(New Scientist) – Overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) have reached shocking proportions in the US. The problem has pushed up the death rate among young white adults to levels not seen since the end of the AIDS epidemic, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The findings come from an analysis of nearly 60 million death certificates collected between 1990 and 2014. They show, among other things, that the 2014 overdose death rate among white Americans aged 25 to 34 was five times higher than the equivalent figure in 1999.
(Medical Xpress) – The debate over physician-assisted death (PAD) appears to be at a turning point, with a significant number of state legislatures across the country considering PAD, say two Georgetown University scholars, but, they caution, social and ethical safeguards are needed.
(New York Times) – Marion is in the throes of a tuberculosis outbreak so severe that it has posted an incidence rate about 100 times greater than the state’s and worse than in many developing countries. Residents, local officials and medical experts said the struggle against the outbreak could be traced to generations of limited health care access, endemic poverty and mistrust — problems that are common across the rural South.
(New York Times) – All of this began innocently enough. But the measurement fad has spun out of control. There are so many different hospital ratings that more than 1,600 medical centers can now lay claim to being included on a “top 100,” “honor roll,” grade “A” or “best” hospitals list. Burnout rates for doctors top 50 percent, far higher than other professions. A 2013 study found that the electronic health record was a dominant culprit. Another 2013 study found that emergency room doctors clicked a mouse 4,000 times during a 10-hour shift. The computer systems have become the dark force behind quality measures.
(Reuters) – Families may be more satisfied with end-of-life care for loved ones dying of cancer when treatment is focused on comfort rather than aggressive treatment and provided outside of a hospital, a U.S. study suggests. When patients received at least three days of hospice care focused on comfort and quality of life, 59 percent of their loved ones thought their treatment was excellent, compared with just 43 percent when patients received little or no hospice care, the study found.
(New Scientist) – The head transplant juggernaut rolls on. Last year, maverick surgeon Sergio Canavero caused a worldwide storm when he revealed his plan to attempt a human head transplant to New Scientist. He claimed that the surgical protocol would be ready within two years and said he intended to offer the surgery as a treatment for complete paralysis. Now, working with other scientists in China and South Korea, he claims to have moved closer to that goal with a series of experiments in animals and human cadavers.
(Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that the United States would speed up the approval of promising new drug combinations in his government’s newly announced drive to cure cancer “once and for all”. Biden, who lost his 46-year-old son Beau to brain cancer last year, set out his plans at a World Economic Forum meeting of international cancer experts in Davos, a week after being appointed to lead the initiative by President Barack Obama.
(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on guidelines for obstetricians caring for pregnant women who may have been exposed to the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection that can cause brain damage in a developing fetus, a CDC spokesman confirmed on Tuesday. Dr. Laura Riley, president of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, told Reuters she has been working with the CDC on the guidelines, which she said were expected to be released later on Tuesday.
(Medical Xpress) – The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to revive an Arkansas law that would have banned abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy if doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. The justices did not comment in rejecting the state’s appeal of lower court rulings that struck down the law. Federal judges had called the law inconsistent with Supreme Court rulings that generally tie restrictions to the fetus’ viability, not the presence of a heartbeat.
(Physorg) – An international team of researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), the University of Bristol, Monash University and RIKEN have developed an algorithm that can predict the factors required to convert one human cell type to another. These game-changing findings, recently published online on 18 January 2016 in the journal Nature Genetics, have significant implications for regenerative medicine and lay the groundwork for further research into cell reprogramming.
(Genome Web) – The Broad Institute’s Eric Lander gave a low-down in Cell last week of the history of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing tool and who did what to develop this bacterial system into a powerful tool. The thing is, as many have pointed out on Twitter, PubPeer, and elsewhere, there’s a patent dispute flaring up between CRISPR developers and their institutions: the Broad Institute and the University of California.
(Sydney Morning Herald) – Thousands of older people are investigating peaceful methods to end their own lives because they want to control the nature and timing of their death, says controversial euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke. The former doctor said there was a developing trend of baby boomers and people over 70 wanting to avoid “end of life medical nightmares” in which they are seriously ill and or feel trapped in a hospital or nursing home where it can be difficult to take your own life.
(The Guardian) – Canada’s supreme court has decided to allow assisted suicide under certain conditions throughout the country while granting the federal government four more months to come up with a law governing the practice. The high court had given Parliament a year to regulate how and when physician-assisted suicide would be permitted after overturning a ban last February.
(CBC News) – A Quebec City patient has died with the assistance of a doctor, in a Canadian legal first. A spokeswoman for the authority that oversees health care in the Quebec City region confirmed to CBC News that one patient has received medical aid in dying and a second request is being considered. Annie Ouellet of the Quebec City Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre would offer no further details on the patient or the circumstances. It is the first known case since the province’s assisted dying law came into effect on Dec. 10, 2015.
(ABC News) – Ordering a Catholic hospital in California to perform a tubal ligation sterilization procedure on a woman would violate its religious freedom, a San Francisco judge ruled Thursday. “Religious-based hospitals have an enshrined place in American history and its communities, and the religious beliefs reflected in their operation are not to be interfered with by courts at this moment in history,” Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith said while finalizing his previous tentative ruling.
(CNN) – Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Thursday against the anti-abortion activists who secretly taped the group’s officials talking about the sale of fetal tissue and released the heavily edited videos last year. The videos sparked a political firestorm in Washington, with Republican lawmakers accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale and trying unsuccessfully to strip the group of federal funding.
Parents Anguished by Backlash Over Letting Their Terminally Ill 5-Year-Old Help Decide Whether to Go Back to the Hospital
(People) – The last thing Michelle Moon expected when she publicly shared the moving conversations about death she had with her terminally ill 5-year-old daughter was backlash. But backlash is exactly what she and her husband, Steve Snow, experienced after CNN.com posted a two-part story about the family in late October that included a debate between bioethicists about whether a child that age should have a say in their own end-of-life decisions or even understands what death is.
(The Washington Post) – Question is, will physicians, as a result, be motivated to initiate more of these crucial conversations? Will patients? And will this long-overdue reform ultimately improve, both clinically and economically, how well the U.S. health care system delivers end-of-life care? Nobody knows for sure. But this much is certain: Many physicians have received no training along these lines. Few are educated in how to carry on this kind of talk with patients in the first place, much less in shepherding patients compassionately toward death.
(Physorg) – Stem cells work throughout our lives as a sort of handyman, repairing damaged tissues and renewing some normal ones, like the skin we shed. Scientists have come to understand much about how stem cells function when we are adults, but less is known about where these stem cells come from to begin with, as an embryo is developing. Now, researchers at The Rockefeller University have identified a new mechanism by which cells are instructed during development to become stem cells. The results, published in Cell on January 14, help explain how communication between cells mediates this process, and may have implications for skin cancer treatments.
(Nanowerk) – Using carbon nanotubes, MIT chemical engineers have devised a new method for detecting proteins, including fibrinogen, one of the coagulation factors critical to the blood-clotting cascade. This approach, if developed into an implantable sensor, could be useful for monitoring patients who are taking blood thinners, allowing doctors to make sure the drugs aren’t interfering too much with blood clotting.