touched by London terror attacks
decker bus bomb tragedy that occurred in Tavistock Square,
London, on July 7, exploded right outside the offices
of the British Medical Association (BMA) and BMJ.
Thirteen people were killed in the attack, one of four
public transit bombs that devastated the British capital
none of the victims were from the BMA or BMJ.
Many BMA and BMJ staffers, including physicians,
rushed out to administer first aid to the victims.
docs vote for abortion status quo
the bombs struck, BMA members showed their compassion
for another group women facing an unwanted or
dangerous pregnancy. At the BMA's recent conference,
doctors voted overwhelmingly not to reduce the limit
on late term abortions. The current limit is 24 weeks;
a proposal was made to cut that to 20 weeks because
neonatal medicine has improved survival rates for severely
premature babies sometimes as young as 23 weeks.
Delegates voted 77% against the motion. One, Dr Jan
Wise, spoke out passionately against the reduction:
"There is a lot of anguish in deciding to have such
a termination. This puts an extra burden on the vulnerable
and weak who have decided to take this terrible last
step." Clearly his colleagues agreed.
oil really works
Hollywood film Lorenzo's Oil, based on a true
story, tells the tale of the Odone family and the homemade
concoction that saved their son from dying of the genetic
childhood disease cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (ADL).
In 1989, the same year the parents discovered their
dietary supplement, a study was launched to see if it
actually worked. The results have at last been published,
in the July issue of the Archives of Neurology.
They show that the supplement made from a mix
of olive oil and rapeseed oil actually delays
the effects of the disease. Of the 89 boys in the study,
74% remained healthy after 13 years. Most children with
ADL die within seven years of onset of symptoms.
organ trade goes high tech
IL A commercial
website that links up organ donors and recipients
MatchingDonors.com has led to the first international
cyber kidney transplant arrangement. Trent Fenwick,
from Kelowna, BC, generously donated his kidney to complete
stranger Bill Lundborg, of Chicago. The procedure was
scheduled to be performed on July 15 at the Northwestern
Hospital in Chicago. Based out of Massachusetts, MatchingDonors.com
allows patients to post their profiles on the site.
Potential donors can then browse for a life they would
like to help save. Patients are charged a membership
fee but donors aren't financially compensated for their
organs as it's still illegal.
a man of her
THAR YAR, MYANMAR
Twenty-one-year-old Thin Sandar recently prayed to Buddha,
asking him if she could be a man in her next life. Her
wish came true a little earlier than expected. At the
end of June there was a full moon and Ms Sandar claims
she suddenly noticed that she had grown a penis and
that her breasts had disappeared. Born a girl, many
villagers concede that Ms Sandar is a hermaphrodite.
But physicians say that it still doesn't explain the
sudden transformation. The health ministry, in the country
formerly known as Burma, has gotten involved, sending
experts to examine the woman-turned-man. Ms Sandar's
proud father already has plans to send her to a monastery.
Huntington's on flies
of Wisconsin researchers have come up with a cure for
Huntington's disease in fruit flies. They were
able to cure the flies by increasing the levels of two
proteins that are usually reduced by the disease. Astute
observers will recognize that this is bigger news for
humans than it is for flies. Despite the fact the disease
works in a far more complicated manner in people, senior
author Dr Jerry Yin is hopeful the knowledge attained
from curing the flies will lead us to find the underlying
causes of Huntington's in sentient beings, and hopefully
Plan B doesn't
lead to iniquity
study published online July 11 confirms the worst fears
of sexual health moralists everywhere: the morning after
pill does not cause an increase in unprotected sex,
or indeed any significant change in women's contraceptive
behaviour. The three-year study, conducted by researchers
at Imperial College drawing on data from the British
household Omnibus Survey, found that among sexually
active women, aged 16-49, the only change in their birth
control regime, since Plan B became available over the
counter in the UK, was how they obtained the emergency
contraceptive. During the study period, rates of use
remained stable at 8.4% in 2000, 7.9% in 2001, 7.2%
Canada, CABG comes cheap
in a flap over private healthcare it's sometimes easy
to forget the public model actually has some clear advantages.
A study in the July 11 issue of Archives of Internal
Medicine offers a timely reminder. Researchers at
Montreal's Jewish General Hospital compared 7,319 Canadian
and 4,698 US coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) patients
at four Canadian and five American hospitals. They found
that in the US the procedure can cost a heart-stopping
82% more than it does in Canada. The researchers attributed
the difference to vastly pricier hospital overheads
in the US, from salaries on down. Clinical outcomes,
mercifully, didn't differ.
US docs battle
insurers and win
complaint about the American healthcare system is the
power of insurance bureaucrats to decide what treatments
and procedures are "medically necessary." Doctors and
patients alike are frequently infuriated when insurers
refuse to cover an appropriate intervention. But now
a settlement of a huge class-action lawsuit, brought
forward by a host of doctors and state medical associations,
should shift some decision-making power back to the
physicians and out of reach of the insurance bean counters.
Mega insurance company WellPoint is the latest to settle,
following Aetna, Cigna, Prudential and HealthNet. The
settlements so far total a payout to doctors and charitable
healthcare organizations to the tune of $590 million