Dr. Walt’s Comments on the Health Headlines – May 21, 2008

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Dr. Walt’s Comments on the Health Headlines – May 21, 2008

Please let me know if you like this type of entry or not. Your feedback will be very helpful to me.
Earlier this week, the British Parliament voted on an amendment to allow the creation of animal-human for experimentation.
If the law is passed, it will push Britain, as the FRC says, “deeper into science’s uncharted waters than any other country in the world.”
By a lopsided 336 to 176, MP’s (Members of Parliament) granted scientists the unlimited license to create any kind of hybrid, including those derived from cloning, animal eggs and human sperm, genetic engineering, and more. 
The Frankenstein hybrids will likely be approved in a final vote next month. 
Here at home, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) and Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-N.J.) bill banning animal-human hybrids sits idle. Contact your leaders and ask them to move quickly in distancing America from Britain’s ethical quagmire.
Making matters worse (if it’s possible to imagine worse bioethics), the MPs have further assailed the rights of unborn children.
In fact, from a pro-life perspective, if Parliament were in a baseball game, they would have just struck out. And the losers are the unborn children of the British Isles.
STRIKE 1 – British Parliament rejects need for father in IVF  
Kudos to MP (Member of Parliament) Iain Duncan Smith who valiantly led the cross-party bid to require facilities doing IVF to consider whether the baby would have a father or male figure in his or her life.
Smith, wisely pointed out the absence of a father had a “detrimental effect” on a child. His plan was defeated by 292 votes to 217.
STRIKE 2 – British Parliament keeps legal abortion limit at 24 weeks
A move to prevent abortions between 20 and 24 weeks gestation also failed. 
Proponents of the reduction correctly argued it was morally wrong for babies from 20 to 24 weeks to be terminated when (1) they could survive and (2) fetal pain and distress must be taken into account – as unborn babies at this age are very sensitive to pain.
“I think there comes a point when it has to be said this baby has a right to life also,” said Conservative lawmaker and former nurse Nadine Dorries, who argued for a 20-week limit and offered a graphic description of late terminations.
STRIKE 3 – British Parliament rejects ‘savior sibling’ ban
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will allow the selection of embryos that are a tissue match for a sick older brother or sister. Those embryos can now be killed so that their stem cells can be used. 
MP David Burrowes rightly argued it was wrong to create a child for the benefit of another, regardless of “the need.” Unfortunately, his bid to ban this horrific technology was voted down by 342 votes to 163.
The outcry against such morally bankrupt decision making is beginning to be seen. For example, both political officials and medical leaders in Germany are outraged over the decision in Britian to legalize human cloning involving hybrids.
Annette Schavan, Germany’s minister of education and research, strongly criticized the decision saying it was “wrong and highly ethically dubious” and crossed moral and ethical boundaries.
The German Medical Association also sharply condemned the move and said hybrid clones would not likely provide any medical benefits. “We consider this decision to be a serious mistake,” Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the vice-president of the doctors group, told AP. “Just the fact that viable embryos are to be destroyed shows that they are developing a completely different relationship to growing life.”
Hopefully, the AMA will voice similar outrage.
Let me know what you think!


A global menopause summit in Zurich has concluded that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is safe for healthy women entering menopause.  
The experts reviewed the evidence and found little evidence of harm. Even more importantly, they found some possible benefits for hormone use for women aged 50 to 59 who are otherwise healthy – especially since HRT is still the single most effective treatment for a variety of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.  
You need to know that there is really not very much high quality data available on routine HRT in women aged 50 to 59. There are some really good studies currently in progress.
However, until we have those studies, the current recommendation is that women use HRT in as low a dose as possible, for as short a time as possible. I think this report will help make that decision a bit easier for women.
By the way, if you’re interested in reading on natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) for menopausal symptoms, I’ve written a monograph for healthcare professionals that you can read here. (if this hyperlink does not work, put www.DrWalt.com/AAFP2008/menopause.pdf into your browser and you should be able to find it.) 
Today the Bush administration today launches a $1.9 million advertising campaign … urging patients to check the Department of Health & Human Service Hospital Compare website before choosing a hospital.  
The campaign, which is running in 58 regional newspapers, lists hospitals and their scores on two of more than 30 measures available on the website.
The movement is fueled by demands from employers and consumer groups, including AARP and the Consumers Union, for more information about cost and quality.
The government’s Hospital Compare website, which launched in 2005 and expanded in March, has information on how well hospitals follow recommended care for heart attacks, pneumonia and surgery, and how satisfied patients are with their treatment.
But, I think these ratings are going to be very difficult for most of my patients to interpret. I agree with Robert Berenson, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank that studies policy issues, who says, “While ratings efforts can be useful, they also can be confusing and limited in scope.”
He goes on to point out, “If I were a consumer looking at these reports, I would be bewildered by the variations that show up across different rating systems. There is not enough information available to shop for health care the way people shop for cars or televisions.”
If you take a look at the site, let me know what you think.

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