feresstayskal-267x300Members of Congress have taken steps aimed at allowing service members to pursue actions in the civil justice system when they suffer harms while seeking medical services, a fundamental civil right now denied to military personnel.

Members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee heard powerful testimony from a Green Beret, an airman, and a judge advocate general about the  need for a bill introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.) — a measure that has won bipartisan backing — to correct problems caused by a 69-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case involving the Federal Tort Claims Act. That act governs who can bring a claim for negligence at a military or other government health care facility.

Active duty military personnel cannot bring a medical negligence claim for care at a military facility. This is called the “Feres doctrine,” after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950). Under the Feres doctrine, members of the United States armed forces are barred from making a claim against the United States for personal injury or death arising “incident to service.” Military medical treatment received by a service member, while on active duty, has been held by the courts to be “incident to service,” and, thus not actionable, even if that treatment was for a purely elective procedure, and even if the procedure was performed negligently.

allergy-300x200If residents of the nation’s capital aren’t already sneezing, hacking, and swiping at red and rheumy eyes, just wait — the spring allergy season is upon us. And it may be longer and worse than ever. Then, Washingtonians also may be gasping soon for another reason: worsening air pollution, specifically problematic ozone levels in summer heat.

Though science deniers may be resisting environmental realities, human-caused climate change already is affecting our health and well-being.

Air pollution, for example, is a rising worry, the American Lung Association reported in its 20th annual report on clean air. The health group advised that:

asstdcareunaffordable-300x188As the nation rapidly grays and income disparities widen by the day, a sizable number of Americans — a group that built the nation to greatness and has been its economic bedrock — is headed to yet another ugly indignity: More than half of middle-income seniors won’t be able to afford their medical expenses and the cost of assisted housing they will need at age 75 and older.

New research published in the journal “Health Affairs” has projected what already soaring medical and housing costs will mean to those whose incomes fall between $25,001 to $74,298 per year and are ages 75 to 84. These middle-income elders will increase in number from 7.9 million now to 14.4 million by 2029 and soon will be 43% or the biggest share of American seniors.

But the picture for them and their finances, housing, and medical expenses may be glum. Projections show they will lack the money, even if experts calculate in their home equity, to afford assisted living they may need in their late years.

doud-300x175An estimated 400,000 Americans have died due to opioid drug overdoses between 1999 and 2017 — and the fatalities only are increasing. By 2025, according to expert forecasts, there will be 700,000 more opioid deaths. Prosecutors now are saying  that at least some of the causes of this crisis are nothing less than criminal behavior by people wearing white coats and ties.

Federal and state prosecutors are bringing felony charges against doctors and Big Pharma executives as if they were street drug dealers and crime bosses.

This formal faulting for the nation’s opioid crisis hasn’t yet spread widely among drug makers, those at the pinnacle of the pharma pipeline. The legal war, however, has resulted in aggressive steps by federal prosecutors accusing not only scores of doctors across seven states with improperly prescribing painkillers for cash and sex, but also with officials filing for the first time drug-trafficking charges against a major pharmaceutical distributor and two of its former executives.

lameasles-300x225Almost two decades after public health officials declared them eradicated from this nation’s children, measles infections have returned with a vengeance to the United States, rising to the highest level in almost two decades, with hundreds of cases in almost two dozen states, and the incidences climbing still.

The outbreaks have been concentrated in New York, in Brooklyn in a religious community, and in Washington state. But authorities have taken aggressive steps, including quarantine orders for hundreds of students and staff on two big college campuses across town from each other (UCLA and Cal State, LA), to ensure that the disease is contained and does not spread in Los Angeles.

Alex Azar, who heads the federal Health and Human Services Department, said in a statement about the familiar infection: “Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease. We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”

arbtoon-245x300When older Americans suffer major injury or illness, their loved ones may find themselves under the gun, making expensive and complex decisions about their care. They’re likely to be slammed, too, with stacks of paperwork from caregiving facilities. It’s tough stuff to take in — and it too often ask them to sign documents that will boot them from constitutional protections of the civil justice system and into the secretive, private system of forced arbitration.

The U.S. Supreme Court—loaded with appointees from a business-friendly party—has backed “corporate controlled” arbitration systems in several rulings, further arming them with bans on class-action lawsuits. This has led to burgeoning injustices, cases in which “corporate wrongdoers … completely escape any legal accountability,” according to the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School, Public Citizen, and the National Consumer Law Center.

The groups have amassed representative cases showing how forced arbitration forecloses plaintiff’s pursuit of remedies from harms in the civil justice system, as the Constitution guarantees.

calesthenicsjpnse-300x169Even as American corporations twist themselves into pretzel shapes to persuade shareholders of their devotion to maximizing profits, why are they throwing an estimated $8 billion annually at workplace wellness programs that, according to a growing body of evidence, don’t work?

The zeal for wellness programs — which aim to get workers to exercise, lose weight, avoid smoking, drink in moderation, and stress less — is just one more flashing red indicator of political risks as companies grow more desperate to restrain skyrocketing health care costs.

Due to their post-World War II decisions to compete for workers in a fast rebuilding U.S. economy, companies long have been the go-to source for Americans’ health insurance: In exchange for a quarter of trillion dollars in federal tax subsidies, employers provide more than half of nonelderly U.S. workers — 152 million of us — workplace health coverage.

mouse-300x169James Heathers is a Ph.D. with expertise in scientific methods and data. He works in a behavioral science lab at Northeastern University in Boston. He’s young, adaptive, and savvy enough to participate in social media, especially Twitter. There, he saw a problem and a challenge with the way medical scientific findings get presented to sizable audiences online.

As someone accustomed to dealing with academic and scientific rigor, he paused and thought he could title his planned effort, “handling the translational gap during the science media transition.” But this Aussie has a sense of humor—and he wanted impact. He thought a straight-laced approach would be as “popular as cabbage sandwiches.”

So, instead, he focused in on a broad number of reputable studies that he thinks get misrepresented and grab unjustified popular attention. This research involves the extrapolation of early results in animal tests, making them sound — incorrectly — as if they instantly have meaning for people. He created a Twitter account that is garnering lots of attention, including tens of thousands of unexpected followers.

mesh-300x134
After years of patient complaints about injuries and tens of thousands of lawsuits, the federal Food and Drug Administration yanked from the market a surgical mesh widely used to repair pelvic conditions in women.

The agency has  been slow to act on transvaginal mesh, which has been in use since the 1970s, with surgeons increasing its use in the 1990s. That in turn created an avalanche of complaints from safety advocates and women patients, who said the implant and procedure caused pain, bleeding, and scarring. This was not the surgical innovation, they said, that was supposed to remedy the pelvic tissue collapse that can cause the bladder or reproductive organs to slip out of place, causing pain, constipation and urinary leakage.

The FDA issued a series of increasing warnings about mesh, finally reclassifying it in 2016 as high-risk and ordering its makers to produce medical-scientific evidence about the device’s long-term safety.

eldersuicide-300x173With 3 out of 4 Americans insisting they would prefer to age in place at home, senior care institutions already face stiff headwinds. But an investigation by two media organizations paints a glum picture of a little discussed aspect of elder life: the “lethal planning” some older residents make in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult care facilities — to end their own lives.

The exact suicide toll among the 2.2 million elderly Americans who live in long-term care settings is poorly tracked and difficult to quantify, reported the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News (KHN) service and PBS NewsHour (see the broadcast report by clicking here). But the two news organizations found:

[An] analysis of new data from the University of Michigan suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year — nearly one per day — are related to long-term care. Thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal thoughts, research shows. Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course. But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline and disconnectedness — and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home. More controversial is whether older adults in those settings should be able to take their lives through what some fiercely defend as ‘rational suicide.’

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