Wednesday, July 09, 2008

NHS Meltdown: "Converyor Belt Childbirths"

Sigh: The NHS continues to collapse and I continue to report--but even I don't post all the stories, striving as I do to keep SHS varied and interesting. But this can't be overlooked: The NHS has been accused of "conveyor belt" childbirths. From the story:

Women are giving birth on a virtual conveyor belt because maternity wards are so overcrowded and understaffed, a damning report has revealed. The Healthcare Commission report--the most detailed ever undertaken--has exposed a grim picture of women giving birth in units where there are not enough toilets or showers and women are rushed through so fast that more than one mother gives birth in each bed every day.

Consultants are not present on the wards enough of the time, midwives and doctors do not get on with each other and severe staff shortages mean women are left alone during the birth, the report found. The investigation into every aspect of antenatal, labour, birth and postnatal care, was prompted after high death rates among new mothers were found in successive hospitals.
Good grief.

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Haleigh Poutre to Go to School and be Adopted

The Boston Globe is reporting how far Haleigh Poutre has progressed since bioethicists, social workers, and courts decided to dehydrate her to death. From the story:

Haleigh, now 14, has stayed for more than two years at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, where she is described as a friendly child who routinely smiles and waves at staff. Haleigh can speak some words and attends a day school in a wheelchair. A juvenile court judge has declared that Haleigh is functioning at a level "too high" for placement in a nursing home, and she is likely to go into an adoptive home with a personal assistant or a group home.
It is so typical that the reporter, who did such a thorough job of exposing how Haleigh was failed by those who should have protected her when she was being abused, barely scratched the issue of the dehydration order.

Here is the key question: Will anyone learn the lesson of this case?

Answer: Nope. Legislation is pending in MA requiring second opinions in such cases, but at the time the order was made, the second pair of eyes would probably also have found her to be unresponsive, and gone along with the dehydration.

It isn't the responsiveness that matters, it is the humanity of the patient. But accepting this view gets in the way of too many agendas.

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Dehydration of a Conscious Patient in Florida Reported as No Big Deal by St. Petersburg Times

For more than ten years I have been telling anyone who will listen that unquestionably conscious cognitively disabled patients are being denied sustenance in every state in this country--so long as no family member objects (and eventually, if futile care theory takes hold, it will be even if they do). Here's the latest proof: A young man was catastrophically injured by a drug overdose. For years his parents kept vigil, and then decided to transfer him to the hospice in which Terri Schiavo died, which removed his feeding tube. But he wasn't unconscious. From the story:

His brain was severely damaged, and he never spoke again. If his mother pulled his chin, he could mouth "Mama." If she leaned close, he could kiss her. That "broke my heart," Sue, 53, said.

For nearly three years, his mother and father did nothing but "work, sleep and spend time with Bradley," she said. There was a chance his condition would improve. But it didn't. Infections kept landing him in a hospital. Finally, his family transferred him to the Hospice of Florida Suncoast, where Terri Schiavo died.

They removed his feeding tube, and his mother lay in bed beside him. He died July 2.
It is my understanding that a patient is supposed to be PVS in Florida before a tube can be removed. But never mind. That law isn't really designed to protect, but give false assurance.

I think the bigger story here is the blase`, matter-of-fact reporting about the matter by the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg Times--which exhibited profound, nay, nasty, bias against the Schindlers during the Schiavio debacle. Can you imagine the paper's reaction had a dog or a horse been denied sustenance?

This is the truth: Once we decided that people who are diagnosed as persistently unconscious could have sustenance denied based on quality of life, then we stripped all profoundly cognitively disabled people from moral equality. The wall was breached allowing utilitarian bioethical values to come pouring in. Now, virtually anyone who needs a feeding tube and can't make their own decisions--conscious or not--can and are being denied food and water. What a testimony about the state of the times in which we live.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

CIRM Screams Bloody Murder Over Requirement That Grantees Give Back to the People of California

Oh, this is rich! During the campaign for Proposition 71, proponents promised that Californians would reap a cornucopia of benefits from borrowing $3 billion over 10 years to pay researchers in private companies and their business partners in universities to conduct human cloning and ESCR. And, they said, the poor of California would benefit from cheap medical treatments.

Well the California Legislature is holding them to that, and now the CIRM is wailing and gnashing its teeth that the very existence of the CIRM is threatened! Sounds serious: Is Bush sending in the storm troopers at last? From the CIRM's dire e-letter of doom sent to scientists and supporters:

We need you to take a few minutes to help save the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and embryonic stem cell research in California. This is under siege right now in the state legislature. A few weeks ago, we failed to stop Senate Bill 1565 (Kuehl-Runner). The bill was passed by the Senate, and has now also passed through two Assembly Committees: Health and Judiciary. The final step before a floor vote is a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee (contact information below). We need you to act now and ask for a NO vote on SB 1565.

Over seven million voters expressed a desire to fund embryonic stem cell research when they passed Proposition 71. SB 1565 would remove the built-in preference for embryonic stem cell research--directly contradicting the will of Californians. We passionately support the goal of healthcare that is accessible and affordable to all Californians.

However, this bill will discourage private industry from developing therapies and cures. Currently, the law allows the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to provide companies with additional incentives to develop therapies for "orphan" diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Lou Gehrig's disease. SB 1565 will eliminate these incentives, making it financially unfeasible for companies to pursue therapies for rare diseases. SB 1565 abandons these patients and their families.

What phonies! Did Californians express a "preference" for spending $270 million of their borrowed money for the most expensive buildings money could buy--as most of this year's grants have done? Hardly.

Besides, would that it were so. But since Sheila Kuehl is a primary sponsor--for those who don't know her, she played Zelda on the old Dobie Gillis television show and is very radical--it is highly doubtful that Kuehl's desire is to destroy embryonic stem cell research! (Kuehl and I had a bit of a back and forth when I testified against the ultimately failed assisted suicide bill in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee a few years ago.) And indeed, she doesn't. What is going on is forcing the CIRM to actually be sure that its grantees give back to the state's poor--as the campaign promised it would. From the Legislative Analyst's Report:
This bill requires the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to include in its intellectual property standards a requirement that each grantee and licensee submit for CIRM's approval a plan that will afford uninsured Californians access to any drug that is, in whole or in part, the result of research funded by the CIRM, requires these plans to include a requirement that grantees and licensees sell drugs that result from CIRM funding and are purchased with public funds at a price that does not exceed any benchmark price in the California Discount Prescription Drug Program , and requires the Little Hoover Commission to conduct a study of the governance structure of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act by July 1, 2009.
Given the shoddy leadership of the CIRM, the governance structure needs revising. Moreover, the CIRM's actions to date--and its opposition to the bill--shows that the entire enterprise is corporate welfare at its worst.

It passed 40-0 in the Senate. The biggest liberals in the state back it. I think it's gonna pass. Yes!

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Now Nature Medicine Admits: US Not Falling Behind in Science

The RAND report demonstrating that contrary to the warnings of some among the blank check crowd, the USA is not falling behind in scinece (which I referenced here at SHS) is now the subject of a Nature Medicine editorial (no link available). Despite years of moaning that the Bush Administration is ruining science in the USA, RAND demonstrated--and Nature Medicine admits--that the USA remains the world's leader in scientific research. From the editorial:

Threats to the US scientific dominance notwithstanding,the authors of the RAND report are right in concluding that a changing of the guard is not imminent. As they remind us,to perform well in science and technology, a country needs at least three elements to be in place--infrastructure, workforce and education. Decades of investment have led the US to develop a very strong foundation for these pillars, ruling out the possibility that its research system is in danger of collapse. At the same time, the report includes plenty of data to show that the rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do before it seriously threatens the scientific position of the US,and that different regions need to tackle different problems if they want to become more competitive in R&D.
Yet, that doesn't stop the editorialist from continuing the fear-mongering and whipsawing about how we could lose our supremacy:
And while the report concludes that the US is not at immediate risk of losing its scientific supremacy, the advances made by other countries should be taken seriously as indicators of their potential for scientific leadership. It is indeed possible that, if the same report were written in five years' time, a very different picture might emerge--a reminder that complacency has no place when you want to stay at the top.
Ah, that old blank check mentality. You see, no matter what investments are made into science research, and no matter how open the ethics, I have concluded that for some among "the scientocracy," it will never be enough.

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Media Credit Where It is Due: AP Calls Assisted Suicide--Assisted Suicide

Word engineering has always been intrinsic to the euthanasia movement. Always. Indeed, today mercy killing and euthanasia are synonyms thanks to the euthanasia movement of the late 19th Century. Before that, the term "good death" meant dying peacefully (and naturally) in a state of grace.

These days the word engineering by assisted suicide proponents seeks to make it so that terminally ill people can't really commit suicide, at least if the death is caused by an overdose--and besides, the term is soooo judgmental that people might reject the agenda. So, they have spent much effort courting the media to have the term changed in news stories to the gooey euphemism, "aid in dying."

But apparently the Associated Press didn't bite. From a media blog in The Olympian:

The debate, I'm told, went to the top of the Associated Press' command center back in New York, and the ruling was "assisted suicide." That means member papers, including The Olympian, are likely to follow the line. Aside from the logic of the argument (it is some one asking for assistance in ending their own life) there's the practical matter of time. Any paper with its own term would have to scan AP stories from across the state and edit out the "assisted suicide" name before running them.
I admit to being pleasantly surprised. That won't change the bias in the coverage--sick woman wants to choose time and manner of death, compassionate doctor and loving family supportive, but mean anti-assisted suicide proponents say no (quote after jump), followed by rebuttal from courageous advocate of change. (If I have seen that story once, I have seen it 1000 times!) But at least when the biased stories are written, the proper, descriptive terminology will be used.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

HPV Vaccine Update: Dangerous to Girls?

Readers of SHS will recall when the HPV vaccine first came out and with it, a great political push made by business interests and those of a certain cultural persuasion that expected (wanted?) teenage girls to be sexually active to require all girls to receive the vaccine. That effort stalled, and from my perspective, that's a good thing on several levels. One is that the vaccine may have serious side effects. From the story:

Ault explains why youth is key. Human papillomavirus is sexually transmitted, "so one of the advantages of giving it to adolescents is that they are unlikely to have been sexually active, so they will not have been exposed to the virus before getting the vaccine." Another reason to do this early, Ault points out, is that "our immune system is a lot better when we are 11 than when we are, say, at 22."

Ault also suggests that parents could use this experience to teach their children about sex and, even more important, about the realities of life, such as sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

These arguments aren't convincing to some parents, the ones that are choosing not to have their daughters vaccinated. There are several reasons for doing this, including religious beliefs. Some faith-based groups feel the vaccine is inviting their young daughters to become sexually active.

Others believe the drug is just too risky. CDC spokesman Curtis Allen says the vaccine is constantly being monitored by a joint CDC /FDA hotline. Parents, patients and physicians can call the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, to report any adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Through a Freedom of Information Act petition, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch got records from VAERS that showed three deaths in girls who'd had the vaccine in March-April 2007 and over 1,600 adverse reactions reported from June 2006 to April 2007. All said the response came after getting the HPV vaccine.

Allen cautions restraint in considering the reports. "Most of these reactions were minor," he said, and the deaths "were linked to circumstances not related to the vaccine." The CDC and the FDA are constantly monitoring the VAERS hotline and won't hesitate to act should they see any dangerous trends due to the HPV vaccine, he said.

That might not sound alarming, but as reported in US News and World Report, one father thinks that the vaccine caused his daughter's paralysis.

Don't get me wrong: The issues for me have never been the vaccine, but the attempted coercion and the increasing effort to remove the control of their children's medical care from parental control.

If parents want to vaccinate their daughters, more power to them. But the lesson here is that mandatory vaccination, when the disease is not widely communicable and the vaccine is new, should be very carefully considered.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

NHS Meltdown: Elderly Woman Starved Rather Than Cared for to Save Money?

I have heard rumors of stories like this from my contacts in the UK, but have not posted on it because that is what they were: Rumors. But now, the BBC has reported that a care facility might have tried to starve an elderly woman to save money. From the story:

Ellen Westwood, 88, was in Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital for two months being treated for dementia and C.difficile, which she had previously contracted. Her daughter Kathleen Westwood said the hospital decided in February it was in her "best interests" to halt fluids and nutrition--a move the family opposed...

Ms Westwood said she and her father were called into a room at Selly Oak Hospital on 8 February and told doctors had decided to withdraw all fluids, food and hydration.

They said they had begun giving Mrs Westwood morphine "because she is dying". She said: "Because of this capacity ruling, if you deem somebody to have lost capacity, then the doctors can act in the best interests. "Well in their view the best interests was for my mother to die--and clearly by Monday she would have been dead."

The facility said the doctors followed the national guidelines. Maybe they did! The surrealistically named National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence--that goes by the equally surrealistic acronym NICE--the bioethics advisers (overlords) of the NHS is very utilitarian and it wouldn't be surprising if the guidelines did call for such an involuntary dehydration. Indeed, in its legal brief in the Leslie Burke case, NICE wanted doctors to have the say whether he was dehydrated to death even though he sued to prevent that type of death. (The UK Lords eventually ruled that doctors decide if the patient is unconscious or unable to communicate.)

We shouldn't look down our noses in America. We have our own bioethicists pushing the old quality of life agenda, although they don't have the institutional power of NICE. Our job is to make sure that they never get it.


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Friday, July 04, 2008

CIRM Grants not as Advertised to Voters

This is an interesting analysis on a Nature blog on how the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine is spending money taken out of the hides of Californians. In addition to spending hundreds of millions of borrowed taxpayer dollars to build the plushest buildings, designed by the world's most exclusive architects, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine isn't funding human cloning. From the story:

The California scientists most likely to receive state grants for making new cell lines were those who proposed comparing embryonic stem cell lines and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines. Overall, thirty-two percent of all grant applications (16 of 50) were funded. Four of the five grants that proposed comparisons got funds. The unfunded grant application crossed into less favored categories, as it also proposed making lines from parthenotes and through nuclear transfer. None of the grant applications that sought to make cell lines using human oocytes were funded. Two proposed cloning through nuclear transfer, one proposed stimulating unfertilized eggs to divide into parthenotes, and one application proposed using both methods.

Success rates for grants proposing the derivation of only ES or only iPS cells were each 33%, but there were twice as many grants for iPS cells. That’s astounding considering that the grant program was announced in October 2007, a month before the first publications that human cells could be successfully reprogrammed.

The lack of cloning grants--to be celebrated--wasn't due to ethical concerns, but the egg dearth:
Also called therapeutic cloning, SCNT involves inserting the nucleus from one cell into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed. Then the egg is stimulated to grow into a blastocyst, which would be destroyed to collect the innermost cells from which embryonic stem cells can be derived. Though harvesting these inner cells is the typical way of creating embryonic stem cells, it hasn’t worked yet for SCNT in humans, a failure blamed on an insufficient number of eggs for the attempts required to generate healthy blastocysts.
As we've written here at SHS before, the drive has already begun to enable researchers to pay women to risk their health via egg procurement so that scientists can play with human cloning experiments. But if we hold tight on the egg issue--and given the advances of IPSCs--which are being funded by CIRM even though it is also eligible for federal funding, we may yet allow a robust regenerative medical sector to develop without throwing ethics and decency into the trash compactor.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Animal Rights Activists Want Hemsley Millions

Leona Helmsley left her hundreds of millions of dollars to care for dogs. And now the animal rights groups want that action. From the article by the industry funded and excellent information source, Center for Consumer Freedom:

Helmsley's money, which may amount to as much as $400 million in grants every year, "could make such a difference," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk told the Associated Press yesterday. [Newkirk] said at least 3 million dogs are put to death each year for lack of spay and neuter programs. "Many people cannot afford the surgery for their dogs," she said. Last year, PETA raised $30 million. With all of this money, it managed to spay or neuter just 6,341 dogs and cats. (PETA also killed 1,997 pets while finding adoptive homes for just 17.) This is an organization for whom fixing the pet overpopulation problem isn't a top priority. It's more interested in ending AIDS research, demonizing carnivores, and targeting children for vegetarian indoctrination. If the executors of Helmsley's estate were looking for a place to invest pet-protection dollars, they could hardly do worse.

Well, impeding AIDS research would be a less hyperbolic way of putting it, but animal liberationists don't believe there should even be domesticated animals, so allowing PETA or other such groups to have some of that lucre would be to work against Hemsley's desires.

CCF concludes:
Here's a modest proposal for the Helmsley estate: Establish a new national Humane Society, an umbrella group devoted solely to distributing money to local pet shelters. No stealth campaigns aimed at winning legal "rights" for chimps, cows, and elephants. Just a real national Humane Society. We've had a pretend one for years. Maybe it's time for the real thing.
Yes there will be litigation. With all of that money to be had to promote the ideology, Helmsley's estate will soon look like a it will soon look like jackals on a carcass.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Good: Delaware Didn't "Learn the Lesson" of Schiavo

The Delaware House of Representatives has passed a resolution in support of protecting the life of Loren Richardson, who like Terri Schiavo before her, is the subject of a bitter court fight over removing her feeding tube. The resolution states:

This Resolution establishes protections for mentally disabled individuals in the State of Delaware. The impetus for this Resolution comes from the case of Lauren Richardson, a 24-year-old Delaware woman who, after suffering brain injuries and impaired consciousness, now faces the possible removal of her nutrition and hydration, despite the absence of her clearly specified and legal consent to any such a course of action. The State of Delaware has, through recent legislation prompted by the abuses at the Delaware Psychiatric Center, endeavored to protect the rights of mentally disabled patients in the First State. Lauren, as a mentally disabled person, is enumerated those same protection and rights.
Too many of us dismiss people like Lauren--and I am not referring here to her mother who wants treatment stopped--as "vegetables" (a word that should not be used as it is as demeaning and dehumanizing as the odious N-word), "brain dead" (as the Orlando Sentinel unrepentantly did for so long regarding Terri), or other such denigration. Meanwhile, some bioethicists look longingly at these people as "living cadavers" who can be harvested for their organs or used in medical experimentation.

Good for the Delaware Assembly for not shrinking from such demagoguery.

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