Twitter Round-Up (11/4-11/10)

By Casey Thomson

[Ed. Note. 11/12/12: Just to be clear, retweeting should not be read as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet.]

With Election Day now come and gone, our bloggers were tweeting this week about the results, in addition to the greater happenings in health law and ethics. Read below for this week’s round-up:

  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) retweeted a post about the recent clinical trial done on chelation, a “fringe” heart disease treatment whose popularity often hinges on a patient’s distrust of conventional medicine. Evidence of the treatment’s effectiveness looks to be marginal, at best. (11/4)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted an article that explained the problems in the intersection between neuroscience and law, namely how emerging technologies in neuroscience are not being used appropriately to understand criminal behavior. The author advocates for a renewed look at how neuroscience and law can work together, not only to evaluate defendants effectively, but also to customize plans that can serve the interests of both the defendant and the public. (11/5)
  • Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) linked to a new piece he co-authored on clinical data and genetics, entitled “The Next Controversy in Genetic Testing: Clinical Data as Trade Secrets?” (11/6)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) aptly summarized the results of Massachusetts’ ballot questions with her tweet: “Sick folk in MA can now smoke pot but, it seems likely, not have the aid of their doc in controlling the timing & nature of their death.” (11/6)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) linked to a study done on children with epilepsy  and their families. Goldberg noted that the study’s results indicate a serious “ethically pernicious” problem that in fact worsens the condition of those afflicted with epilepsy more so than may be originally perceived: stigmatization. (11/7)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) tweeted a blog post that talked of the need to increase the FDA’s power in order to curb the fungal meningitis outbreak now affecting individuals nationwide. Lamentations of the state-based system’s inability to handle the problem had undertones of concern for future situations similar to this one sprouting up again. (11/8)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) also published a news update from Georgia, where legislators are ending the discount on license renewal prices that had previously been given to motorists who signed up to be organ donors. While many expressed fear that the policy would decrease the number of donors, others in the medical community admitted that there had been no demonstrated link between the policy and increases in donor sign-ups. (11/10)

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: 11/03-11/09

By Kathy Wang and Hyeongsu Park

  • One of the lesser-heralded decisions to come from the elections this Tuesday was the LA county ballot measure requiring male actors in the porn industry to wear condoms during filming. Those opposed to the measure have begun a very vocal dissent, arguing that the industry should be able to regulate itself and that these private concerns should not be up to the discretion of the public. A porn industry trade group also made the argument that this restriction would infringe upon the freedom of expression.
  • Two foreign tobacco companies have protested a Canadian lawsuit that would impose a $50 billion dollar fine on the companies for withholding information from Ontario smokers in the 1950s about the adverse health effects of smoking.
  • On his MSNBC blog, ethicist Art Caplan questioned an expensive NIH study on the use of chelation therapy for heart patients, which showed marginal benefits at best.  He argues that heart patients should focus on what we already know works, but is harder to do: lifestyle changes.
  • California’s ballot included a measure that would require the labeling of all genetically modified food (Proposition 37).  However, this proposal was defeated, renewing conflict between advocates of those claiming the “right to know what is in our food” and biotechnology companies that have repeatedly tried to reassure the public of the safety in consuming such products. Some proponents of the measure are now hoping companies will begin voluntarily labeling or consumers will make more conscious food-purchasing decisions.
  • After Massachusetts voters decided to legalize medical marijuana, a landlord group approached lawmakers with a proposal for an “opt-out” option. The group was concerned that their constituents could be held accountable for tenants growing marijuana in their homes, and appealed to the Department of Public Health to consider this in deciding on zone ordinances and laws.

Twitter Round-Up: What Our Bloggers Are Tweeting About (10/28-11/3)

By Casey Thomson
[Ed. Note: Several of our bloggers are active on Twitter.  In a new feature, we’ll be posting some highlights of their tweets each week so you can stay in the know – or think about following them directly!]
  • Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) linked to Bloomberg’s article on the current underutilization of genetic tests for Lynch Syndrome, responsible for potentially 3% of all cases of colon cancer. Authors Langreth and Lauerman note that the lack of testing is but one example of the tendency to avoid such tests due to “doctors’ ignorance and financial disincentives.” (10/29)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) shared Iona Heath’s article on the problematic nature of current breast cancer screening awareness programs, discussing how women are not given enough information to decide if the potential treatments that follow are indeed worth the psychological devastation often invoked. (10/30)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted an editorial on medical genetic paternalism. The post by Razib Khan discussed how physicians deciding whether to tell parents about unforeseen genetic test results of their children can be considered not only an act of malpractice, but also morally wrong. (10/30)
  • Einer Elhauge (@elhauge) linked to a new review of his acclaimed book, Obamacare On Trial by the National Law Review. (10/31)
  • Daniel Goldberg also tweeted a review by Boddice of Javier Moscoso’s new book, Pain: A Cultural History. (10/31)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) linked to news about China’s promised initiative to reduce the dependence on death row inmates for organs. A new national organ donation system, based on a system previously piloted by the Red Cross Society of China, could take effect as soon as early 2013. (11/2)
  • Arthur Caplan also posted on the Vatican’s announcement to hold its second “International Adult Stem Cell Conference,” revisiting this complicated issue. (11/2)
  • Arthur Caplan additionally linked to a report on the debate and complications regarding feeding tube use, as published by Krieger of Mercury News. (11/2)

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: 10/27 – 11/02

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • Uruguay’s Senate approved a bill that allows women to have abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy for any reason. Read the NY Times article about the topic here.
  • Another NY Times article reported on October 27 that the nationwide health insurance plans sponsored by the federal government, included as part of the Affordable Care Act, will be available to consumers in every state soon. The article can be found here.
  • On November 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 28 people have now died and 386 have been sickened in the ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections from a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. Read the US News article about the outbreak here. Current case count for the multistate fungal meningitis outbreak, updated daily by the CDC, can be found here.
  • The British Medical Journal has announced that, beginning in January, it will no longer publish the results of clinical trials unless drug companies and researchers agree to provide detailed study data on request.
  • Researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City are worried that cells, tissues, mice, and rats used for medical research may have been lost as the Medical Center has been without power since Monday after superstorm Sandy struck. Read an NPR article about the story here.
  • The annual growth in spending on Medicaid slowed sharply last year as the economy began to improve, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found. The slowdown is due not only to more measured enrollment growth but also to continued cost-cutting by states.
  • In response to the recent meningitis outbreak, Massachusetts adopted new regulations on Thursday to keep a closer eye on compounding pharmacies, a class of drug supplier linked to the outbreak.


Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: October 20 – October 26

  • The NY Times reported earlier this week on a split decision regarding a surrogacy case in New Jersey Supreme Court. The court’s decision held little clarity in interpreting who has parenthood claims to children conceived through surrogacy–the donors of the child’s genetic material or the adults who raise the child. Read the details and decision of the case here.
  • An opinion piece highlighted the growing trend and importance of nurses acting in the capacity of family doctors in order to promote access to health care. Clinics of nurse-practitioners have been important in allowing patients to save on health care costs, receive faster treatment and diagnosis, and connect more deeply to their healthcare providers.
  • In a time when the efficacy of mammograms still has not been firmly established, a new controversy has emerged as some state laws have mandated that clinics tell patients about dense breast tissue. The conflict emerges because there has been no conclusive evidence that dense breast tissue actually holds much significance. Critics are worried these laws will lead to a flurry of unnecessary tests and biopsies; however, there are many in the medical community that also support these laws, so opinion remains heavily divided.
  • Another article by the NY Times reported on a settlement of a nationwide class-action lawsuit that will allow patients with chronic conditions or disabilities to qualify for Medicare coverage of outpatient therapy, home care, and nursing homes. This has the potential to affect tens of thousands who are suffering from chronic disease and their families that have had to foot the often exorbitant financial bill.
  • On Thursday, a federal appeal court refused the appeal of Planned Parenthood in its attempt to obligate the the Women’s Health Program of Texas to fund its organization.
  • NPR reported on a very contentious issue in Massachusetts elections this year: the “Death With Dignity” ballot question, which, if voter-approved, would legalize physician-assisted suicide. In the US, only two states have already legalized this initiative. Critics on all sides fear the abuse of this provision and worry that it will send a damaging message on the value of life. On the other side, proponents argue for patients’ rights. Either way, the vote in Massachusetts, considered a pioneer in health care among the states, could set the stage for further national debates and decisions.

Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: October 13 – October 19

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • In England, a High Court judge ruled that a profoundly brain damaged 3-year-old boy in foster care should not be given life support when his condition deteriorates, despite the wishes of his birth mother.
  • The lower house of the Swiss parliament declined to tighten controls on assisted suicide, which has been allowed in Switzerland since 1941 on a conditional basis.
  • Health officials are warning that more people may be at risk from contaminated drugs made by the New England Compounding Center (NECC), a Massachusetts company linked to a growing meningitis outbreak. The FDA reported on October 15 that the company’s products used for open heart surgery and eye operations may have also caused other types of infection. The FDA’s reports regarding the meningitis outbreak can be found here.
  • Health organizations wrote a letter to the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, urging him to support developing countries that want to introduce universal healthcare coverage.
  • The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released a report last week that set down principles for regulation and legislation in the whole genome sequencing field. The report pointed out that the regulatory safeguards are necessary in order to protect the patients’ privacy. The report is available online.