Health Highlights: Oct. 13, 2010
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Change White House Policy On Military Condolence Letters: APA
The White House should reverse a policy that prohibits the president from sending condolence letters to the families of military personnel who commit suicide, says the American Psychiatric Association.
"The contributions of these men and women to their country are not less for having suffered a mental illness. A reversal of this policy to allow condolence letters to family members will not only help to honor the contributions and lives of the service men and women, but will also send a message that discriminating against those with mental illness is not acceptable," APA President Dr. Carol A. Bernstein said in an association news release.
Suicide is a growing problem in the U.S. military.
Other groups calling for a change in the policy include Mental Health America and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Childhood Vaccine Case Divides Supreme Court Justices
U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared divided Tuesday as they heard arguments about the pros and cons of allowing lawsuits by people allegedly harmed by vaccines.
Federal law offers vaccine makers a great deal of protection from such lawsuits. But the justices must decide whether people hurt be vaccines should still be allowed to sue vaccine makers if they can prove a safer vaccine was available, the Washington Post reported.
In questions put to lawyers, some justices seemed to favor this right while others felt allowing such lawsuits would expose drug makers to so much risk that they would stop making vaccines, thus putting public health at risk.
The case involves parents who say their 18-year-old daughter suffered developmental problems after receiving a vaccine at age six months to protect against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus.
The outcome could have a major impact on the future of thousands of pending lawsuits by families who claim the use of the mercury-based preservative thimerosal in vaccines is linked to autism.
Chilean Miners May Have Health Issues
The Chilean miners who have been trapped underground since Aug. 5 could face a number of health problems after their rescue.
Even if they are pulled to surface relatively slowly, the miners could develop decompression sickness (also known as the bends), Antonio Zikos, a critical care specialist at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, told USA Today.
He said other potential problems associated with the 2,000-foot ride to the surface in a capsule only about 2 feet wide include blood pressure drops or spikes, nausea, vomiting and panic attacks.
The long time spent in damp and cramped conditions below ground may have affected the miners' circulatory and immune systems and could cause muscle loss and blood clots, said Zikos, USA Today reported.
Exposure to carbon monoxide and other underground gases may have resulted in cognitive problems such as memory loss or difficulty performing basic tasks. Many of the miners have skin infections.
Other potential problems include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, USA Today reported.
Hormone Replacement Lawsuits Can Proceed: Supreme Court
Drug makers have been rebuffed in their attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court reconsider a lower court decision to reinstate more than 100 lawsuits filed by women who allege that hormone replacement therapy caused breast cancer.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Wyeth LLC and other drug makers about the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to overturn a federal judge's ruling to toss out many of the lawsuits, the Associated Press reported.
In the original case, the federal judge agreed with the drug makers' argument that the plaintiffs added unrelated local defendants to ensure the case would remain in state court. The drug companies wanted the case in federal court.
But in overturning that decision, the appeals court said it had not been proven that the plaintiffs did anything wrong, the AP reported.
Marketing, Psychology Used To Improve Kids' Diets
Food behavior scientists are being enlisted to identify marketing and psychological techniques that will encourage children to choose healthier foods in school cafeterias, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some methods include locating the salad bar near the checkout, hiding chocolate milk behind plain milk, placing fruit in pretty baskets, and having a cash-only policy for desserts, the Associated Press reported.
Researchers at Cornell University have concluded that these methods are effective. The university will open a new child nutrition center to test more ideas meant to get kids to select fruits and vegetables over french fries and other unhealthy foods.
The program will cost $2 million, the AP reported.