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Neuroscientists Make a Case Against Solitary Confinement

November 9, 2018

(Scientific American) – There are an estimated 80,000 people, mostly men, in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. They are confined to windowless cells roughly the size of a king bed for 23 hours a day, with virtually no human contact except for brief interactions with prison guards. According to scientists speaking at the conference session, this type of social isolation and sensory deprivation can have traumatic effects on the brain, many of which may be irreversible. Neuroscientists, lawyers and activists such as King have teamed up with the goal of abolishing solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. to Restrict E-Cigarette Flavors to Fight Teenage Vaping ‘Epidemic’

November 9, 2018

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration next week will issue a ban on the sale of fruit and candy flavored electronic cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations, an agency official said, in a move to counter a surge in teenage use of e-cigarettes.  The ban means only tobacco, mint and menthol flavors can be sold at these outlets, the agency official said, potentially dealing a major blow to Juul Labs Inc, the San Francisco-based market leader in vape devices.

Dutch to Prosecute Doctor for Euthanasia on Woman with Dementia

November 9, 2018

(Reuters) – Dutch prosecutors launched a criminal case on Friday against a doctor for performing euthanasia on an Alzheimer’s sufferer without adequately confirming she wanted to die, the first case of its kind since mercy killing was legalized in 2002. The 74-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years before her death, had a certified living will stating her wish for euthanasia if her condition were to worsen significantly.

Why Michelle Obama’s Revelation That She Had a Miscarriage and Did IVF Matters

November 9, 2018

(Vox) – President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama are famous for keeping the details of their personal life private. But the Obamas have just gone public with a very intimate and painful struggle: They had a miscarriage and went on to use in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to conceive their two daughters 20 years ago. In an early look at Michelle Obama’s new memoir, Becoming, the Associated Press reported that the Obamas turned to IVF after a miscarriage left them feeling alone, “failed,” and “broken.”

On the 100th Anniversary of WWI’s End, Lessons on Life in Health Care’s Trenches

November 9, 2018

(The Conversation) – As a practicing physician, I believe that many contemporary health professionals can relate to this experience. Though trained to focus on direct patient care, many find that they spend a remarkably high proportion of their time on activities that draw them away from patients – activities such as filling out electronic forms, wrangling with coding and billing requirements, and demonstrating compliance with rules and regulations. One study showed that nurses spend less than a third of their time actually caring for patients.

How Biologists Are Creating Life-Like Cells from Scratch

November 9, 2018

(Nature) – Researchers have been trying to create artificial cells for more than 20 years — piecing together biomolecules in just the right context to approximate different aspects of life. Although there are many such aspects, they generally fall into three categories: compartmentalization, or the separation of biomolecules in space; metabolism, the biochemistry that sustains life; and informational control, the storage and management of cellular instructions. The pace of work has been accelerating, thanks in part to recent advances in microfluidic technologies, which allow scientists to coordinate the movements of minuscule cellular components.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Improves Prediction of Alzheimer’s Disease

November 9, 2018

(News Medical) – Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco have developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology that improves the effectiveness of brain imaging for the prediction of Alzheimer’s disease. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can make a big difference to disease progression, as treatments and interventions are more effective the earlier they are started in the disease course. However, early diagnosis can be difficult because recognizing changes in metabolism that are related to the disease process can be challenging.

(The Guardian) – Jane Ballantyne

November 8, 2018

(The Guardian) – Jane Ballantyne was, at one time, a true believer. The British-born doctor, who trained as an anaesthetist on the NHS before her appointment to head the pain department at Harvard and its associated hospital, drank up the promise of opioid painkillers – drugs such as morphine and methadone – in the late 1990s. Ballantyne listened to the evangelists among her colleagues who painted the drugs as magic bullets against the scourge of chronic pain blighting millions of American lives. Doctors such as Russell Portenoy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York saw how effective morphine was in easing the pain of dying cancer patients thanks to the hospice movement that came out of the UK in the 1970s.

Canadian Doctors Grapple with How to Approach Assisted Dying for Young Patients

November 8, 2018

(CBC) – Three years after Canada’s top court decriminalized doctor-assisted suicide, the federal government is about to wade into an emerging controversy: How to respond to requests from children for medical assistance in dying, or MAID. Canada’s largest children’s hospital has already gotten a taste of this thorny issue.

F.D.A. Approves Powerful New Opioid Despite Warnings of Likely Abuse

November 8, 2018

(New York Times) – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new form of an extremely potent opioid to manage acute pain in adults, weeks after the chairman of the advisory committee that reviewed it asked the agency to reject it on grounds that it would likely be abused. The drug, Dsuvia, is a tablet form of sufentanil, a synthetic opioid that has been used intravenously and in epidurals since the 1980s. It is 10 times stronger than fentanyl, a parent drug that is often used in hospitals but is also produced illegally in forms that have caused tens of thousands of overdose deaths in recent years.

Study: Burn Victims’ Cells Regrow Skin Up to 30% Faster

November 8, 2018

(UPI) – Human trials are planned early next year on burn victims after researchers regrew skin in animals up to 30 percent quicker from human burn cells. Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine were the first to find live stem cells in the discarded dermis layer of the skin of human burn victims and apply them for faster skin regrowth in animals. They published their findings this week in the journal eBioMedicine.

Biosimilar Drugs Promise to Slash Health-Care Costs in Rich Countries

November 8, 2018

(The Economist) – “IT’S THE prices, stupid.” That simple assessment of America’s wildly expensive health-care system was made 15 years ago by Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist who died last year. Health costs as a proportion of America’s economic output have soared since, from 14.5% in 2003 to over 17% in 2017, with drug-price inflation a big culprit. Less than 2% of Americans are treated with specialty biotech drugs, but these account for as much as 35% of total drug spending. The good news is that cheaper biotech drugs are coming.

Cardiac Devices Can Cost Six Times More in U.S. Than in Europe

November 8, 2018

(Reuters) – Implanted heart devices like pacemakers and stents can cost two to six times more in the U.S. than in Germany, where costs are among the lowest in Europe, a recent study suggests. Medical devices account for about 6 percent of health expenditures in the U.S. and 7 percent in the European Union. But far less is known about pricing for devices than is known about drug costs, researchers note in Health Affairs. For the current study, they examined data on device prices at hospitals in the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and the UK from 2006 to 2014.

The Cause of Half of All Developmental Disorders Is a Genetic Mystery

November 8, 2018

(New Scientist) – As for the rest, the leading idea was that they were due to rare recessive mutations – mutations that only have an effect if both copies of a gene have the mutation. But in a study of 6000 children in Europe with developmental disorders, the project has now shown that only 4 per cent of developmental disorders are due to recessive mutations in the protein-coding parts of genes. In other words, around half the cases remain unexplained. “That was a surprise,” says team member Hilary Martin.

Canada Debates Assisted Death Laws after Woman Is Forced to End Life Early

November 8, 2018

(The Guardian) – Parker’s lost battle for greater autonomy in medically assisted death has reignited a debate over Canada’s legislation on medically assisted death, which critics say forces terminally ill people to choose two equally unpalatable choices: a death that is premature, or one that is painful. Parker was not the first to use Canada’s medically assisted death laws – more than 3,700 already have done so since the country’s supreme court paved the way for physician-assisted death in 2015 – but she quickly became one of the country’s most prominent advocates for changes in the law.

Abortion Pills Prosecution Could Have ‘Chilling Effect’

November 8, 2018

(BBC) – The decision to prosecute a woman accused of buying abortion pills for her 15-year-old daughter could have a “chilling effect” on woman and girls in a similar situation, a court has heard. A lawyer representing the Northern Irish woman made the comments at the High Court in Belfast. The woman is challenging the decision to prosecute her.

What If the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?

November 7, 2018

(New York Times) – But as ubiquitous as the phenomenon is, and as plentiful the studies that demonstrate it, the placebo effect has yet to become part of the doctor’s standard armamentarium — and not only because it has a reputation as “fake medicine” doled out by the unscrupulous to the credulous. It also has, so far, resisted a full understanding, its mechanisms shrouded in mystery. Without a clear knowledge of how it works, doctors can’t know when to deploy it, or how.

Peru ‘Baby Trafficking Ring’: Ex-Police Chief Held

November 7, 2018

(BBC) – Police in Peru say they have busted a suspected baby trafficking ring in the southern city of Arequipa.  Among the 14 people arrested in early morning raids is the former head of Peru’s national police force, Gen Raúl Becerra. He has not yet commented. Police suspect his partner of being the ringleader of the gang which convinced poor women to hand over their babies and then sold them.

Huge Fall in Prevalence in FGM/Genital Cutting Among Girls Across Africa

November 7, 2018

(Science Daily) – The prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting among girls up to the age of 14 has fallen sharply in most regions of Africa over the past three decades, reveals the first analysis of its kind, published in the online journal BMJ Global Health. But the rates of decline vary widely by country, and the practice is still pervasive in Western Asia-Iraq and Yemen-the findings indicate. What’s more, the conditions in many of the countries where a decline has occurred are ripe for a reversal of the downwards trend, warn the study authors.

UN Vows to Tackle Congo Rebels, Contain Ebola

November 7, 2018

(ABC News) – The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations vowed Wednesday to do more with Congo’s government to help improve security in the country’s east, where frequent attacks by rebels are undermining efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 150 people.

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