Headlines: June 28, 2010
by Meg Larkin
In health reform news, some States are ready to launch the high risk insurance pools required under the health reform law. Twenty states have already developed the pools and are ready to be awarded government funds. Twenty other states will not be developing pools, and the federal government will run the insurance pools in those States groups through a nonprofit company. In many states uninsured residents will be able to apply through coverage through the pools as early as Thursday and coverage could begin as early as August. The Federal government has set aside $5 billion to finance the pools until 2014 when insurers will no longer be able to turn away people with pre-existing medical conditions, but some health policy analysts are concerned that if the pools are too popular the Federal funding will run out and States will be left holding the bill.
In research news, scientists say they have developed a test that can predict when menopause will occur. By predicting when menopause will occur, the test could allow doctors to predict when women will lose their fertility, allowing women to make more informed choices about when to have a family. Iranian scientists developed the test by testing for the level of anti-Mullerian Hormone in Women’s blood and then using a mathematical formula to predict when menopause would occur. The study then followed women through their lives to track whether the formula was correct. Some doctors are concerned about the accuracy of a prediction based on just one blood test performed so many years before a woman is expected to hit menopause.
In legal news, a Federal Judge in Massachusetts has certified a class-action lawsuit against tobacco giant Phillip Morris. According to the Boston Globe, “Nearly two years after lawyers for two named plaintiffs sought class certification, US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner granted the request and said she would let the case go to trial on claims that the cigarette manufacturer designed a product that delivered excessive levels of carcinogens. Certifying the class-action suit means the judge has opened up the legal action to other plaintiffs with similar circumstances.” Potential participants in the class action must not already have lung cancer, and must have smoked Marlboro brand cigarettes because that is the situation of the two plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are suing Phillip Morris for payment of expensive tests that can better detect the presence of lung cancer at an early stage and improve patients’ chances of survival.
Finally, in Germany a court has liberalized the rule in right to die cases. The court overturned the conviction of a lawyer who had advised his client to cut the feeding tube of her mother. The mother had told the daughter verbally that she would not want to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. According to the New York Times, “The ruling strengthens an individual’s right to die with dignity, since terminating life-sustaining treatments will no longer be a crime if patients have declared their wishes. “ In some countries, such as Switzerland, “voluntary euthanasia” or euthanasia with the patient’s consent is legal, and Germans have long traveled abroad to fulfill their desire to die peacefully. Opponents of the ruling are concerned about the standard of proof involved. They are worried that if an un-witnessed verbal conversation is sufficient to give a person the right to assist in killing another person, the standard has a large potential for abuse.
Meg Larkin is a law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.