Should a past mental health episode mean this mom loses her child?

Steve Herbert for ProPublica


Steve Herbert for ProPublica

At ProPublica, the story of a young woman who had a mental health crisis -- a psychotic episode -- and as a result, lost custody of her infant daughter. In the crisis incident, the mom became delusional and believed her child had been raped. The child had not been assaulted, nor was she ever harmed by her mom. Four years later, the mom is receiving effective treatment for her postpartum depression and psychosis, and capably raising a son. Yet, the courts in Kansas still won't give back her daughter, arguing she is unfit based an principle sometimes called "predictive neglect." Is this right?

A scarf woven from Jay Lake's genome


Here's a scarf woven from data representing the genome of talented sf writer and good guy Jay Lake, who died of cancer this week. Last summer, Jay's friends raised funds to sequence his genome in the hopes of finding a targeted cure. Astrid Bear used the data to weave the scarf, focusing on the 143 pairs of chromosome 18, which was the identified culprit in Jay's cancer. The scarf itself is a thing of beauty, and Jay loved it.

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Four things you didn’t know about seasonal allergies

Maggie Koerth-Baker on the science of the snuffles of spring. Relief may not be at hand without drugs, but knowledge has its comforts.

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Amazon's illegal drug trade

At Slate.com, Ford Vox has an investigative piece on how Amazon.com will deliver steroids, muscle relaxants, and prescription antibiotics right to your door, despite the fact that the sale of various drugs without a pharmacy license or a doctor's prescription is against the law.

More in US die from prescription narcotics than car crashes, guns, suicide

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More than 100 Americans die each day from prescription drug overdoses, mostly painkillers. That's more daily deaths than from car accidents, gunshot wounds, or suicides. In California, two county District Attorneys are suing five of the biggest drug companies in the world, and the lawsuits include the same kind of arguments once used against big tobacco industry, demanding "public protection."

Warren Olney's "To the Point" radio show has a segment on the topic today:

The companies are accused of a "campaign of deception" to persuade doctors that narcotic painkillers are safer than they really are. But the narcotic painkillers involved have been approved by the FDA. Is a government agency helping create a "population of addicts?" What's the role of physicians who write the prescriptions? Are they ill-informed, poorly trained or trying to make money?
More on the case at advocacy group harmreduction.org, and there's a Los Angeles Times writeup here.

Could this simple sea creature hold the key to treating Parkinson's?

A comb jelly, via Whitney laboratory for Marine Biosciences, University of Florida.  REUTERS/Whitney laboratory for Marine Biosciences, University of Florida.


A comb jelly (University of Florida).

A scientist in Florida who studies simple sea animals known as comb jellies says he has discovered a path to a new form of brain development that may one day lead to treatments for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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True cost of war visible in our overwhelmed Veterans' Administration

Army Staff Sgt. Sam Shockley, who was injured in Afghanistan when he stepped on a buried bomb, prepares to work on his balance and on walking with prosthetic legs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Matt McClain/The Washington Post


Army Staff Sgt. Sam Shockley, who was injured in Afghanistan when he stepped on a buried bomb, prepares to work on his balance and on walking with prosthetic legs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Matt McClain/The Washington Post

From the sixth in a 6-part Washington Post series on war and disability: "The longest stretch of fighting in American history is producing disability claims at rates that surpass those of any of the country’s previous wars. Nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing for these benefits when they leave the military — a flood of claims that has overwhelmed the VA and generated a backlog of 300,000 cases stuck in processing for more than 125 days. Some have languished for more than a year." The flood of claims peaked last year at 611,000.

The Atlantic's Olga Khazan (Gweek 147)

Our guest is The Atlantic associate editor Olga Khazan. We talk about cool smartphone apps, shin splint prevention, a groovy crime novel, and the best portable cell phone charger.

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What if we admitted to kids that most sex is for pleasure?

Alice Dreger works with intersex kids, and takes an admirably frank approach to talking about sex with her own kid. She's noticed lots of differences between her approach and that of other parents, but the biggest one is that she tells her son that people have sex for pleasure. Her piece about this, precipitated by her kid bringing home a notice that the class would be talking about sex and HIV/AIDS, is a kind of model of rational, sex-positive parenting that made me want to clip it out and stick it on the fridge for future reference.

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Half of all clinical trials never published: help do something about it

Victoria from Sense About Science writes, "International Clinical Trials Day is on Tuesday May 20th but half of all clinical trials have never been published and some have not even been registered. Help the AllTrials.net petition get to 100,000 signatures by International Clinical Trials Day and end the era of secrecy. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in these trials. If action is not taken urgently, information on what was done and what was found in trials could be lost forever, leading to bad treatment decisions, missed opportunities for good medicine and trials being repeated unnecessarily. Sign and share the petition at AllTrials.net. Tweet #AllTrials."

GDF11protein rejueventates aged brains and muscles in mice

"Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers have shown that a protein (GDF11) they previously demonstrated can make the failing hearts in aging mice appear more like those of young health mice, similarly improves brain and skeletal muscle function in aging mice."

(Novus Biologicals sells GDF11 for $349 per 0.1 mg.)

Obesity driven by overconsumption of protein-mimicking carbs and fats


In an editorial for Nature, Stephen J. Simpson (academic director of University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre) and David Raubenheimer (Leonard P. Ullman chair in nutritional ecology and nutrition theme leader at the Charles Perkins Centre) argue that the obesity epidemic isn't caused by sedentary lifestyles, but by overconsumption, because our appetite control systems are "fooled or subverted" by carbohydrates and fats that mimic proteins.

The ersatz proteins are much cheaper than the real thing, and have also made their way into the feed of livestock and pets. The authors state that "the range of processed food becoming available is evolving faster than our appetite control systems," and argue that the historic shortage of sugars caused us to evolve appetite systems that are bad at judging when we've had enough of them.

These arguments echo many of those raised in The End of Overeating (recently featured in a This Day in Blogging History post), in which former FDA commissioner and MD David A Kessler tries to understand how industrial food science has produced food that is exquisitely engineered to cause overeating and constant cravings.

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Hacking the hospital: medical devices have terrible default security


Scott Erven is head of information security for a healthcare provider called Essentia Health, and his Friday presentation at Chicago's Thotcon, "Just What The Doctor Ordered?" is a terrifying tour through the disastrous state of medical device security.

Wired's Kim Zetter summarizes Erven's research, which ranges from the security of implanted insulin pumps and defibrillators to surgical robots and MRIs. Erven and his team discovered that hospitals are full of fundamentally insecure devices, and that these insecurities are not the result of obscure bugs buried deep in their codebase (as was the case with the disastrous Heartbleed vulnerability), but rather these are incredibly stupid, incredibly easy to discover mistakes, such as hardcoded easy default passwords. For example: surgical robots have their own internal firewall. If you run a vulnerability scanner against that firewall, it just crashes, and leaves the robot wide open.

The backups for image repositories for X-rays and other scanning equipment have no passwords. Drug-pumps can be reprogrammed over the Internet with ease. Defibrillators can be made to deliver shocks -- or to withhold them when needed. Doctors' instructions to administer therapies can be intercepted and replayed, adding them to other patients' records. You can turn off the blood fridge, crash life-support equipment and reset it to factory defaults. The devices themselves are all available on the whole hospital network, so once you compromise an employee's laptop with a trojan, you can roam free. You can change CT scanner parameters and cause them to over-irradiate patients.

The one bright spot is that anaesthesia and ventilators are not generally networked and are more secure.

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3D printed tumors improve surgical outcomes

A team at Kobe university is improving tumor removal by 3D printing cancerous organs with their tumors, modelled on CT scans. The team use the models to visualize and plan their surgeries.

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Hobby Lobby, IUDs, and the facts

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide later this year whether a corporation can have religious beliefs. Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the science of birth control, and how it might inform the debate.

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