medicine

Sophia Paris / United Nations

As U.S. and Cuba officials wrap up their first high-level talks in decades, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is leading a call for an end to the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.

Linus Ekenstam / Creative Commons

The story of Cassandra C, 17, dominated national headlines after she refused treatment for a curable cancer. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with a lower court decision that the Department of Children and Families can retain temporary custody of the girl, and force her to undergo chemotherapy. We hear from Cassandra's attorney about next steps for her.

We also talk with medical experts about informed consent. Should Cassandra and other minor patients like her be forced to undergo treatment?

Jackie Fortin

Cassandra C, 17, is being forced by the state to undergo chemotherapy treatment for her Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Under a court order, DCF has had temporary custody of Cassandra since mid-December.

DCF now says it is exploring other options for her while she continues treatment. Cassandra's next chemotherapy treatment won't happen for several weeks, so she may be allowed to leave the hospital and live in a group home. While there, she would continue to receive other treatments DCF says she needs.

Cassandra's attorney, Joshua Michtom, said on WNPR's Where We Live that Cassandra is in her hospital room with someone at guard at all times. For her, he said, being anywhere other than her one room in the hospital would be preferable.

The Spice of Life

Jan 13, 2015
Sarah Marlowe / Creative Commons

The word spice has a kind of urgency. You don't need spice but historically, it's something people wanted enough to travel long, unfamiliar routes to find and bring back. We're going to talk about the lust for spice that helped open up trade and colonization. It's not just the taste or the smell - it was status and a class marker. One was either the sort of family that had turmeric or one was not.

Today on the show, we talk about the history of spice and about its present. It hasn't stopped, in certain quarters, being a luxury item and a status marker.

The Massachusetts doctor who was cured of the deadly Ebola virus is going to return later this week to West Africa to work in the missionary hospital where he was infected.             

 Four months after he was declared Ebola-free, and with his strength and stamina now back, Dr. Rick Sacra will leave Thursday for Liberia, where he had spent much of the last two decades working for a missionary organization.

-aniaostudio-/iStock / Thinkstock

The story of a Connecticut girl fighting for the right to choose how to treat her cancer has filled the headlines. Cassandra C's case centers on her refusal of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is one of the more common treatments for cancer.

The Connecticut Supreme Court's ruling that 17-year-old Cassandra could be forced to undergo cancer treatment sparked thousands of impassioned comments on NPR.org and Facebook.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

In a swift ruling on Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court decided that a teen recently diagnosed with cancer can't refuse life-saving chemotherapy.

According to the ruling, state officials are not violating the teen's rights by forcing her to undergo chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. The teen, known as Cassandra C, will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September.

For the past month, Cassandra has been held at a local hospital, undergoing chemotherapy treatment against her wishes. Doctors said chemotherapy would give her an 85 percent chance of survival and without the treatment, she could die.

Update at 3:05 ET: The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday afternoon that the state can require Cassandra to continue treatment.

Her mother, Jackie Fortin, said she's disappointed by the decision. "She knows I love her and I'm going to keep fighting for her because this is her decision," Fortin said. "I know more than anyone, more than DCF, that my daughter is old enough, mature enough to make a decision. If she wasn't, I'd be making that decision."

Here's our original story, reported Thursday morning:

Wikimedia Commons

This year's flu shot might not work as well as in previous years, so focus is now on a new vaccine created in Connecticut.

c-hit.org

Connecticut hospitals reported record numbers of patients killed or seriously injured by hospital errors in 2013, with large increases in the numbers of falls, medication mistakes and perforations during surgical procedures, a new state report shows.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration recommended a change in the discriminatory and unscientific policy that effectively prohibited men who have sex with men from donating blood for life. Those guidelines kept any man who had sex with another man — even just once — since 1977 from donating blood forever.

While gay discrimination has been reduced in so many other areas of life, up until now, there hasn't been enough medical or political will to intervene on the blood ban. That policy perpetuated stigma without improving safety.

Garrett Peterson was born in 2012 with a defective windpipe. It would periodically just collapse, because the cartilage was so soft, and he'd stop breathing. This would happen every day — sometimes multiple times a day.

"It was really awful to have to watch him go through his episodes," says his father, Jake Peterson of Layton, Utah. "He'd be fine and then all of a sudden start turning blue. It was just like watching your child suffocate over and over again."

For a few weeks last year, Michael Tranfaglia and Katie Clapp saw a remarkable change in their son, Andy, who'd been left autistic and intellectually disabled by fragile X syndrome. Andy, who is 25, became more social, more talkative and happier. "He was just doing incredibly well," his father says.

Huntstock / Thinkstock

Meriden-based Protein Sciences has completed work on a preliminary Ebola vaccine, and will ship its creation to the National Institutes of Health on Monday.

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Some researchers who study the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome got an early Christmas present: permission to resume experiments that the federal government abruptly halted in October.

A Massachusetts doctor cured of Ebola said he is returning in January to Liberia, where he contracted the virus, to continue working at a medial mission

     Dr.Richard Sacra said he plans to spend four weeks at the same clinic near Monrovia, where he served for 20 years.   Sacra contracted Ebola in August and underwent treatment at an Omaha, Nebraska hospital. He returned home in late September and spoke about his ordeal.

  "Of course I was concerned that I might die."

Chion Wolf

Botox was first approved for medical use 25 years ago. It's famous as a quickie cosmetic fix but new uses pop up all the time.

Today, Botox applications are being tried for MS, Parkinson's Disease, migraines, bladder problems, profuse sweating and TMJ.

Organovo / Yale University

Worldwide, the number and quality of vital organ donors has decreased. Yale University has announced a new venture with a 3D biology company to develop 3D-printed tissue and organs.

An online contest for data scientists has produced a great leap forward in efforts to predict when someone with epilepsy is going to have a seizure. The winning team used data on electrical activity in the brain to develop an algorithm that predicted seizures 82 percent of the time.

Cancer doctors want the best, most effective treatment for their patients. But it turns out many aren't paying attention to evidence that older women with early stage breast cancer may be enduring the pain, fatigue and cost of radiation treatment although it doesn't increase life expectancy.

It's one of the worst fears we have for our parents or for ourselves: that we, or they, will end up in a nursing home, drugged into a stupor. And that fear is not entirely unreasonable. Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.

Chion Wolf / WNPR - Connecticut Public Radio

Earlier this week, countries marked World AIDS Day. In the U.S., 1.2 million people are estimated to be HIV-positive.

We may be in for a nasty flu season. That's the warning out today from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is worried because the most common strain of flu virus circulating in the United States is one called H3N2. In previous years, H3N2 strains have tended to send more people to the hospital than other strains — and cause more deaths, especially among the elderly, children and people with other health problems.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering revising a ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men.

An FDA advisory committee Tuesday mulled the issues raised by changing the policy, which has been in effect since the early 1980s.

Phalinn Ooi / Creative Commons

State health inspectors visiting Stamford Hospital in late 2012 turned up several infection-control violations, including the improper drying and storage of endoscopes, instruments used to look inside the body.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a heart stent implanted Wednesday to clear a blocked right coronary artery, but she was expected to be back on the bench when the court reconvenes on Monday.

It's now Goliath versus Goliath in the quest for an Ebola vaccine.

Until now, the two leading candidates for a vaccine to protect against the Ebola virus were being led by global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline on the one hand, and a tiny company in Ames, Iowa, that was virtually unknown, on the other.

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