Headlines: March 19, 2010
by Meg Larkin
These days, the biggest question in Washington may be which Democrats will be allowed to vote no. Because there are more democrats than the 216 necessary to pass the Health Reform bill, some Democrats who face stiff reelection challenges may be allowed to vote against the measure. The Democrats, who face a stiff reelection challenge in the 2010 midterm elections, are determined to both pass health reform and remain the majority party. Democrats from safe districts may not be allowed to vote no on Health Reform without facing a rebuke from within their own party in Washington.
In other health reform news, the Catholic opposition to the Health Reform Bill may be softening. The Catholic leadership and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed the bill because it does not include the Stupak Amendment’s strict restrictions on abortion funding. However, a coalition of 59,000 Catholic Nuns sent a letter supporting the health care bill because they believe that it is more important to make sure people have access to health care than to take a hard line stance on abortion funding. According to the Boston Globe, in addition to the nuns, “The Catholic Health Association, which represents 1,200 Catholic hospitals, has endorsed the package, as have Catholics United and Catholic groups promoting social justice.” The split in the Catholic position may allow more Catholic lawmakers to vote for the legislation in good conscience.
In other government health news, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is being fined $227,500 for radiation errors that occurred at its Philadelphia hospital. The fine is linked to errors made in radiation treatment of prostate cancer patients. According to the New York Times, “Federal investigators said the hospital made significant errors, misplacing radioactive seeds, in 97 of 116 procedures involving patients with prostate cancer from 2002 to 2008.” One Radiation Oncologist, who no longer works at the hospital, was linked to the majority of the radiation errors by an article in the Times earlier this year.
In research news, a new study has found that gay men and lesbians are routinely barred from certain kinds of clinical trials with no apparent scientific justification. It is unclear why there are exclusions based on sexual orientation, but one possibility is that researchers are simply copying exclusion criteria used in earlier studies. Most of the exclusion occurred in studies focused on sexual functions, with 15 percent of those studies explicitly excluding people in homosexual relationships. In rare cases, gay people were also excluded from studies not related to sexual function. The study’s lead author argued in favor of a fuller explanation of the possible scientific criteria for exclusion and a more open disclosure to patients.
Finally, in international health news, China is being accused of allowing spoiled vaccine to be administered to children. An investigative reporter accused provincial authorities of storing the vaccines in rooms without air conditioning, which makes the vaccines ineffective. According to the article, parents of some children who died and others who are severely ill, are blaming the vaccines.
Meg Larkin is a second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns.