Category Archives: Health

The Man Who Studies the Spread of Ignorance

Georgina Kenyon reports for BBC Future:

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

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The Theranos scandal should be a wake-up call, but it probably won’t be

Rebecca Robins reports for STAT:

Not even the holiday slowdown could bring a reprieve for the beleaguered blood-testing company Theranos.

This week brought the latest installment of the Wall Street Journal’s ongoing investigation into the company, this time detailing accusations from two former employees that Theranos tampered with its data and cherry-picked its results. An opportunistic law firm then piggybacked on the newspaper’s reporting, announcing Tuesday that it was investigating whether the company made claims to investors that violate securities laws.

It’s the latest in a relentless parade of damaging news for the Silicon Valley upstart, which was valued last year at $9 billion, the most of any venture-backed company working in health care today. Its charismatic founder, 31-year-old Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes, has promised to provide quick, accurate medical test results from just a few drops of blood pricked from a finger.

Not many new companies have risen as high or fallen as far as Theranos. But it’s hardly the only firm that’s raised big bucks before proving it had the technology to back up the hype — and it’s unlikely to be the last. “I bet that it’s happening right now,” said Dr. John Ioannidis, a Stanford professor who studies scientific robustness.

STAT asked scientists who have been closely watching the Theranos scandal to predict its fallout. They expressed hope that it might be a wake-up call for the biotech industry to prioritize science over speculation — but said that the existing structures and incentives make it likely that plenty more companies like Theranos will thrive.

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Adding fluoride to water supply may have no benefit, say experts

Haroon Siddique reports for The Guardian:

Water fluoridation has been in place in England for more than 40 years, and now covers about 6 million people. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls adding fluoride to drinking water one of the 10 great public health achievements in the 20th century.

Public Health England (PHE) describes it as “a safe and effective public health measure” to combat tooth decay in children and, alongside dentists’ groups, has called for it to be implemented more widely.

But health experts are calling for a moratorium on water fluoridation, claiming that the benefits of such schemes, as opposed to those of topical fluoride (directly applied to the teeth), are unproved.

Furthermore, critics cite studies claiming to have identified a number of possible negative associations of fluoridation, including bone cancer in boys, bladder cancer, hyperthyroidism, hip fractures and lower IQ in children.

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Irradiated: 33,480 Americans Dead After 70 Years of Atomic Weaponry

Brittany Peterson reports for McClatchy:

“Irradiated,” a special report published today by McClatchy, offers an unprecedented look at the costs of war and the risks of a strong defense, using federal records to chronicle the deaths of at least 33,480 nuclear workers who helped the U.S. win World War II and the Cold War.

The number of deaths has never been disclosed by federal officials. It’s more than four times the number of American casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it looms large as the nation prepares for its second nuclear age, with a $1 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear weapons over the next 30 years.

McClatchy determined the count after analyzing more than 70 million records in a database obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor under the Freedom of Information Act. It includes all workers who are dead after they or their survivors received compensation under a special fund created in 2001 to help those who got sick in the construction of America’s nuclear arsenal.

A total of 107,394 workers have been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases after building the nation’s nuclear stockpile over the last seven decades. The project includes an interactive database that offers details on all 107,394 workers.

McClatchy’s yearlong investigation, set in 10 states, puts readers in the living rooms of sick workers in South Carolina, on a picket line in Texas and at a cemetery in Tennessee. It includes interviews with more than 100 workers, government officials, experts and activists and across the country.

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The DuPont and Dow Chemical Merger: A Bad Deal for People and the Planet

Sarah Lazare writes for Common Dreams:

Watchdog groups are sounding the alarm after two of the oldest and largest corporations in the United States—DuPont and Dow Chemical—announced Friday plans to merge into a $130 billion giant, thereby establishing the world’s biggest seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The new behemoth, named DowDuPont, would then be split into “three independent, publicly traded companies through tax-free spin-offs,” according to a joint corporate statement marking one of the the largest deals of 2015.

These companies would focus on agriculture, material science, and “technology and innovation-driven Specialty Products company,” the statement continues. Together, they would form the second-largest chemical company world-wide.

The merger, if it goes through, is expected to slash numerous jobs.

And it would expand the influence of two Big Ag players, with the combined venture retaining control over “17 percent of global pesticide sales and about 40 percent of America’s corn-seed and soybean markets,” according to the calculations of Washington Post analysts.

Rights groups warn that this large share would be very bad for people and the planet—and called on the Department of Justice to block the merger.

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The Dark Side of the New Zealand Dairy Industry

Animal welfare organisations SAFE and Farmwatch set up hidden cameras across 12 farms and a slaughter house in New Zealand. Here’s what they discovered. (SAFE and Farmwatch)

Pfizer-Allergan to Create the World’s Largest Pharmaceutical Company: Interview with James Henry

Jessica Devereux talks to economist James Henry about why the U.S. Congress will turn a blind eye to the Pfizer-Allergan merger deal which will create world’s largest pharmaceutical company, higher drug prices, and hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue. (The Real News)

A Growing Disenchantment With October ‘Pinkification’

Gina Kolata reports for The New York Times:

[…] Pinkwashing, as some breast cancer activists call it, has become an October rite, to “raise awareness” of breast cancer during what has for years been called National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Those who promote the pink campaigns say they raise millions of dollars to fight the disease.

“When I see Delta flight attendants dressed in pink, I thank them,” said Daniela Campari, senior vice president for marketing at the American Cancer Society.

But many women with breast cancer hate the spectacle. “I call it the puke campaign,” said Marlene McCarthy, the director of the Rhode Island Breast Cancer Coalition, who has metastatic breast cancer.

“Breast cancer awareness,” critics charge, has become a sort of feel-good catchall, associated with screening and early detection, and the ubiquitous pink a marketing opportunity for companies of all types. For all the awareness, they note, breast cancer incidence has been nearly flat and there still is no cure for women whose cancer has spread beyond the breast to other organs, like the liver or bones.

“What do we have to show for the billions spent on pink ribbon products?” asked Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, an activist group whose slogan is “Think before you pink.”

She concluded: “A lot of us are done with awareness. We want action.”

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Why The Pharmaceutical Industry Is The Worst

Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history

Yuval Noah Harari reports for The Guardian:

Pig carcasses hanging in an abattoir[…] The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time, certainly in terms of the numbers involved. These days, most big animals live on industrial farms. We imagine that our planet is populated by lions, elephants, whales and penguins. That may be true of the National Geographic channel, Disney movies and children’s fairytales, but it is no longer true of the real world. The world contains 40,000 lions but, by way of contrast, there are around 1 billion domesticated pigs; 500,000 elephants and 1.5 billion domesticated cows; 50 million penguins and 20 billion chickens.

In 2009, there were 1.6 billion wild birds in Europe, counting all species together. That same year, the European meat and egg industry raised 1.9 billion chickens. Altogether, the domesticated animals of the world weigh about 700m tonnes, compared with 300m tonnes for humans, and fewer than 100m tonnes for large wild animals.

This is why the fate of farm animals is not an ethical side issue. It concerns the majority of Earth’s large creatures: tens of billions of sentient beings, each with a complex world of sensations and emotions, but which live and die on an industrial production line. Forty years ago, the moral philosopher Peter Singer published his canonical book Animal Liberation, which has done much to change people’s minds on this issue. Singer claimed that industrial farming is responsible for more pain and misery than all the wars of history put together.

The scientific study of animals has played a dismal role in this tragedy. The scientific community has used its growing knowledge of animals mainly to manipulate their lives more efficiently in the service of human industry. Yet this same knowledge has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that farm animals are sentient beings, with intricate social relations and sophisticated psychological patterns. They may not be as intelligent as us, but they certainly know pain, fear and loneliness. They too can suffer, and they too can be happy.

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Flawed methodology and assumptions behind claim that business is losing Brussels lobby wars

Corporate Observatory Europe writes:

Spare a thought for big business lobbyists in Brussels. According to a blog on the website of the London School of Economics, they are supposedly “less successful than citizen groups at lobbying EU legislators”. If only. The authors of the blog (academics Andreas Dür, Patrick Bernhagen and David Marshall) make this claim off the back of their analysis of 70 European Commission proposals introduced between 2008 and 2010, which they say show business actors to be less able to achieve their desired outcomes in EU legislative decisions. Let’s examine the main assumptions, methodology, and findings from the blog to try to explain how they could have gotten Brussels’ lobbying power picture so backward.

Essentially, the blog’s conclusions can be explained by the questionable method that was used to determine lobby ‘success’. On the basis of interviews with 95 Commission staff (see page 13 of the longer underlying research article), the researchers determined a long term lobby objective for business groups and citizens groups, as well as “initial” European Commission and European Parliament positions on a scale of 0 – 100. To use computer geek slang, this seems like a case of GIGO (garbage in garbage out): “if you input the wrong data, the results will also be wrong.” The figures that the researchers used to make their elaborate calculations of lobbying success are just a numerical expression of value judgements of a group of officials who had particular responsibilities for the relevant legislative proposal. Not exactly a neutral, unbiased group! On top of this, the scale of 0 – 100 to measure lobby positions and outcomes is insufficient. Many legislative proposals have hundreds of amendments and there can be wins and losses on different elements of a proposal. Real assessments of success cannot be so one-dimensional.

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Price Gouging In Health Care Is The Rule, Not the Exception: Interview with Jean Ross

Jean Ross is the co-president of National Nurses United. In this interview she discusses the institutional context behind the recent overnight price hike of the drug Daraprim from . (The Real News)

Ebola: ‘Isn’t that over yet?’

Tulip Mazumdar reports for BBC News:

When I told people earlier this month that I was off to West Africa again to cover the Ebola outbreak, the resounding response was, “Isn’t that over yet?”

The short answer is no, but there is a lot more to it than that.

The outbreak has been “nearly over” for months. So while “Ebola fatigue” is understandable, it’s also potentially extremely dangerous.

There are still around 20-30 new cases a week in the three worst-affected countries.

Before this outbreak, those numbers would have constituted a major epidemic, but we live in very changed times.

At the height of the outbreak, West Africa was seeing hundreds of new infections a week.

But it only takes one new infection to spark a massive epidemic.’

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Poverty’s most insidious damage is to a child’s brain

Science Daily reports:

An alarming 22 percent of U.S. children live in poverty, which can have long-lasting negative consequences on brain development, emotional health and academic achievement. A new study, published July 20 in JAMA Pediatrics, provides even more compelling evidence that growing up in poverty has detrimental effects on the brain.

In an accompanying editorial, child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, writes that “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all.”

In her own research in young children living in poverty, Luby and her colleagues have identified changes in the brain’s architecture that can lead to lifelong problems with depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress.’

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How the British Government subjected thousands of people to chemical and biological warfare trials during Cold War

David Keys reports for The Independent:

Aircraft, lorries and ships spread 4,600kg of cadmium sulphide in one decadeDuring the Cold War, the British Government used the general public as unwitting biological and chemical warfare guinea pigs on a much greater scale than previously thought, according to new historical research.

In more than 750 secret operations, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Britons were subjected to ‘mock’ biological and chemical warfare attacks launched from aircraft, ships and road vehicles.

Up until now historians had thought that such operations had been much less extensive. The new research, carried out by Ulf Schmidt, Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, has revealed that British military aircraft dropped thousands of kilos of a chemical of ‘largely unknown toxic potential’ on British civilian populations in and around Salisbury in Wiltshire, Cardington in Bedfordshire and Norwich in Norfolk.

Substantial quantities were also dispersed across parts of the English Channel and the North Sea. It’s not known the extent to which coastal towns in England and France were affected.

The research reveals, for the first time, that around 4600 kilos of the chemical, zinc cadmium sulphide (now thought to be potentially carcinogenic, on account of its cadmium content) were dispersed from ships, aircraft and moving lorries between 1953 and 1964.’

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‘One of the largest human experiments in history’ was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San Francisco

Kevin Loria reports for Business Insider:

'One of the largest human experiments in history' was conducted on unsuspecting residents of San FranciscoSan Francisco’s fog is famous, especially in the summer, when weather conditions combine to create the characteristic cooling blanket that sits over the Bay Area.

But one fact many may not know about San Francisco’s fog is that in 1950, the US military conducted a test to see whether it could be used to help spread a biological weapon in a “simulated germ-warfare attack.” This was just the start of many such tests around the country that would go on in secret for years.

The test was a success, as Rebecca Kreston explains over at Discover Magazine, and “one of the largest human experiments in history.”

But, as she writes, it was also “one of the largest offenses of the Nuremberg Code since its inception.”

The code stipulates that “voluntary, informed consent” is required for research participants, and that experiments that might lead to death or disabling injury are unacceptable.

The unsuspecting residents of San Francisco certainly could not consent to the military’s germ-warfare test, and there’s good evidence that it could have caused the death of at least one resident of the city, Edward Nevin, and hospitalized 10 others.

This is a crazy story; one that seems like it must be a conspiracy theory. An internet search will reveal plenty of misinformation and unbelievable conjecture about these experiments. But the core of this incredible tale is documented and true.’

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The Fight Over Obamacare Was a Giant Political Charade

Sonali Kolhatkar writes for Truthdig:

[…] When the Supreme Court ruled to preserve the ACA, privately some Republicans expressed relief, knowing that if 6.4 million Americans relying on subsidies had suddenly lost them, the GOP would have paid a stiff political price.

The act of opposing the law at any cost has given Republicans legitimacy among their right-wing supporters for targeting Obama while ultimately getting what they want, which is a pro-corporate law. For Democrats, supporting Obamacare has given them the appearance of caring about medical bankruptcies and the plight of the uninsured. And Obama has won by achieving the seemingly impossible task of passing health care reform, while also propping up private industry. In the end, the fight over the ACA has resulted in wins for the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the health insurance industry and the president.

Among the losers are Americans who remain dependent on their employers for health insurance, and those who have bought plans from the ACA’s exchanges but pay through the nose for minimal coverage. Even plans available to those who used to be denied them because of pre-existing conditions are expensive and the deductibles extremely high.

Most unfortunate of all are the nearly 13 percent of Americans who remain uninsured.’

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Study estimates sugary drinks more deadly than violent crime in Mexico

Allison Jackson reports for Global Post:

XXX WAS8734048 A HTH USA CAMexico is renowned for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world, so it might sound strange to hear that sugary drinks pose a bigger threat to life here than violent crime.

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as Coca-Cola,Gatorade and homemade drinks known as “agua fresca” kill far more people every year in Mexico than criminal gangs.

A study by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts Universityestimates a staggering 24,000 Mexicans die each year from diabetes, cancer and heart disease that are linked to sugary drinks.

Compare that figure to the roughly 15,649 murders officially recorded in 2014 and it’s clear which is the biggest killer in the Latin American country.

Worldwide, the total sugary-drink death toll is estimated at 184,000, with more than 70% of deaths caused by diabetes. The researchers said this was the first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages.’

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Combinations of “safe” chemicals may increase cancer risk, study suggests

Sarah Harris-Lovett reports for the Los Angeles Times:

Lots of chemicals are considered safe in low doses. But what happens when you ingest a little bit of a lot of different chemicals over time?

In some cases, these combinations may conspire to increase your risk of cancer, according to a new report.

“Many [chemicals] have the possibility, when they are combined, to cause the initiation of cancer,” said Hemad Yasaei, a cancer biologist at Brunel University in England, one of the authors of the report. “They could have a synergistic or enhanced effect.”

This is not the way regulators typically think about cancer risk when they evaluate a compound’s safety.’

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Everyone Gets Cosmetic Procedures, Says Time – and by “Everyone” They Mean Almost No One

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Time: Nip. Tuck. Or Else“Now everyone gets work done. Will you?” reads the front-page teaser for Joel Stein’s piece about plastic surgery, “Nip. Tuck. Or Else. Why You’ll Be Getting Cosmetic Procedures Even if You Don’t Really Want To,” in the June 29, 2015, edition of Time.

The bandwagon effect continues inside: “Not having work done is now the new shame,” Stein writes. “Cosmetic surgery has become the new makeup.” He quotes a young-adult novelist: “This is the first generation that thinks about plastic surgery as almost a given.”

Stein’s article concludes:  “All of our friends are going to have to keep up with us. And then all of their friends, until everyone is getting every procedure they possibly can.”

Even by the standards of newsweekly hyperbole, this is ridiculous.’

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Cuba first to ​eliminate mother-to-baby HIV transmission

Lisa O’Carroll reports for The Guardian:

Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby, the World Health Organisation has announced.

The WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, said it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.

Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.

HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain, said the WHO.’

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80% of sunscreens either don’t work or have ‘worrisome’ ingredients, says EWG study

Alexandra Sifferlin reports for Time:

New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that many Americans aren’t protecting their skin as much as they should. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked people how often they use sunscreen when out in the sun for over an hour and only 14% of men said they regularly slathered on sunscreen. Women, at 30%, were twice as diligent about putting on sunscreen—while men were more likely than women to report never using sunscreen.

The problem isn’t only compliance. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2015 sunscreen guide on Tuesday, which reviewed more than 1,700 SPF products like sunscreens, lip balms and moisturizers. The researchers discovered that 80% of the products offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A,” they say. Oxybenzone is a chemical that can disrupt the hormone system, and some evidence suggests—though not definitively—that adding vitamin A to the skin could heighten sun sensitivity.’

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‘PTSD Action Man’ Mock Toy Ad by Veterans For Peace UK Exposes ‘Spectacle of Military Propaganda’

Charlie Gilmour reports for VICE:

[…] Action Man: Battlefield Casualties, a series of darkly funny short films produced with artist Darren Cullen, is their attempt to show the shit beneath the shine of polished army propaganda. Featuring PTSD Action Man (“with thousand-yard stare action”), Paralysed Action Man (“legs really don’t work”) and Dead Action Man (“coffin sold separately”), the films are being released to coincide with Armed Forces Day.

“No matter how bad anyone thinks this film is, the reality is worse,” says artist Darren Cullen. “It’s not sick to show what actually happens in a war. It’s sick to convince people to join that war without telling them what’s possibly going to happen. Recruiting 16-year-olds into the army is sick.”

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National Center for Public Policy Research Defends Trans Fats

Ben Norton reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Fight to Defend Trans Fats Funded With Dark MoneyA conservative Washington think tank that opposed a federal ban of trans fats has also actively campaigned against climate science and environmental regulation, and is funded by secret donors.

The government on Tuesday announced a ban of industrial partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fats, giving food manufacturers three years to remove them from their products. Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff said the ban “is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

Five European countries already ban trans fats. California and several U.S. cities, including New York City, ban them in restaurant food.

But the federal ban had its opponents. The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), which identifies itself as a “non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative” think tank, campaigned against it, calling it a “horrible idea.”

The NCPPR argued that the solution to minimizing trans fats in foods is to allow the free market to operate.’

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What Paul Ehrlich Missed (and Still Does): The Population Challenge Is About Rights

Schuyler Null reports for New Security Beat:

2015-06-03-1433350350-5787894-CountdownpopulationtruckposterfromLibraryFoundationofLosAngelesAlanWeisman.jpgIn 1968, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich predicted hundreds of millions would starve to death over the next decade, many of them Americans, and the world would generally decline into chaos in his book The Population Bomb.

A retrospective on Ehrlich’s forecast is the subject of a new “Retro Report” in The New York Times. A 12-minute video feature produced by Sarah Weiser with support from the Pulitzer Center is accompanied by a column from Clyde Haberman.

“I do not think my language was too apocalyptic in The Population Bomb,” Ehrlich says in an interview, “my language would be even more apocalyptic today.” His basic premise remains true, he says: “We have a finite planet with finite resources and in such a system you can’t have infinite population growth.”

“I was trying to bring people to get something done,” he says, and he still sees humanity’s dominance over the natural world as a danger to our own life-support system.

But things have changed since The Population Bomb was published almost 50 years ago. Population growth has not continued unabated and in most parts of the world has slowed to at or below replacement level.

One aspect of the story that is somewhat glossed over but helps explain these changes is about rights.’

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Where is Belgian euthanasia headed, asks The New Yorker

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

The long-drawn-out case of a woman who asked for euthanasia in 2012 may eventually reach a criminal court in Belgium. The European Court of Human Rights wants a Belgian court to hear allegations that there were serious irregularities in the euthanasis of Godelieva De Troyer by  Dr Wim Distelmans.

Ms De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, a university lecturer, claims that her own doctor denied his mother’s request for euthanasia because she was depressed. However, Dr Distelmans, who had no psychiatric expertise, readily agreed. Ms De Troyer made a 2,500 Euro donation to Dr Distelman’s Life End Information Forum, which suggests that there may have been a conflict of interest.

Ms De Troyer’s death was just one of 1,432 registered euthanasia deaths in Belgium in 2012. But a careful examination of the details of the case in America’s foremost literary magazine, The New Yorker, this week raises serious doubts about the wisdom of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United States and elsewhere. It is essential reading for anyone interested in end-of-life issues.’

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WikiLeaks Launches Campaign to Offer $100,000 “Bounty” for Leaked Drafts of Secret TPP Chapters

Amy Goodman speaks to Julian Assange about Wikileaks seeking to raise a $100,000 reward for anyone willing to leak the remaining unseen chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a global trade deal between the United States and 11 other Asia-Pacific countries. It would cover 40% of the global economy, but despite this details have been hidden from the public. A recently leaked “Investment Chapter” highlighted the intent of US-led negotiators to create a tribunal where corporations would be able to sue governments if their laws interfered with a company’s  potential future profits. This is known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warns that the plan could create a chilling effect thereby preventing the adoption of health, environmental and other regulations. (Democracy Now!)

Inside America’s Secretive Biolabs: Hundreds of Accidents and Near Misses Put People at Risk

Alison Young and Nick Penzenstadler report for USA Today:

Vials of bioterror bacteria have gone missing. Lab mice infected with deadly viruses have escaped, and wild rodents have been found making nests with research waste. Cattle infected in a university’s vaccine experiments were repeatedly sent to slaughter and their meat sold for human consumption. Gear meant to protect lab workers from lethal viruses such as Ebola and bird flu has failed, repeatedly.

A USA TODAY Network investigation reveals that hundreds of lab mistakes, safety violations and near-miss incidents have occurred in biological laboratories coast to coast in recent years, putting scientists, their colleagues and sometimes even the public at risk.

Oversight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing, the investigation found. And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches — as more than 100 labs have — federal regulators keep their names secret.’

Of particular concern are mishaps occurring at institutions working with the world’s most dangerous pathogens in biosafety level 3 and 4 labs — the two highest levels of containment that have proliferated since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Yet there is no publicly available list of these labs, and the scope of their research and safety records are largely unknown to most state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks. Even the federal government doesn’t know where they all are, the Government Accountability Office has warned for years.’

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John Oliver on Big Tobacco

‘Thanks to tobacco industry regulations and marketing restrictions in the US, smoking rates have dropped dramatically. John Oliver explains how tobacco companies are keeping their business strong overseas.’ (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver)

Doctors to withhold treatments in campaign against “too much medicine”

Denis Campbell reports for The Guardian:

various medical pillsDoctors are to stop giving patients scores of tests and treatments, such as x-rays for back pain and antibiotics for flu, in an unprecedented crackdown on the “over-medicalisation” of illness.

In a move that has roused fears that it will lead to the widespread rationing of NHS care, the body representing the UK’s 250,000 doctors is seeking to ensure that patients no longer undergo treatment that is unlikely to work, may harm them and wastes valuable resources.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges wants to bring an end to a culture of “too much medicine” in which “more is better” and doctors feel compelled to always “do something”, often because they feel under pressure from the patient, even though they know that the treatment recommended will probably not work.

Many patients with asthma, prostate and thyroid cancers, and chronic kidney disease already undergo “unnecessary care” because they are “over-diagnosed” and thus “over-treated”, the academy claims.’

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