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Texas passes draconian law limiting women's health care options


Earlier this week on Facebook, Senate Democratic caucus chairman Kirk Watson posted this photo.

The NYT's John Schwartz, who is himself from Texas, live-tweeted the dramatic proceedings yesterday in the Texas Senate surrounding one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country. The law was pushed forward by governor Rick “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done” Perry.

No surprise: it passed. Read John's coverage today, and weep.

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Networks of Microexperts: crowdsourcing for health care

A post on Dr. Roni Zeiger's blog (it's a few months old, but new food for thought for me) explores models for shared intelligence in health care.

"We’ve heard a lot about crowdsourcing, or outsourcing work that one person would normally do to a large and often distributed crowd.  There is a related and I think even more important idea of a network of microexperts and how they amplify the collective intelligence of their members," Zeiger writes.

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Physical, sexual abuse documented at FL facility for autistic and brain-injured

Investigative reports released under a court order to Bloomberg News show that caregivers at a Florida center for brain-injured and "non-neurotypical" adults physically and sexually abused patients, in a systematic and brutal manner. Caregivers "goaded them to fight each other and fondle female employees and in one instance laughed at complaints of mistreatment." At least five patients have died at the center in question, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, from alleged abuse or neglect there since 1998. Two patients died in just the last two years. (Bloomberg) Xeni

Amazons with a Cause

Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.

I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.

The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too.

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Breast cancer patients: Stanford launches lymphedema registry study

Lymphedema occurs in about 7% of breast cancer patients who have undergone sentinel lymph node biopsy (to see if disease has spread to these lymph nodes), and in greater percentage of patients whose nodes end up being removed (because one or more contain cancer) and patients who receive radiation therapy after breast surgery. Lymphedema is basically a chronic swelling of the affected arm, caused by trapped lymph fluid. It can be disabling, disfiguring, and extremely painful.

"Once lymphedema develops, it is permanent," says my friend Dr. Deanna Attai, a breast surgeon in Burbank, CA. "Physical therapy can help minimize swelling and other complications, but there is currently no cure. Early recognition and prompt treatment definitely makes a difference."

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Why is a mysterious kidney disease killing sugar-cane workers in Central America?

"It goes by many names, but around here they call it 'the malady of the sugar cane," writes Will Storr in the Guardian. A quiet epidemic has been preying on Central American sugar field laborers for decades, and it is killing more and more each year. "Between 2005 and 2009, incidents in El Salvador rose by 26%. By 2011 the chronic kidney disease (CKD) had become the country's second-biggest killer of men." But what exactly is it? Xeni

On Romney, health care in America, and dying in your apartment

Recently, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told members of the Columbus Dispatch editorial board, "We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance. We don't have a setting across this country where if you don't have insurance, we just say to you, 'Tough luck, you're going to die when you have your heart attack.' No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital."

Many of us who have cancer laughed and shook our heads. Yes, people in America do die because of lack of health insurance, and because having health insurance is not a guarantee that you will receive affordable care.

In an opinion piece over at HuffPo, Wendell Potter, former insurance industry PR guy turned whistleblower and author, writes:

Romney is absolutely right, people who are uninsured don't have to die in their apartments. They can indeed be rushed to a hospital, and the hospital is obligated to treat them. It's what he didn't say, and likely doesn't understand because he simply can't relate to 47 percent of us, that is actually more important: many of the uninsured die in the hospital, in the emergency room, because they could not afford to get care earlier when it might have saved their lives. Instead of going back home to their apartments, many of them, unfortunately, go to the morgue.

More: Romney's Talking Points on the Uninsured Are Like the Ones I Wrote When I Was an Insurance Industry Flack.

Potter's book looks pretty great. I just ordered a copy. (thanks, Lani)

Baby's First Baby

"Baby's First Baby," by Darren Cullen (2012). via BB Flickr Pool.

Cancer and the High Holy Days: Rethinking Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die

Cancer survivor Lani Horn, who helped me through some painful times during my cancer treatment, writes in a piece for kveller.com about anger, justice, and the search for deeper meaning in the Jewish holy days. She talks about a moment of clarity during a workshop for survivors, where she witnessed much talk about "making meaning out of the cancer experience, deepening our gratitude for the ordinary, becoming more compassionate." Snip:

After losing my brother, two breasts, and almost three years of my life to illness and hospitals, I was over these platitudes. I stood up to speak. “This is all fine. I get it. But my problem is that I am mad at God.” I even talked about the Unetanah Tokef, which had been a grueling part of the High Holiday liturgy since Jeremy died. Who shall live and who shall die?

A surge went through the room. I had uttered the unspeakable. Afterwards people came up to thank me for my honesty. One was a hospice chaplain, himself a cancer survivor.

“Remember,” he said, “there is a such thing as holy anger. Think of the prophets. Anger can be a spiritual feeling.”

For the first time, I did not feel like my anger separated me from God. It was an honest description of my relationship.

Yes, I was angry. Who shall live and who shall die? Why him and not me? And why him at all?

Read the rest: Rethinking Who Shall Live & Who Shall Die (Raising Kvell)

(Image: Dad's Grave's Broken Headstone at the Jewish Cemetery in Mumbai, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from Avi Solomon's photostream.)

Study: many young cancer survivors don't get followup care due to costs

A new study published in Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, shows that many survivors of adolescent and young adult cancers don't get the routine medical care they need after basic treatment because it's too expensive—even though most of them have health insurance. Translation: in America, even when you have insurance, cancer is financially devastating. So much so that young survivors (= teens through thirties) tend to not get the followup care they need to continue surviving. (thanks, @zooko) Xeni

Amit Gupta on life after cancer treatment

"We leave in a few weeks… on motorcycles." Read this beautiful blog post from tech entrepreneur Amit Gupta, who was diagnosed exactly one year ago with AML leukemia. I know that feel, bro. Xeni

French doctors on trial for cancer radiation overdoses

In France, doctors and radiologists accused of overdosing hundreds of cancer patients, then destroying evidence to cover up their potentially lethal mistakes, are on trial for manslaughter. Out of a group of 24 patients who got up to 20% more radiation than they should have, seven patients died. "The errors were blamed on the radiation machines being upgraded with new ones and doses of radiation being miscalculated." More at the Guardian. Xeni

Romney on America's uninsured: Let them eat emergency rooms

During an interview with Scott Pelley on the CBS program "60 Minutes" last night, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed America's uninsured: "Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care." Not only is this the douchiest response ever, it's untrue, and it's a reversal of his prior position. FYI, this approach does not work well for a lot of populations: for people who can't afford dental care, for instance, or people like me who have cancer. Without a truly functional health care safety net, many uninsured and under-insured cancer patients in America do, in fact, "sit in their apartment and die."

For those with cancer: make your own "With great power comes great radiotherapy" t-shirt

Science blogger Ed Yong whipped up this awesome graphic and made me a one-off tshirt to wear to radiation treatment for breast cancer.

Cancer patients, radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and the people who love them all can make their own t-shirts and stickers with the JPEG if you are so inclined!

Thanks, Ed!

Father performs "Let it Be" to raise funds for his 11-month-old's cancer bills

[Video Link] "On July 5th, 2012, my 11-month-old son, Noah, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor," writes Mike Masse in the introduction to this YouTube video, a beautiful performance of the Beatles' "Let it Be."

Details on the fundraiser here.

In America, little boys have to start lemonade stands when their fathers get cancer. In America, fathers have to do what Mike is doing here when their sons get cancer.

No parent should have to bare their grief to the world, no matter how beautifully, to beg for money to cover the life-saving medical treatment their baby needs. As you see the beauty, be mindful of the injustice in our health care system this represents.

Cancer is one tragedy. The way our country treats people with cancer, even when they're little babies, is another.

(HT: Joe Sabia)