Lawsuit Over Woman’s Assisted Living Death May Affect Industry Standards

The Green Bay (WI) Press-Gazette reported that the family of Delores Wiersum has filed a lawsuit against ThedaCare after the woman “froze to death while locked outside her Appleton assisted living home.” According to elder law expert Alison Barnes, a professor at Marquette University Law School, “The impact of this kind of a lawsuit actually reverberates through the industry,” because, as the paper stated, “the case raises questions about the standard of care required of assisted living homes. State laws demand facilities provide a safe environment but aren’t clear on how far they need to go to protect residents.”

In a related story, the Green Bay (WI) Press-Gazette reported that Wiersum was “one of at least 24 assisted living residents who died in the state’s 15 largest counties following mistakes or mistreatment by caregivers in 2012 and 2013, a Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team review found.” Additionally, “at least 94 other residents were hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms for broken bones, debilitating bed sores and other injuries or illnesses following mistakes or mistreatment during that same period, the review found.” While ThedaCare has denied negligence in Wiersum’s death, the investigative team’s “findings underscore a serious problem: The industry isn’t set up to handle an influx of older and sicker residents.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Two New Studies Consider the Risk of Power Morcellators


The Wall Street Journal reports that several new studies are adding to the scrutiny of laparoscopic power morcellators and the possibility that they could potentially spread hidden cancers when used. Researchers from the University of Michigan health system found that, among women who received hysterectomies to remove fibroids, one in 368 had an undetected uterine sarcoma, which could be exacerbated by using a morcellator. That study was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. Another study, published online in JAMA Oncology, found that women who have only fibroids removed with a power morcellator face a decreased risk compared to women who have hysterectomies. The Journal notes that the FDA has not outright banned the use of power morcellators, but many physicians are closely watching the emerging research to determine the types of patients who should and should not be considered morcellation candidates.

HealthDay provides further coverage of the JAMA Oncology study, adding that “the likelihood of a hidden cancer increased with age: Of women younger than 40 who had power morcellation, none were found to have uterine cancer; the rate increased to almost 1 percent among women in their 50s.” The Philadelphia Inquirer offers coverage on both studies.

Also reporting on power morcellators, the Wall Street Journal “Pharmalot” blog writes that, not long after power morcellators began facing increased scrutiny from the FDA, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL) released a report saying morcellation is a safe technique when employed by experienced surgeons. An AAGL executive officer who received consulting fees from a morcellator maker was found to have had clout over the contents of the AAGL publication, which Pharmalot adds is just one example in a series of episodes in which physicians are given guidelines for treatments that were drafted by people with close ties to the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Superbug Kills Two at UCLA, FDA Releases Endoscope Warning


A disturbing article from CBS News describes the dangers of infection from improperly cleaned endoscopes. Here are the opening paragraphs:

U.S. health officials issued a safety warning on a specialty endoscope that has been linked to the transmission of a drug-resistant superbug known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.

CRE infections contributed to the deaths of two patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles who had undergone a procedure with this particular type of endoscope, known as the duodenoscope. In all, 179 patients may have been exposed, the hospital said.

And it has happened before. Between 2012 and 2014, 11 patient deaths were linked to the bacteria at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle following duodenoscope procedures

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Study: Nicotine Addiction Treatment May Help People Cease Smoking Over Time

Reuters reports a nicotine addiction pill may help smokers give up smoking over a period of time, when they find it difficult give up smoking suddenly, citing a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to the study, smokers who used Pfizer Inc.’s medication, called Chantix (varenicline) in the US, can substantially boost the chances of giving up smoking compared with smokers who didn’t take the medicine.

Highlighting the significance of the study, the New York Times reports that “clinical practice guidelines have long advised doctors to have their patients set a precise quit date before prescribing medicine such as Chantix.” The idea, according to the article, “was that such medicine should not be prescribed for someone who is not serious about quitting.” In some cases, “insurance plans would not pay for the pills if no quit date had been set.” Also, the study opens the way “to a much larger population of patients whom doctors could potentially treat,” the paper adds.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Research: 9.3% of Cancer Survivors Continue to Smoke

USA Today reports that a new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that “nearly one in 10 long-term cancer survivors play with fire by continuing to smoke.” Researchers “questioned nearly 3,000 survivors nine years after diagnosis,” and found that “overall smoking rate among cancer survivors was 9.3% — about half the rate found among all US adults.” Lee Westmaas, of the American Cancer Society and the study’s lead author, says the results show “just how difficult it is to quit.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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How You Can Help Loved Ones Remain As Independent As Possible As They Age

How You Can Help Loved Ones Remain As Independent As Possible As They Age

You want your loved ones to remain happy and healthy long into old age. This often means allowing your loved ones to live independently so they do not feel trapped or helpless. You can do several things to help loved ones remain as independent as possible as they age.

Make the Home Safer and More Convenient

The first step is to make the home safer and more convenient. Make everything easily accessible by lowering shelves, cabinet handles and light switches. Put grab bars in the bathroom, non-slip mats on the floors and extra lighting in hallways. This will allow your loved one to continue living normally in the home.

Hire a Homecare Specialist

A second step is to hire a homecare specialist to help your loved one periodically. A specialist can come to the home for a few hours a day to help your loved one with some housework or to perform a health check. Homecare specialists can also provide companionship and transportation to keep your loved one physically and mentally active.

Provide New Technology

Provide your loved one with new technology to make living independently easier. Some ideas are medical alert systems, simple cell phones and tablets with cameras for contacting friends. You might also want to consider an electric mobility scooter if your loved one has trouble getting around alone.

Learn To Take Care of the Medical Needs of Your Loved Ones

Learning to take care of the medical needs of your loved ones can allow them to be independent from hospitals and clinics when minor issues occur. You can do this by pursuing a master’s in gerontology online. A degree in this field will teach you everything you need to know to care for your loved ones as they age. You can not only help your family, but many others as you pursue this rewarding career.

Install Stair Lifts

Stairs can be very dangerous for people as they age. They can even prevent someone from being able to access different floors. You can stop this from happening by installing stair lifts in the home. This gives your loved one the ability to move between floors effortlessly.

Consider Moving Your Loved One to a Senior Living Community

Moving your loved one to a senior living community can support an active and independent lifestyle. The community will have many conveniences from healthcare workers to on-site activities like gardening. A senior living community can allow your loved one to age independently.

Living independently can help your loved one to remain happy, dignified and mentally active. Taking the time to facilitate independence will pay off for years to come. Your loved one will thank you for all the work you have done to make independent living possible.

This article is courtesy of Anita Ginsburg, a freelance writer from Denver who often writes about home, family, law and business. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family when she isn’t writing.

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Study: Some Weight-Loss Supplements Contain Ingredients Similar to Amphetamines


I thought everyone already knew this:

USA Today reports that a study led by Harvard researchers published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis found that some weight-loss and sports supplements contain ingredients similar to amphetamines rather than the plant extract their labels indicate they include. According to the article, the products in question are “sold under names like JetFuel T-300, Fastin-XR and Black Widow.” The Council for Responsible Nutrition called the products a “very small sliver of the industry,” while stating that the incorrect labeling and chemical inclusion is unacceptable. Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN said, “The FDA absolutely has the authority and they should be going after products like this.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the “amphetamine-like compound,” known as BMPEA, “has never been tested in humans” and has been found “in products advertised as containing Acacia rigidula, a shrub native to Texas.” The Harvard study “said the Food and Drug Administration discovered the presence of BMPEA in dietary supplements in 2013” but neglected “to warn consumers or order its removal.” FDA spokeswoman Juli Putnam “acknowledged that the agency published research on the occurrence of BMPEA in Acacia rigidula supplements in 2013.”

The New York Times “Well” blog reports that Daniel Fabricant, former Director of FDA’s Dietary Supplement Program from 2011-2014, “had been a senior executive at” the National Products Association, a trade group that “has spent millions of dollars lobbying to block new laws that would hold supplement makers to stricter standards.” After leaving his FDA post Fabricant returned to the association as its CEO, while his replacement at the FDA’s “supplement division also comes from the trade group,” according to the Times. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, “To have former officials in the supplement industry become the chief regulators of that industry at the F.D.A. is like the fox guarding the hen house.”

The CBS News website adds that, in response to the study, the FDA released a statement saying: “While our review of the available information on products containing BMPEA does not identify a specific safety concern at this time, the FDA will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, to protect consumers.”

Sport supplement maker to market new version of product found to contain methamphetamine-like compound. USA Today reports that Driven Sports, “a New York-based firm run by convicted felon and supplement designer Matt Cahill,” intends to start selling a “new version of a popular workout powder pulled from the market in 2013 after tests” revealed it “contained a methamphetamine-like compound.” It is “unclear what ingredients” will be included in the new version, Craze v2, but “marketing materials” promise “Coruscating energy and laser-like focus.” The product’s “impending return” is “drawing outrage and concern from some supplement watchdogs and industry officials.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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California Lawsuit Seeks to Allow Physician-Assisted Death for Terminally Ill

The Los Angeles Times reports that a group of cancer patients and physicians filed a lawsuit “to clarify the ability of mentally competent, terminally ill patients in California to obtain prescription drugs from their physician to hasten their death if they find their suffering unbearable.” The lawsuit requests “the San Francisco County Superior Court to rule that physicians who provide fatal doses of medication to be taken by such a patient should not be subject to criminal prosecution under state law,” arguing that “physician-assisted death for dying patients is not suicide” and that “the Legislature has not specifically prohibited assisted death and if it did, it would impinge on the liberties of patients.”

The AP writes that the lawsuit argues that “physicians who provide such assistance are not helping the patient commit suicide, but instead giving them the option of bringing about a peaceful death.” Kathryn Tucker, the attorney representing the plaintiffs – a cancer patient and five doctors – said, “This case is about letting the patient, the individual, script the last bit of their journey through life.” The AP notes that “Tucker worked on similar lawsuits that established aid-in-dying in Montana and New Mexico.” Opponents believe “prescribing life-ending medication violates a doctor’s oath to do no harm,” and “fear some sick patients would feel pressured to end their lives because of elder abuse or treatment costs if insurers refuse to pay for care.”

Reuters adds that lead plaintiff Christine White, currently in remission from seven years of aggressive cancer, said in the written statement, “I am suing the State of California to remove the legal barrier between my doctor and myself to help me achieve a peaceful and dignified death, at the time and place of my choosing. …If and when the leukemia returns, I want to have the option to ask my doctor to aid me in my dying.”

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that supporters of physician-assisted death for the terminally ill cite the case of brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, who moved from California to Oregon to “legally receive a doctor’s aid in dying a peaceful death,” as giving them new hope for success. Although a bill to establish the right of a mentally competent, terminally ill patient to receive physician assistance in dying was introduced last month, the patients and their lawyers are “not willing to wait for the legislative process to play out,” as similar measures have been defeated in the past.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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Your 2015 Spring (Property) Cleaning Guide


It’s that time of year again: Spring cleaning is upon us. With the arrival of spring, many of us take the opportunity to open up the windows, clean out our attics and basements and start the new season fresh. But there’s more to spring cleaning than dusting out the nooks and crannies of your home. Areas of your property, like the roof or the yard, are often overlooked. Read on to learn how to tidy every area of your property this spring.

Check Out the Roof

Most roofing experts agree that the lifetime of a standard asphalt shingle roof is between 20 and 25 years. If your roof is in this range or older, it may be time for a replacement. You can assess the roof’s condition by looking for signs of damage like curling, buckling or missing shingles — don’t forget to check the gutters for shingle granules. Also, Angie’s List recommends checking out the attic to see if any light is shining through.

Don’t wait until you have leaks during those April showers. If your roof has signs of damage, you need to replace it as soon as possible. Champion Home Exteriors can replace your old roof with modern Lifetime Shingles that offer advanced protection for your home. The Champion professionals offer six different shingle styles — made with non-asphaltic materials — to best fit your house’s style.

Trim the Trees

Lush green trees can beautify a property; however, severely overgrown trees can pose a risk to your home. Falling branches can damage your house or your cars and severe storms can potentially send trees through your roof or on to a neighbor’s property. This spring, trim your overgrown tree branches and have a professional landscaper take a look and make suggestions of areas that could use safety upgrades.

In many cases tree inspection is free and most local tree service companies can do it. Have an arborist take a look at your trees to check for diseases and overgrowth. If there is a problem, the arborist will recommend taking it down. Removing a large tree costs between $2,000 and $5,000. Before your trees grow out of control, have a tree service professional come by for regular upkeep to keep branches from growing into nearby power lines. Keep in mind that large trees should be inspected every five years.

Groom Paths and Patios

Snow and rain can wash away or loosen up the gravel between pathway pavers, causing the walkway to lay unevenly and become a potential hazard. To fix the problem, simply rake or sweep the loose gravel back into place, but keep in mind you may have to add new gravel to even out the surface. This Old House suggests watering the gravel with a hose to set it into place.

The patio certainly takes a beating during the winter months. Moisture left behind from the rain and snow can cause algae growth that can become slippery in the springtime. Clean up your patio by pressure washing the surface. The Home Depot has electric pressure washers that can be rented by the hour, day or week. Algae, leaf stains and other gunk and grime will be washed away, leaving your patio looking like new, just in time for spring season barbecues.

This article is from By Lauren Topor. Lauren is a multimedia journalist and alumna of Arizona State University. Her professional work has appeared in notable publications including HuffPost Arts & Culture. When she’s not writing you can find Lauren training for her next marathon or posting to her blog.

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FDA Releases Draft Guidance for Risk Information on Medication Ads


The Wall Street Journal “Pharmalot” blog reported that the FDA has issued new draft guidance asking drugmakers to refrain from including long lists of risks and concerns associated with drugs in favor of a mild summary in print ads and promotional materials. The summary would not have to include information about every side-effect or contraindication. In the draft guidance, the agency explained that not many consumers have the technical background needed to understand some of the information described in the warnings as they exist now. The intention of the summary is to focus on the broader risks and important information rather than an exhaustive list of every possible issue.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

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