

First Medical Tourism Awards Tout Top Treatment Tips

(CNN) – When they can see the world, save cash and get that surgery you wanted, it’s no wonder that increasing numbers of travelers are hopping on a jet in search of cut-price healthcare. The worldwide medical tourism industry is said to be growing by up to 25% each year as patients with passports head abroad for procedures costing as much as 80% less than at home.

Most Support Birth Control Mandate, Survey Shows

(NBC News) – Most Americans — 69 percent — support the requirement that health insurance plans pay for birth control, a new survey shows. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to pay for contraception as part of 10 essential benefits, including vaccines and cancer screenings. It’s the most controversial requirement, with religious groups, some conservative commentators and some employers objecting.

April 23, 2014

Fighting Words Are Rarer among British Doctors

(New York Times) – People working in health care there have been discussing military imagery for a decade, said Elena Semino, head of linguistics at the university. “There’s a lot of awareness that battle metaphors can be very harmful to patients,” she told me. “Professionals are conscious of the problems, and they’re advised not to use them.” Instead, British public health leaders and medical practitioners are more apt to talk about the end of life as a “journey” instead of a war, with “pathways” and “steps” instead of fights and weapons.

April 22, 2014

A New Edition of International Journal for Quality in Health Care is Available

International Journal for Quality in Health Care (Volume 26, No. 2, April 2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Standardization in patient safety: the WHO High 5s project” by Agnès Leotsakos, et al.
  • “Physician communication behaviors from the perspective of adult HIV patients in Kenya” by Juddy Wachira, et al.
  • “Improving mental health outcomes: achieving equity through quality improvement” by Alan J. Poots, et al.

New Painkiller Rekindles Addiction Concerns

(New York Times) – The abuse of prescription painkillers has reached epidemic proportions in America. Nearly half of the nation’s 38,329 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These narcotics now kill more adults than heroin and cocaine combined, sending 420,000 Americans to emergency rooms each year. So many state health officials and advocacy groups were incredulous when the Food and Drug Administration approved just such a drug — against the advice of its own expert advisory committee.

Saudi Officials See Spike in MERS Coronavirus Cases

(CNN) – Saudi health officials are stepping up efforts to fight the Middle East respiratory symptom coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, after a recent spike in cases. Saudi Arabia confirmed more than 50 cases of the virus in the past week, at least seven of which were fatal. The Saudi Health Ministry says 13 new cases were reported Monday alone, bringing the total to 257. It is not clear why there was a sudden increase, said Dr. Abdullah Al-Asiri, assistant undersecretary at the Saudi Ministry of Health and a member of the Scientific Committee of Infectious Diseases.

A New Edition of Science, Technology & Human Values is Available

Science, Technology & Human Values (Volume 39, No. 3, May 2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Genetic Testing, Birth, and the Quest for Health” by Joëlle Vailly
  • “Not Just Neoliberalism: Economization in US Science and Technology Policy” by Elizabeth Popp Berman
  • “The World’s Not Ready for This: Globalizing Selective Technologies” by Lauren Jade Martin

House Calls Are Making a Comebak

(New York Times) – A relic from the medical past — the house call — is returning to favor as part of some hospitals’ palliative care programs, which are sending teams of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other workers to patients’ homes after they are discharged. The goal is twofold: to provide better treatment and to cut costs.

A New Edition of Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine is Available

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Volume 107, No. 4, April 2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “The Immigration Bill: Extending charging regimes and scapegoating the vulnerable will pose risks to public health” by Sarah Steele, et al.
  • “The case for change for British mental healthcare” Emma Stanton
  • “Medicine’s contract with society” Dinesh Bhugra
  • “Trends in hospital admission rates for whooping cough in England across five decades: database studies” Nick Haslam, Uy Hoang, and Michael J Goldacre

A New Edition of Qualitative Health Research is Available

Qualitative Health Research (Volume 24, No. 4, April 2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Homebirth Transfers in the United States: Narratives of Risk, Fear, and Mutual Accommodation” by Melissa Cheyney, Courtney Everson, and Paul Burcher
  • “Physical Intimate Partner Violence in Northern India” by Maya I. Ragavan, Kirti Iyengar, and Rebecca M. Wurtz
  • “’Doing the Impossible’: The Process of Recovery From Chronic Anorexia Nervosa” by Lisa Dawson, Paul Rhodes, and Stephen Touyz
  • “’I Think About Oprah’: Social Class Differences in Sources of Health Information” by Ann V. Bell
  • “Translating Infection Control Guidelines Into Practice: Implementation Process Within a Health Care Institution” by Victoria H. Raveis, et al.

Virtual Doctor Visits Gaining Steam in “Geneticist Deserts”

(Scientific American) – These “geneticist deserts” are prompting a small but growing tide of virtual patient visits. In an age when virtual chats are relatively commonplace, videoconferencing for genetic consultation—telegenetics —is becoming a logical extension of what people already do with their Webcams and smartphones. Telegenetics saves patients time, the cost and burden of transport and, oftentimes, the need to find day care or take time off from work. For doctors, the approach can expand their reach while limiting travel. Moreover, they can bill for their services as if they were seeing patients in their offices with just a slightly different billing code.

A New Edition of Journal of Bioethical Inquiry is Available

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (Volume 11, No. 1, March 2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Investigating Research and Accessing Reproductive Material” by Trudo Lemmens & Bernadette J. Richards
  • “Market Liberalism in Health Care: A Dysfunctional View of Respecting “Consumer” Autonomy” by Michael A. Kekewich
  • “The Incredible Complexity of Being? Degrees of Influence, Coercion, and Control of the “Autonomy” of Severe and Enduring Anorexia Nervosa Patients” by Terry Carney
  • “Treatment Refusal in Anorexia Nervosa: The Hardest of Cases” by Christopher James Ryan & Sascha Callaghan
  • “Making Sense of Child Welfare When Regulating Human Reproductive Technologies” by John McMillan
  • “Understanding Selective Refusal of Eye Donation” by Mitchell Lawlor & Ian Kerridge

April 18, 2014

Cost of Treating Patients May Influence Doctors

(New York Times) – Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care. The shift, little noticed outside the medical establishment but already controversial inside it, suggests that doctors are starting to redefine their roles, from being concerned exclusively about individual patients to exerting influence on how health care dollars are spent.

Preterm Births, Multiples, and Fertility Treatment

(Science Codex) – While it is well known that fertility treatments are the leading cause of increases in multiple gestations and that multiples are at elevated risk of premature birth, these results are not inevitable, concludes an article in Fertility and Sterility. The article identifies six changes in policy and practice that can reduce the odds of multiple births and prematurity, including expanding insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and improving doctor-patient communications about the risks associated with twins.

April 17, 2014

A Fine Balance: Disability, Discrimination, and Public Safety

(The Conversation) – A recent discrimination case has highlighted the difficulty of balancing the rights of disabled medical students with the rights of the community to safe medical and health care. In the BKY v The University of Newcastle, a New South Wales tribunal found the university had discriminated against a medical student by refusing her an extension to complete the five-year medical course beyond the usual maximum of eight years.

Should Drug Firms Make Payments to Doctors?

(BBC) – Gifts and payments to US doctors from drug firms are seen by some as encouraging unnecessary prescriptions. Do such transfers make any difference and will President Obama’s healthcare reform help, by forcing companies to disclose them? Prescribe enough drugs and – as detailed in 1974 Senate hearings – a doctor could accumulate points to exchange for a wide range of consumer desirables – colour TVs, watches, microwave ovens, lawnmowers, golf clubs.

April 16, 2014

UK ‘Has Fewer Hospital Beds Per Person Than Most European Countries’

(The Guardian) – There are fewer hospital beds per person in Britain than most other European countries, with less than half the number of many, a report has found. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK had three hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2011, with Ireland having the same number. This was far behind the majority of other countries on the continent, with Germany having 8.3 per 1,000 people, Austria 7.7, Hungary 7.2, Czech Republic 6.8 and Poland 6.6.

Event: Summer Seminar in Health Care Ethics

The Department of Bioethics & Humanities at Washington School of Medicine
27th Annual Summer Seminar in Health Care Ethics
Seattle, Washington
August 4 – 8, 2014

See here for more information.

April 15, 2014

Blood Type Influences Prostate Cancer Relapse, Study Shows

(The Telegraph) – A man’s blood group has been shown to significantly influence the chance that prostate cancer will return after successful surgery. Men with group O blood are far less likely to suffer a recurrence of the disease following surgical intervention. By contrast, men with blood group A were shown by new research to be 35% more likely to fall victim to the disease again, even after surgery.

Prices Soaring for Specialty Drugs, Researchers Find

(New York Times) – Even as the cost of prescription drugs has plummeted for many Americans, a small slice of the population is being asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of expensive treatments for diseases like cancer and hepatitis C, according to a report to be released on Tuesday by a major drug research firm. The findings echo the conclusions of two other reports released last week by major pharmacy benefit managers, which predicted that spending on so-called specialty drugs would continue to rise.


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
Yes, with some qualifications

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Which area of research should more money be invested in:
Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
Stem Cell Research
"Therapeutic" Cloning
None of the above

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