health

Are hospitals doing everything they should to make sure they don't make mistakes when declaring patients brain-dead? A provocative study finds that hospital policies for determining brain death are surprisingly inconsistent and that many have failed to fully implement guidelines designed to minimize errors.

About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, the latest statistics suggest, and it's probably about as common on Native American reservations as anywhere else. But a diagnosis in Indian Country is rarer, say mental health workers. That's likely at least partly because of a cultural belief — many Native American communities don't recognize dementia as a disorder.

A novel immunotherapy drug is credited for successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter's advanced melanoma. Instead of killing cancer cells, these drugs boost the patient's immune system, which does the job instead.

Immunotherapy is cutting-edge cancer treatment, but the idea dates back more than 100 years, to a young surgeon who was willing to think outside the box.

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, who died Dec. 25 at the age of 83, was considered one of the most influential psychiatrists of his generation. He headed the effort to more rigorously categorize mental disorders for the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), the handbook used by health care professionals.

Sarah Jackson had quit abusing drugs and had been sober for six months when she found out she had hepatitis C.

"That was weeks of not sleeping and just constant tears," she says. "I had already put a lot of that behind me and had been moving forward with my life and this was just a major setback."

To get rid of the infection, her doctor prescribed Harvoni, one of the new generation of highly effective hepatitis C drugs. But Jackson never started the treatment because her insurance, Indiana's Medicaid, refused to pay for it.

Cigarettes in an ash tray.
Flickr photo/Curran Kelleher (CC BY 2.0) HTTP://BIT.LY/1O4LD7V

State Rep. Tina Orwall just marked the two-year anniversary of her mom’s death from lung cancer.

“It’s a horrific way to lose someone,” Orwall, whose father also died of a smoking-related disease, told KUOW's David Hyde.

In Madrid, Museo del Jamón, which isn't a museum but a chain of bars, sells special ham backpacks, for carrying a whole ham leg — hoof and all — around town at the holidays. Spanish airports have special luggage rules for them. A leg of ham is the most popular family gift at Christmas. Every self-respecting Spanish household has a jamonera — a kitchen countertop rack on which to mount and cut slices off a ham leg.

The first sign something was wrong was when Sarah Shell lost 20 pounds. Then she started complaining that her legs were tired.

"She began having difficulty climbing stairs, and I just thought that she was — I hate to use the word — lazy," says Sarah's mother, Leigh Shell.

Then the teenager's eyes stopped moving. And she began vomiting out of the blue. Sarah had migraines and couldn't concentrate. Then she lost all the feeling in her hands, feet and legs.

Shilo Murphy at the People's Harm Reduction Alliance in Seattle's University District.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Jeannie Yandel speaks with Shilo Murphy, executive director of the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, about his plan to start a safe consumption site for drug users in Seattle.  

You may have heard some of the fashion industry horror stories.

Models eating tissues or cotton balls to stave off hunger. Models collapsing from malnutrition-induced heart attacks just seconds after they step off the runway. Even models growing a layer of downy fuzz as their bodies try to keep warm.

Washington state law requires hospitals to screen patients for financial need before demanding payment. But that doesn’t always happen. Now courts are paying attention.

A ruling against Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center highlights the problem.

Alfonoso Adinolfi at his office in Kent. Like many Americans with hepatitis C, Adinolfi didn't know he carried the virus until he was diagnosed in 1996.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Ask Alfonso Adinolfi how he got hepatitis C and he’ll point to his upper right arm. “Right there,” he says, “that tattoo.”

He’s lived with the blood-borne virus for decades since being infected, possibly with a dirty tattoo needle. He's one of about 10,000 baby boomers in King County who are thought to have hep C, though many may not know it. So if you were born between 1945 and 1965, Seattle-King County Public Health wants you to get tested.

Courtesy of StoryCorps

At the StoryCorps booth in Seattle's  New Holly neighborhood last summer, Anne Delvecchio and Larry Valdez talked about how a chance encounter with Santa Claus helped save a life.

The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing a 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The FDA announced Monday that it was replacing a lifetime prohibition with a new policy that will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least one year.

My 3-year-old drinks milk, but not very much of it, and that could be a problem for her.

We live in the Northeast, where the sun's rays are weaker. And now that the days are shorter, my kid arrives at day care a few hours after sunrise and leaves when it's dark. That all made me wonder whether she's getting enough vitamin D, and if not, what we should be doing about it.

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