Articles Posted in Research Studies

handout-200x300It may be surprising that the questions went unasked before. The outcomes may be less than shocking. But patients, in a new and nationally representative survey, have told hospitals to bug off  with their relentless grubbing for donations from the people they care for.

Doctors and ethicists long have been wary of the huge energy that big hospitals and major academic medical centers sink in to soliciting donations and how institutions’ policies and practices for fundraising may sully public perceptions that medicine is about money and not science or compassionate care, the New York Times reported.

And while medical philanthropy has become an important and central concern of many hospitals and academic centers, driving big and booming “advancement” operations and wrapping doctors into dollar-raising moves, researchers had not delved until now into patients’ thinking.

vaccination-300x199As the novel coronavirus infections and deaths keep skyrocketing, Americans more and more have been forced into tough risk analyses, and frankly, too often thinking like gamblers. They are, for example, looking a lot at the much-promoted possibility of a Covid-19 vaccine in desperate poker ways — “betting on the come” and playing “river, river …”

Experts are asking just how savvy this health care approach is, putting in high stakes in the hopes the deck is dealt just so, or believing in a cliff’s edge rescue when the last cards on the table are flopped over to reveal a winner? Is it reality check time? And is there is a Plan B?

Vaccine makers around the world are racing to produce a viable response to Covid-19. U.S. infections have skyrocketed past 4 million and the disease is heading toward killing 150,000 Americans. Politicians and public health officials continue to speak optimistically about “Operation Warp Speed” and other campaigns globally to develop a vaccine that experts say will play a vital role in blunting Covid-19’s sickening and lethal spree through humanity.

algorithmwoes2-300x200High-tech wizards may be pushing medicine into a brave new world where important medical decisions rely on supposedly data-driven findings that also may be rooted in an old malignancy: discrimination against black patients.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that race-based tools and formulas, algorithms aimed to assist doctors in speeding up their diagnosis and treatment in such areas as heart disease, cancer, and kidney and maternity care, improperly steer blacks away from therapies commonly given to whites without sound reasons, the New York Times reported:

“The tools are often digital calculators on web sites of medical organizations or — in the case of assessing kidney function — actually built into the tools commercial labs use to calculate normal values of blood tests. They assess risk and potential outcomes based on formulas derived from population studies and modeling that looked for variables associated with different outcomes. ‘These tests are woven into the fabric of medicine,’ said Dr. David Jones, the paper’s senior author, a Harvard historian who also teaches ethics to medical students. ‘Despite mounting evidence that race is not a reliable proxy for genetic difference, the belief that it is has become embedded, sometimes insidiously, within medical practice,’ he wrote.”

covidweight-300x200Health and nutrition experts may get a rare and unexpected chance in the Covid-19 pandemic time to see whether Americans have experienced even a minor reset in their maintaining a more healthful diet, increased exercise, and maybe even reduction in weight gain and its associated problems.

To be sure, these have been times of high stress, and much popular discussion has focused on people’s “Quarantine 15,” the excess pounds packed on in recent days due to worry, couch sitting, and the availability of food in the close confines of the homes to which so many of us have been confined.

And many restaurants, notably fast food vendors, offered high-fat, high-calorie takeaway for weeks now, even as they make plans to re-open.

asclepliusrodof-70x300As the Covid-19 pandemic has put huge stresses on medical systems around the globe, the strains have taken their toll:  The credibility and authority — of federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and elite professional journals like the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine — have taken big hits in recent weeks.

In times of huge uncertainty and high anxiety, the public should be able to turn to these respected pillars of the health care establishment for steady, trustworthy, and independent information and execution of crucial policies that benefit the public.

The agencies are not just a pile of letters. Their work, based in rigorous medical science and the best available evidence, is supposed to reject damaging and dangerous rumor, hunch, myth, mis- and dis-information. They help to set standards for care, especially in crises, and they are charged with safeguarding us from disease, dangerous drugs and vaccines, and in protecting the old, sick, and injured in institutional care.

amputate-300x157Although the Covid-19 pandemic may be opening more and more Americans’ eyes to the harsh effects of the country’s economic and racial inequities, the stark damage from the nation’s health disparities can be plain to see — in truly disheartening ways.

Lizzie Presser, a reporter for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site ProPublica, deserves high praise for her distressing article on “The Black Amputation Epidemic.” As she wrote recently from deep in the poverty, neglect, and racial discrimination of the Mississippi Delta:

“[W]ithin months, the new coronavirus would sweep the United States, killing tens of thousands of people, a disproportionately high number of them black and diabetic. They were at a disadvantage, put at risk by an array of factors, from unequal health care access to racist biases to cuts in public health funding. These elements have long driven disparities, particularly across the South. One of the clearest ways to see them is by tracking who suffers diabetic amputations, which are, by one measure, the most preventable surgery in the country.

disinfectkellysikkema-300x201Because Covid-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus, the world has much to learn about it and its effects. For the voting and taxpaying public, a critical line of inquiry in the days ahead may be this: Why does this disease also seem to cause such an outbreak of shiftiness among our leaders?

Let’s start at the already beleaguered federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once considered among the globe’s best agencies in handling infectious diseases.

Sure, the medical science changes by the day about Covid-19. But why did the agency set itself up for deserved criticism by changing, “without formal announcement or explanation,” its guidance about the infectiousness of “contaminated” surfaces and how the coronavirus spreads? That had been an issue of key concern for experts, who had cautioned the public for weeks now about hygiene and care in coming in contact with such areas. Instead, CDC officials tweaked the language on the agency web site, diminishing the risks. Maybe, they thought, well, that should do it.

covidseeyasoon-225x300Do I, or don’t I? Do we, or don’t we?

As the stringent public health measures designed to bend the curve with the Covid-19 pandemic begin to lift or ease — including in Maryland and Virginia — hundreds of millions of Americans will make difficult individual decisions about their lives and livelihoods.

Fears are high that going back too soon may result in a deadly second wave of infections and deaths. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a preeminent expert on epidemics and a leader at the National Institutes of Health, warned senators of serious consequences from a premature restarting of activities.

covidkids2-charlesdeluvio-300x200Federal officials have launched what may be an aptly named, important, and reassuring study for kids, parents, families, and communities — the large-scale “Heros” investigation on Covid-19 and youngsters.

As the National Institutes of Health explains the “Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2” work:

“[It will] help determine the rate of novel coronavirus infection in children and their family members in the United States [and] will help determine what percentage of children infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, develop symptoms of the disease. In addition, the HEROS study will examine whether rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection differ between children who have asthma or other allergic conditions and children who do not.”

gileadremdesivir-300x169Optimism and realism should not be oppositional characteristics when looking hard at the slowly evolving measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts always have said many ways will be needed to battle the novel coronavirus and much attention has focused on a few: effective treatments, a vaccination, as well as testing, testing, testing.

There are reasons to be skeptical and hopeful about what is going on in each area:

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