HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, May 14, 2005

New Stem Cell Poll

The Washington Monthly blog reports on a new stem cell poll that shows a number of Republicans are in favor of revising (i.e., they appear to support some funding for stem cell research) President Bush's current policy toward stem cell research.  [bm]

May 14, 2005 | Permalink

Friday, May 13, 2005

Remembering Adam Milani

Milani20005 It is with great sadness that I announce the recent passing of our friend and colleague Adam Milani, Associate Professor, Mercer University School of Law.   He died Wednesday following complications from surgery.  Professor Milani was one of the leading experts on disability law and legal writing.   He was also one of the kindest and most generous human beings that I ever met.  From the Mercer website:

Daisy Hurst Floyd, Dean of the Walter F. George School of Law, said Milani’s death was a tragic loss to the Law School. “Adam will be sorely missed. He brought great wisdom and compassion to his roles of teacher and colleague. His contributions to the fields of disability law and legal writing were nationally recognized, and he will be remembered for those. But, we will also remember Adam for his quiet strength and courage and the fact that he made the Law School community a better place.”

For further information on memorial plans, please see Mercer's website.  To post tributes, please use  [bm]

May 13, 2005 | Permalink

Breast Cancer Therapies Working!

Some good news on this Friday the 13th --- According to an article in the Washington Post, a recent study shows that aggressive breast cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and homones, has worked to reduce the disease's death rate.  The article reports on a study to be released in tomorrow's edition of the Lancet.  It states,

Chemotherapy and hormone treatment have dramatically reduced the death rate from early breast cancer, according to a major international analysis that indicates the often arduous regimens do cure many women.

The latest data from an extensive ongoing project involving 145,000 women with early breast cancer found that chemotherapy and hormone treatment continue to protect many women from dying from the disease for at least 15 years. The protection often gets stronger over time, increasing the likelihood that the therapy is truly eradicating cancer from their bodies.

   *  *  *  *

For most women, it is now standard practice to treat early breast cancer with surgery and radiation, followed by chemotherapy to reduce the risk of a recurrence by attempting to wipe out any cancer cells lurking elsewhere in the body. If their tumors are sensitive to the hormone estrogen, many women also take the estrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen for about five years to further reduce the risk of recurrence. (A new generation of hormone therapy has begun to replace tamoxifen.) Although earlier studies have shown that the approach reduced the chances of a relapse and increased the odds of survival, there have been haunting concerns about how long those benefits last inasmuch as breast cancer can hide in the body for years or even decades before reemerging.


May 13, 2005 | Permalink

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Posner on Medical Privacy

Judge Posner weighs in on medical privacy and specifically electronic medical records.  He appears concerned that people will use privacy rights as a means to deny important information to insurance companies.   He states,

Medical records are a case in point. People conceal their medical conditions (sometimes as a means of concealing behaviors that have led to medical conditions), in order to obtain insurance at favorable rates, obtain and retain jobs, obtain spouses, becomes President (in the case of John F. Kennedy, who concealed his long array of serious illnesses), and so forth. These concealments can impose significant costs on the other parties to the transactions.

It is an interesting read.  [bm]

May 12, 2005 | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday to the Pill!

45 years ago this month the FDA approved the contraceptive pill for use in the United States.  In an interesting post, the Metafilter blog discusses the Eisenstadt v. Baird case and particularly Mr. Baird and his role in championing the rights of women to access the pill.  It is an interesting read.  [bm]

May 12, 2005 | Permalink

"Surgeons' Errors Often Unreported"

That's the headline on a recent article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, summarized by the CDC Public Health Law News as follows:

In many states, severe patient-care errors in hospitals may not get investigated quickly by state agencies, and patient advocates are pushing for faster action. In Washington State, for example, when a hospital employee amputates the wrong limb or makes a fatal medication error, the hospital must file a report to the state within two days. But that's where the system comes to a halt. Sometimes, such reports sit in computer databases for years. "It's absolutely not aggressive enough," said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Errors are not dealt with in a speedy manner. We would never put up with this if it was an airline crash or train accident," he said. Meanwhile, state health departments are trying to craft policies that increase hospitals' accountability while also avoiding a punitive approach that discourages reporting. State agencies often do not have the resources to vigorously investigate adverse events, or even to inspect hospitals on a reasonably frequent schedule. In Washington, for example, hospitals are inspected only about every 20 to 21 months, and sometimes less frequently. Critics say patient safety regulations for hospitals all across the U.S. are largely archaic. "They've (the regulations) been there a long time and are probably very spottily carried out because there's not a mechanism for enforcement," said Kala Ladenheim, a health policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fewer than half the states even require hospitals to report "adverse events," she said.

And from their Northwest corridor neighbor state comes this report of safety-enforcement laxity from The Oregonian:

As Australia investigates patient deaths linked to former Oregon surgeon Jayant M. Patel, a question echoes half a world away: How could Patel operate here for more than a decade before state officials cited him for "gross or repeated acts of negligence?"

Who's watching what doctors do to patients?

The answer, many health experts say, is that few hospitals or doctors' groups have solid systems to track every surgery and highlight patterns of problems. Although doctors now have amazingly good tools to measure cells and genes, the study of what happens in U.S. operating rooms remains surprisingly unscientific.

It's a sad, sad tale of seemingly glacial oversight and enforcement efforts, and well worth reading for its discussion of the systemic gaps in reporting requirements that make it difficult to weed out the "bad apples," let alone to identify and deal with less obvious bad practices and bad practitioners.  [tm]

May 12, 2005 | Permalink

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

First Published Report of Stem-Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injuries

In today's issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from UC-Irvine report (abstract) "that paralyzed rats could walk again after treatment, but only if their injuries were recent.  In the research, conducted by scientists at the University of California, Irvine, rats with week-old injuries responded well to cell transfusions, but those with 10-month-old injuries did not." (Sacramento Bee) [tm]

May 11, 2005 | Permalink

New Defense for Doctors in Florida

This proposed law is not the way that I would recommend solving the so-called medical malpractice crisis.  According to the Daily Business Review:

Just months after the discovery that Florida doctors were treating patients with a dangerous, unapproved botulinum toxin to remove wrinkles, the Legislature has quietly passed a measure that would make it harder to discipline doctors for using unregulated pharmaceutical products.

The bill, spearheaded by state Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, a retired physician, gives doctors facing disciplinary action by the state Department of Health a powerful new defense against any allegation of misusing drugs. Under the bill, doctors can argue to the state that they relied in good faith on the representations of the drug manufacturer or its representatives, and that the doctors had no intent to violate the law.

While the language was crafted as a result of the widely publicized use of unregulated stabilized botulinum toxin, which was distributed by Tucson, Ariz.-based Toxin Research International, the measure is broadly written and could apply to doctors' use of any pharmaceutical product.

Under the bill, doctors would be allowed to use this new defense only in Health Department disciplinary cases, not in criminal or civil malpractice cases. If signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush, the bill could thwart attempts by the Health Department to sanction a number of doctors it has accused of using unapproved knockoffs of Botox.

Relying on drug manufacturer or its representatives, particularly its sales people, does not provide me with much sense of quality control -- but perhaps I am being too suspicious.  [bm]

May 11, 2005 | Permalink

Whiskey as Cancer Fighter

Professor Michael Froomkin at has an amusing post on the latest scientific finding that single malt whiskey may help prevent cancer.  It is a fun read!  [bm]

May 11, 2005 | Permalink

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bill Clinton to Help with Childhood Obesity Battle

President Bill Clinton, someone who knows and understands well the joys of fast food seems to be the perfect person to tackle the fast food industry and help with the fight against childhood obesity.  The Times of London has an interesting article on the new role for the former president.  The articles states the both Clinton and former Arkansas  Governor Mike Huckabee will be working together: 

Setting aside party differences, they have mounted a ten-year campaign to get the fast-food industry to serve smaller and healthier portions and to improve school dinners.

The campaign, backed by the American Heart Association, coincides with a new “12-stop” diet book by Mr Huckabee called Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.

As the pair kicked off the campaign at a school in Harlem, New York, Mr Clinton said: “The truth is that children born today could become part of the first generation in American history to live shorter lives than their parents because so many are eating too much of the wrong things and not exercising enough.”

It should be interesting to see how the fast food companies respond.  Thanks to the new blog The Huffington Post for the update. [bm]

May 10, 2005 | Permalink

Medical Malpractice Symposium

Icon Southern Illinois University School of Law Center for Health Law and Policy is co-sponsoring a symposium entitled, "The Medical Malpractice Crisis:  Is There a Solution?" on May 20, 2005.   Speakers include Professors Maxwell J. Mehlman, Frank M. McClellan and David A. Hyman, and attorney and physician Marie Bismark and William H. Freivogel and attorney and currently the editorial page editor of the   St. Louis Dispatch.  These individuals should provide some great perspectives and information on medical practice and potential solutions. 

The conference runs from 9am until 4pm and will be help at the School of Law.  For more information, including registration details,  please click here.  This conference is also sponsored by the Southern Illinois School of Medicine and the Paul Simon Pubic Policy Institute.  [bm]

May 10, 2005 | Permalink

Krugman's Health Care Columns for The Times

By popular request, here are the links to Paul Krugman's 5 columns (so far) in his on-going series on what ails (and can be done for) the U.S. health care system.  The links are from his unofficial archive and, although the pieces are described as "synopses," they are exactly as I remember them in the paper.


May 10, 2005 | Permalink

Monday, May 9, 2005

Larry Gostin Newest Associate Dean at Georgetown

Gostin2 Professor Larry Gostin, one of the leading public health scholars in the country, has been appointed Associate Dean for Research and Academic Programs at Georgetown University Law Center. According to the press release on his appointment, "Gostin will be responsible for matters concerning both faculty research and scholarship and for major issues of curriculum design and innovation." [tm]

May 9, 2005 | Permalink

Medicaid Cuts

States are looking to cut Medicaid in fairly drastic ways.  The New York Times and AMNews both have articles on the upcoming proposed state Medicaid cutbacks. 

Here in Ohio, these cuts are being proposed even though a recent poll shows that most Ohio residents would rather pay more in alcohol and tobacco taxes than have Medicaid benefits cut. [bm

May 9, 2005 | Permalink

Bad Publicity for Drug Companies

The New York Times ran several articles over the weekend discussing the drug companies.  On Saturday there was an interesting article on the ways that drug companies market their drugs.  It was rather eye opening.  This article follows revelations on Friday about some of the marketing techniques used by Merck to encourage the use of Vioxx.   ThinkProgress has an overview of those techniques, including the use of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Helen Keller to inspire their sales force. 

On Sunday, the Times had an article concerning the generous tax breaks the drug  companies received recently.  Meanwhile, the same Sunday Times also had an article discussing yet another impact of the Medicare prescription drug benefit - a reduction in food stamps for those who qualify for both programs.  It does make sense to a certain extent to argue that people who spend less on prescription drugs will have more to spend on food but I am not sure that the program will work quite so well.  However, I thought that some people might actually be gaining access to drugs that they didn't have access to previously because they could now afford them under this Medicare program.  It appears that those individuals have not been figured into this food stamp calculation. [bm]

May 9, 2005 | Permalink

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone, and a special wish for a super happy day to Sally Wilborn, a terrific mom! [bm]

May 8, 2005 | Permalink