HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Sunday, October 23, 2005

FDA Approves Stem Cell Transplant Into Brain

From the AP comes this story:

Federal regulators on Thursday approved what would be the first transplant of fetal stem cells into human brains, a procedure that if successful could open the door to treating a host of neural disorders.

The transplant recipients will be children who suffer from a rare, fatal genetic disorder.

The Food and Drug Administration said that doctors at Stanford University Medical Center can begin the testing on six children afflicted with Batten disease, a degenerative malady that renders its young victims blind, speechless and paralyzed before it kills them.


October 23, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Cost of Health Care

The New York Times continues with its health care series today with a piece examining the high cost of health care, even for those with insurance.  The Times reports,

Never have patients had so many medical options to extend, enrich or alter their lives. But these new options are expensive, and with them has come a change for which many Americans - even those with health insurance - are financially ill prepared.

After decades in which private and government insurance covered a progressively larger share of medical expenses, insurance companies are now shifting more costs to consumers, in the form of much higher deductibles, co-payments or premiums. At the same time, Americans are saving less and carrying higher levels of household debt, and even insured families are exposed to medical expenses that did not exist a decade ago. Many, like the Dorsetts, do not realize how vulnerable they are until the bills arrive.

Lawyers and accountants say that for the more than 1.5 million American families who filed for bankruptcy protection last year, the most common causes were job loss and medical expenses. New bankruptcy legislation, which went into effect Oct. 17, requires middle-income debtors to repay a greater share of their debt.


October 23, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Parents in Dispute With Texas over Teen's Cancer Treatments

Today's AP has the story: "The parents of a 13-year-old cancer patient who have been fighting the state over her medical treatment will be allowed to take her to Kansas to pursue intravenous Vitamin C treatment. First, however, the girl must undergo five days of chemotherapy, state District Judge Jack Hunter, newly appointed to the case, ruled Friday."

Is it my imagination, or are  these stories of parents fighting to pursue potentially worthless therapies for kids with life-threatening illnesses increasing in frequency?  [tm]

October 22, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Harriet Miers and the Questionnaire

I am not quite sure what will happen with Harriet Miers - this was not a great week for her.    Here is some commentary concerning her responses to the questionnaire she filled out for Congress.  According to the LA Times,

Asked to describe the constitutional issues she had worked on during her legal career, Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers had relatively little to say on the questionnaire she sent to the Senate this week. And what she did say left many constitutional experts shaking their heads.

At one point, Miers described her service on the Dallas City Council in 1989. When the city was sued on allegations that it violated the Voting Rights Act, she said, "the council had to be sure to comply with the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause."

But the Supreme Court repeatedly has said the Constitution's guarantee of "equal protection of the laws" does not mean that city councils or state legislatures must have the same proportion of blacks, Latinos and Asians as the voting population. "That's a terrible answer. There is no proportional representation requirement under the equal protection clause," said New York University law professor Burt Neuborne, a voting rights expert.

"If a first-year law student wrote that and submitted it in class, I would send it back and say it was unacceptable." Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, also an expert on voting rights, said she was surprised the White House did not check Miers' questionnaire before sending it to the Senate.

oops!  The hearings should be interesting. [bm]

October 22, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Roche and Flu Vaccine

Some good news on the Avian Flu vaccine, Roche, the manufacture of Tamiflu, has started talks with other  drug manufacturers to help make more of the vaccine-.  The New York Times reports,

Roche has agreed to meet with four  generic drug companies to discuss allowing them to manufacture the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu, which is in short supply as countries stockpile it to prepare for a possible flu pandemic.

The agreement was announced yesterday by Senators Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, after a meeting with George Abercrombie, who runs Roche's operations in the United States.


"They will give full cooperation with these four companies and others like them to get as much of the drug out as quickly as possible," Mr. Schumer said.

The four companies are  Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Barr PharmaceuticalsMylan Laboratories and Ranbaxy Laboratories. Whether deals will be reached with the companies is unclear, as is how much help Roche would provide and how quickly production could start.




October 21, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Article by Leon Kass

Leon Kass, Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and The College at the University of Chicago, and former Chairman of the President’s Commission on Bioethics, has written a brief article concerning courtship and marriage.  He begins with,

Today, there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony.... People still get married — though later, less frequently, more hesitantly, and, by and large, less successfully. For the great majority, the way to the altar is uncharted territory: It's every couple on its own bottom, without a compass, often without a goal. Those who reach the altar seem to have stumbled upon it by accident....

I was rather surprised by the piece.  This is the first in a three-part series.  A rather critical response can be found here.  [bm]

October 21, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hospital System Ordered to Undo Merger

From Modern Healthcare's "Alert":

A federal administrative law judge ruled that the 2000 merger of two-hospital Evanston (Ill.) Northwestern Healthcare and Highland Park (Ill.) Hospital violated Section 7 of the federal Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers that lessen competition. Federal Trade Commission Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire ruled that the merger "substantially lessened competition" and caused insurers and consumers to pay higher prices. If the decision is upheld, three-hospital Evanston Northwestern would be required to divest Highland Park within six months in one of only a few ever court-ordered breakups of a hospital merger. Evanston Northwestern is expected to appeal the ruling to the full commission

The case is In the Matter of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corporation and ENH Medical Group, Inc., File No. 011 0234, Docket No. 9315.  The ALJ's initial decision (entered this morning) is here[tm]

October 21, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Erectile Dysfunction: News Popping Up All Over

Two stories from AP on ED:

  • Public Citizen has petitioned the FDA to add to ED drug labeling for Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra (as well as the hypertension drug Revatio) a black-box warning about the possibility that users could go blind.  (AP story)  The FDA's list of pending petitions is here; once you find a docket number, you can go here to pull up docketed documents.
  • "The Senate on Wednesday passed without debate and sent to the president legislation that ends Medicare and Medicaid payments for erectile dysfunction drugs as part of a package that extends medical help for the poor and provides unemployment benefit aid to states hit by Hurricane Katrina." (AP story)  The bill is HR 3971.  There was no roll call vote - just a request for unanimous consent (see Cong. Rec. S. 11595 (Oct. 19, 2005)).


October 20, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Harris Poll Shows Broad Support for Health Policies

The free side of the Wall Street Journal on-line has an article today on the results of a Harris poll that shows broad support for an array of U.S. health policies.  Here's a sample:

Strongly/Somewhat Favor (NET)

Strongly Favor

Somewhat Favor

Medicare (health insurance for the elderly and disabled




Use of birth control/contraception




Condom use to prevent HIV and other STDs




Medicaid (health insurance for people with low incomes)




Sex education in high school




Funding of international HIV prevention and treatment programs




Universal health insurance




Embryonic stem cell research




Funding of international birth control programs




Withdrawal of life support systems/food for those in vegetative state




Abortion centers




Abstinence from sex before marriage




Surprised?  [tm]

October 20, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

HIV Woman and Pregnancy

The New England Journal of Medicine has an interesting article concerning the pregnancy of an HIV positive woman.  Thanks to Jim Tomasewski for this site.  [bm]

October 20, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Supreme Court Lifts Abortion Stay

As reported here last weekend, Justice Thomas issued a temporary stay of a District Court order that directed Missouri officials to transport a prisoner at state expense to obtain an abortion (with privately donated funds) in apparent violation of a Missouri law that prohibits the use of state funds for an abortion except to save the life of the mother.  As reported by Reuters, on Monday the Roberts Court, without opinion and without recorded dissent, vacated Justice Thomas' temporary stay and denied the state's request for a permanent stay. Because neither the termination of Jane Roe's pregnancy nor the birth of her child would moot the case, it is hard to read much into the Court's decision.  As Lyle Denniston notes over on ScotusBlog, the Court denied cert. in 1988 in a Pennsylvania case in with the lower courts ruled it unconstitutional for the state prison system to block access to abortions, even when the life of the mother was not at stake.  Lanzaro v. Monmounth County Inmates, No. 87-1431.   The 3rd Circuit opinion is here (requires WestLaw subscription).  [tm]

October 19, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Public Health Law Fellowship

Post-doctoral Fellowship Position in Public Health Law

The Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for Law and the Public’s Health at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities are seeking qualified candidates for a one-year post-doctoral fellowship position in public health law. The candidate will work full-time with a collaborative team of faculty, fellows, and students at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Georgetown University Law Center pursuant to a multi-year project that the Center is engaged through funding of the Health Resources Services Agency (HRSA) and other potential projects.  For more information about the HRSA project, please see the Center’s website at:

Candidates must have their J.D. degree from an accredited law school, and should have exceptional academic credentials (preferably including scholarly or applied practice publications) and strong research interests, knowledge, course work, or experience in public health law, ethics, and policy. Candidates who also have a M.P.H. degree from an accredited school of public health or a public health background may be preferred.

Applications must be received by November 15, 2005, and should include: (1) a cover letter that states the candidate’s research interests and experience in public health law; (2) current resume; (3) writing sample[s] that are written solely by the candidate; and (4) at least two professional references.  Some candidates may also be asked to provide official academic transcripts or other data.  Applicants must be prepared to begin on or about January 1, 2006.  Salary and benefits through the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will be based on federal guidelines for post-doctoral fellow positions.

For further information or to apply, please email or call:

James G. Hodge, Jr., J.D., LL.M.;Executive Director Center for Law and the Public’s Health Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,  Hampton House, Room 588 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD  21205-1996  (410) 955-7624;

October 19, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Bizarre News

Ok, just for fun, here is some news from the newsite concerning David Copperfield and the limitless powers of his magic.  According to Ananova,

David Copperfield says he plans to impregnate a girl on stage - without even touching her.

Speaking to German magazine Galore, the illusionist rejected the theory that there were only seven different kinds of magic tricks.

He said: "Bull s**t! There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. In my next show I'm going to make a girl pregnant on stage."

He added: "Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more."

Thanks to the Huffington Post for this link.[bm]

October 19, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Harriet Miers and Abortion

Much controversy exists over Harriet Miers and her judicial philosophy.  Today, the Associated Press discusses her support for a constitutional amendment that would have banned abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother.  The Associated Press reports,

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers pledged support in 1989 for a constitutional amendment banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, according to material given to the Senate on Tuesday.
As a candidate for the Dallas city council, Miers also signaled support for the overall agenda of Texans United for Life — agreeing she would support legislation restricting abortions if the Supreme Court ruled that states could ban abortions and would participate in "pro-life rallies and special events."

Miers made her views known in a candidate questionnaire the White House submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to hold hearings on her Supreme Court nomination next month. The one-page questionnaire was filled out, but unsigned, although the Bush administration affirmed its authenticity.

"The answers clearly reflect that Harriet Miers is opposed to Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and only woman on the Judiciary Committee. "This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard. It will be my intention to question her very carefully about these issues."

GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn of Texas, who support Miers, say the questionnaire was written while Miers was a politician, and she would leave political decisions behind as a judge. "That information is interesting, and some people may draw their own conclusions from it, but I believe that Harriet Miers will be the type of judge who will not attempt to pursue a personal or political agenda from the bench," Cornyn said.


October 18, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Brain Scans and Psychiatry

From Dr. Douglas Mossman: 

Today's New York Times Health Section contains a useful summary of the nonusefulness of brain imaging in psychiatry.  The article, "Can Brain Scans See Depression?" by Benedict Carey, states, "the hopes and claims for brain imaging in psychiatry have far outpaced the science, experts say. After almost 30 years, researchers have not developed any standardized tool for diagnosing or treating psychiatric disorders based on imaging studies."

Here's a link to find the article:


October 18, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Stem Cell Breakthrough?

Back in May, the President's Council on Bioethics issued a White Paper entitled, "Alternative Sources of Pluripotent Stem Cells," in which the Council considered four possible alternative methods for stem-cell extraction that might possibly provide additional stem-cell lines without violating the federal-funding limitation that withholds government funds from stem-cell research on stem cell lines that were derived from embryos destroyed after President Bush's address to the nation on August 9, 2001, address to the nation.  The proposals garnered various levels of support, but the report also generated five personal statements supported by seven Council members.  Here are the four alternatives:

The stem cells could be derived: (1) by extracting cells from embryos already dead; or (2) by non-harmful biopsy of living embryos; or (3) by extracting cells from artificially created non-embryonic but embryo-like cellular systems (engineered to lack the essential elements of embryogenesis but still capable of some cell division and growth); or (4) by dedifferentiation of somatic cells back to pluripotency. In each of these four cases, the scientific standard by which success should be measured is only the desired functional capacity of the cells derived—stable pluripotency—and not their origin (embryos, adults, or artificial embryo-like clusters of cells). Should stem cells obtainable by one or another of these methods turn out to have exactly the same properties and capacities as embryonic stem cells (ESCs), their value for scientific research should be no different from that of standard ESCs.

Now come stories that research teams have made considerable strides toward operationalizing two of the techniques discussed in the Council's report.  As described by the Boston Globe, one team is showing positive results using technique #2:

The scientists at Advanced Cell Technology, led by Dr. Robert Lanza, sought to show they could create embryonic stem cells without harming the embryo. They built on a technique that is commonly used to test embryos for genetic abnormalities at fertility clinics. In this technique, called pre- implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, a technician delicately removes a single cell from an eight-celled embryo. If the cell is genetically normal, then the embryo is placed in the mother. The procedure does not appear to harm the embryo, according to the paper in Nature.

The second technique explores option #3:

The other research, conducted by Rudolf Jaenisch, a Whitehead scientist, and his graduate student Alexander Meissner, is a test of a concept proposed last year by Dr. William Hurlbut, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics who teaches ethics at Stanford University. The idea is to create a genetically modified egg cell that is able to create embryonic stem cells, but is not able to develop into an embryo.

The technique gets its name, ''altered nuclear transfer," from the fact that it is a variation on nuclear transfer, also known as cloning. In nuclear transfer, the nucleus of an adult cell, which contains its DNA, is placed into an egg cell that has had its own nucleus removed, and the new cell is prompted to grow.

This can grow into an embryo genetically similar to the adult who donated the original cell. With altered nuclear transfer, the aim is to alter the genes of the nucleus before they are placed into the egg cell, to ensure that it is unable to become an embryo.

Research reports on both techniques are summarized in the on-line edition of Nature[tm]

October 17, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Support for Universal Health Care

Kevin Drum reports in the Washington Monthly on the latest GM plan to slash health care costs.  He notes that foreign competitors do not have the cost of health care issue facing GM because many countries provide universal health care.  [bm]

October 17, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Religion and Vaccines

The latest front on the religious exemption from vaccines is occurring in the Amish community in Minnesota.  Recently several cases of polio have been confirmed and the community is divided over the proper reponse - vaccine or trust in God.  Here is the Associated Press report,

About two dozen Amish households dot the hillsides in central Minnesota's rolling farm country. On Thursday, state health officials announced the four polio infections — the first known cases in the United States in five years.

The Amish community — it has no official name — has seen a flurry of visitors from the state Health Department after three siblings under 16 were diagnosed. Two weeks earlier, an infant from the community had been diagnosed with polio, and state doctors expect more cases to turn up. None of the four have developed symptoms, and health officials say most polio cases do not result in paralysis. But they have urged members of the community to be immunized as soon as possible to reduce the chances the virus will spread. Only unvaccinated people are at risk.

"The doctors were here to talk to us," said Susie Borntreger, a young Amish mother who was hunting down snakes with a hoe in her yard Friday. "They talked with my husband. They told us we should think about the vaccine." The Borntregers decided to vaccinate their two sons, aged 2 and 1. But that decision is not universal. Some Amish families here don't trust vaccinations. Borntreger was vague when asked to explain her family's thinking, saying the decision was made by her husband. "Some people are very open, some people want to think about it, some people just say no," said Harry Hull, the state epidemiologist.



October 17, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Non-teaching Job Opportunity

Here is a non-teaching Job Opportunity:

Position Classification: Assistant Attorney General Bureau: Medicaid Fraud Division:  Criminal Justice

Location: Springfield Medicaid Fraud Control Unit The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit consists of 11 Attorneys working under a federal grant controlled by the Illinois State Police.  Under the grant, Assistant Attorneys General are required to perform criminal and civil prosecutions in Illinois State and Federal courts.  Medicaid cases relate to fraud on the Medicaid/Medicare system and the abuse and neglect of long term care facility residents.  The Springfield office consists of three attorneys responsible for 87 Illinois counties. 

Summary of Duties and Responsibilities
Interested candidates must be able to prepare cases in state and federal courts and conduct trials; interview witnesses prepare pleadings and conduct research for trials; respond to pre-trial motions; attend various courts for arraignments, hearings, pretrial and post trial motions; and prepare periodic activity reports. The position requires skill for presenting and arguing cases in court and/or administrative hearings.  Candidates must maintain working relationships with court officials and client agencies.

Minimum Qualifications
Knowledge of the principles of civil and criminal law and of the methods and practices of pleading and discovery; knowledge of judicial procedures and rules of evidence is required. Candidates must be attorneys licensed by the State of Illinois at the time of application.  Experience is preferred.  Ability to travel is a necessity.  The ability to perform lengthy trials away from Springfield is also preferred.  Duties are limited to “Medicaid” nexus cases because of the federal funding.

Salary:  Commensurate with qualifications and experience, the salary range is $43,000 to $60,000.

To ensure full consideration, please send a cover letter and resume to: Ms. Ruta Stropus, Director of Attorney Recruitment and Professional Development, Attn:  Adelaida Otero, Office of the Attorney General, 100 West Randolph, 12th Floor Chicago, Illinois 60601; (312) 814-3695,(312) 814-5024 (Fax).[bm]

October 16, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Justice Thomas Stays District Court Order Allowing Transport of Mo. Prisoner to Obtain Abortion

Jurist's Alexis Unkovic has the story:

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas [official profile, PDF] issued a temporary stay late Friday blocking a lower federal court order allowing prison officials in Missouri to transport a pregnant inmate to a medical facility for an abortion. A Missouri law [text] prohibits the use of public funds "for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion not necessary to save the life of the mother." The prisoner, represented by attorneys from the ACLU [advocacy website], has secured funds to pay for the procedure, but does not have money to pay for transport from the prison to the medical facitlity, an additional $350. . . . AP has more.

You have to hand it to the folks at Jurist (and the AP).  It is virtually impossible to run down the opinions and orders in this case via the Web, but they are sure on top of the story.  I question the link, however, to 2005 Mo. SB 2.  The Missouri law in question is more likely § 188.205 of Mo. Rev. Stat. Ann.  [tm]

October 16, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)