policy

Is It Ethical to Keep a Pregnant Woman on Life Support Solely To Keep Her Baby Alive?

It astounded me to hear that, in light of the now heavily debated case of a pregnant woman in Texas named Marlise Muñoz who was kept on life support specifically in hopes of maintaining the viability of her fetus, there is currently another eerily similar predicament brewing in Victoria, British Columbia. While judges ruled last week that Muñoz be taken off life support (because doctors deemed the fetus unviable) the case for Robyn Benson is murkier. In the case of Muñoz, her family, particularly her husband, did not want her to be kept on life support even though they understood that the pregnancy would thus not go to term. It was, no doubt, an agonizing decision, but in Muñoz’s case, the red tape was put up by the hospital and the state of Texas; not the wishes of her family. Marlise Muñoz Benson’s story has emerged with a twist on the Muñoz case: her husband and the doctors agree that keeping her on life support until they can deliver the fetus via c-section is the only option. An important distinction here is that, in Benson’s case, the fetus (remarkably) is still growing normally despite the condition of the mother. But how does one even approach the idea of calling Robyn Benson the soon-to-be baby’s mother? Right now she is genetically and physically a host unit; she will not wake...

An Interview With the Director of the CDC

Exciting news! Our sister site, The Doctor’s Channel has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  in order to promote their monthly Vital Signs report. The CDC’s Vital Signs is released on the first Tuesday of the month and is comprised of an early release of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality weekly report (MMWR) as well as a fact sheet pertinent to the topic and several social media announcements. The reports call attention to important public health topics, urging the healthcare community to take action. The January 2014 Vital Signs report addresses the issue of excessive drinking and highlights a preventive service plan comprised of alcohol screening and brief counseling. Why talk about excessive drinking?  Drinking too much or excessive drinking contributes to many negative health outcomes, including medical conditions such as hypertension, cancer, and liver diseases. Additionally, the misuse of alcohol can have social consequences including, but not limited to, car accidents, partner abuse, or birth defects in children on the fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum. Excessive drinking also contributes to excessive government spending, where approximately $22.5 billion is spent annually on alcohol abuse healthcare and a total of $175.9 billion is spent on alcohol related problems. Alcohol screening and brief counseling is an effective but underused health service and should become part of the overall screenings that health professionals provide. Who is the CDC talking to? It is the CDC’s goal to inform the public of the dangers and consequences of excessive drinking. However,...

Hospitals Are Running Low on Saline; Here’s Why

Hospitals across the country are bowing under the weight of a particularly bad flu season. This week, several news outlets reported a spreading shortage of saline – the lifeblood of most medical centers – across the US. Saline is a fluid comprised of salt and water, that is given to patients intravenously to assist with rehydration. Saline is typically cheap and hospitals are flush with bags of it, so patients are commonly given it prophylactically – or just because “it won’t hurt.”  With a shortage on hand, many hospitals have dialed back their extraneous saline use in hopes of conserving their supplies for patients who truly need it. With it being both influenza and norovirus season, chances are most patients that land in the hospital in the coming weeks are going to be wont for IV fluids. The FDA, well aware of the problem, insists that it hasn’t reached levels to truly impact patient care, but that they are making plans to bump up manufacturing, and bring in supplies from overseas if necessary. If hospitals are running out of the solution, doctors and nurses would certainly not be comfortable with dwindling supplies; when a patient can’t take fluids orally, either due to illness or surgery, saline is essential to preventing complications from dehydration, such as dangerously low blood pressure.  In the very young and the elderly, these complications can...

A Message On Addressing Mental Health in Students

I graduated in May from The University of Pennsylvania. I was pre-med, president of my a cappella group, vice president of marketing for my sorority, a tutor, a mentor…stress was not a stranger to me. Despite the pressure of preparing for, and applying to, medical school there was one thing I didn’t have to deal with – the daily practices, training sessions, games, meets and matches that being a college athlete means not only attending but performing in optimally. While I was not a varsity athlete myself, I dated one for a good part of college and was exposed to, if only vicariously, the stress that comes along with trying to perform your best academically and athletically –this, while still making time for people you care about, the hobbies you promised yourself you’d keep up with in college, and most importantly, your own mental health. As I’m sure many have seen through various social media outlets in the earlier half of this week, last weekend, University of Pennsylvania Track Team member, Madison Holleran, took her life by jumping off of a Center City, Philadelphia parking garage. She was said to have left a note for her parents as well as a gift for each member of her family. I am not claiming to be a reporter — I am only telling you what I read in various news stories....

Intelligence Squared Debate: Is ObamaCare Beyond Rescue?

With the disastrous launch of the HealthCare.gov website, critics of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” were given more fuel for the fire. Is this political hot potato’s inevitability once again at stake? And is the medical community really on board with the law, or resisting (rewriting?) it from the sidelines? Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue from Intelligence Squared U.S....

10 Things the NSA Would Find Out if They Asked for My Personal Records

Last week over at HuffPo, Peter van Buren wrote an article about *gasp* the NSA being able to request medical records (and I’m supposed to be shocked by this revelation?) To reduce any symptoms of mass hysteria this article, or any like it, might cause, here’s my RX: 10 Reasons The NSA Don’t Give A S*** About My Medical Records! #10: I’m a twenty-two year old caucasian female who is five feet six inches tall (I asked if they could round up from 5ft 5 and ¾ inches) and weighs 115lbs (I mean, that’s not a lie, I did weigh that much one time. . .for like a week. . .) NSA’s Interpretation: “A woman lying about her weight? Unheard of. This warrants further investigation.” #9: I currently work in the same hospital I was born in: and the first thing I did after I exited my mother’s womb was poop on the table (isn’t the mom-to-be the one worried about doing that?). NSA’s Interpretation: “Clearly this was a tactic used by the baby to distract the doctor so that the mother could hide national security secrets in her vagina.” #8: When I was like 3, I fell on to one of those plastic toy shopping carts (and was shirtless I guess?) Yeah so the plastic splintered and cut my boob so bad it bled for three days but...

Face It, US Healthcare Sucks. But There’s Still Hope

America is a pretty great country. You may even think it’s the best. But it’s not.   I know you’re thinking, “This girl is so unpatriotic,” but I’m not at fault. There’s no denying the statistics. If you look to where the well-being of our people lie, the healthcare system, you’ll see we are nowhere near the top (well, except for health care costs). Where We Stand A 2013 survey published by The Commonwealth Fund showed that in comparison to 10 other industrialized nations, the United States fared the worst in terms of health care cost, access, and affordability. For example, 37% of US adults did not get the care they needed because of cost while 4% and 6% of United Kingdom and Sweden citizens faced the same issue. Also, 41% of those in the US spent $1,000 or more out-of-pocket regardless of insurance status while only 2% and 3% respectively of Sweden and United Kingdom citizens had to pay similar costs. You can see these data for these countries and others displayed in the graphs below. While our healthcare system is making it difficult for us to get adequate care and costing us a bundle, we’re also overall less healthy. We’re the second most obese of well-populated countries with 31.8% obesity only falling short to Mexico with nearly a third of its citizens packing the extra pounds according...