health

After hearing oral arguments on what could be one of the most important abortion cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in decades, NPR's Nina Totenberg says that the only thing that is certain is that Justice Anthony Kennedy will cast the deciding vote.

As expected, Nina says, the three conservatives and four liberals on the court stuck to their positions for and against a Texas law that puts restrictions on abortions.

Emily Holt (left) and Kathleen Cromp staff the Welcome Desk at Meridian Center for Health. The clinic provides medical, dental, mental health and maternal support services under one roof.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

When it comes to providing care for people with mental illness, Washington ranks in the bottom five in the country.

The state has one of the highest percentages of adults with mental illness and one of the worst records for not getting them the treatment they need. One Seattle clinic wants to change that.

Medical device maker Olympus Corp., already under federal investigation for its role in superbug outbreaks, has agreed to pay $646 million to resolve criminal and civil probes into illegal kickbacks and bribes to doctors and hospitals.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that the company's settlement is the largest ever for violations of the U.S. Anti-Kickback Statute. A portion of the company's payout, $22.8 million, will resolve similar bribery allegations in Latin America.

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow Tuesday to nascent efforts to track the quality and cost of health care, ruling that a 1974 law precludes states from requiring that every health care claim involving their residents be submitted to a massive database.

The arguments were arcane, but the effect is clear: We're a long way off from having a true picture of the country's health care spending, especially differences in the way hospitals treat patients and doctors practice medicine.

A Boston nonprofit plans to soon test a new way of addressing the city's heroin epidemic. The idea is simple. Along a stretch of road that has come to be called Boston's "Methadone Mile," the program will open a room in March with a nurse, some soft chairs and basic life-saving equipment — a place where heroin users can ride out their high, under medical supervision.

Ricky Garcia and Lauren Davis are fighting to pass Ricky's Law in the Washington State Legislature that would allow involuntary committment for addicts.
Courtesy of Lauren Davis

What can you do if someone you love wants to hurt themselves? If the underlying cause is mental illness, one option is to have them involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment.

But, if the underlying cause is addiction, things get much harder.

Vyvyn Lazonga, a tattoo artist for 43 years, now dedicates half of her practice to women who have had mastectomies, meaning the removal of one or more breasts. She works in a shop next to Pike Place Market in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Thirty years ago, a woman walked into Vyvyn Lazonga’s San Francisco shop and asked the tattoo artist to ink new nipples onto her chest.

The woman had undergone a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis, and she wanted to recreate a semblance of the breast she’d lost.

That was Lazonga’s first foray into post-mastectomy tattooing. Although she can’t say for certain, Lazonga believes she was the first person in the country to tattoo over mastectomy scars.

Researchers are working furiously to determine if the Zika virus now spreading in Latin America is responsible for a spike in cases in Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that can cause temporary paralysis.

The state of Washington spends about $1 billion per year on prescription drugs -- that’s state and federal funds. And the cost has been going up. Now some state lawmakers are wondering if there’s a way to drive a better bargain. Or at least shed some new light on how drugs are priced.

Less than half of young men have heard of emergency contraception, a recent study found, even though it's available over the counter at drug stores and is effective at preventing pregnancy after sex.

I came home from a trip the other day with a small plastic bag filled with 4 ounces of brown powder that, truth be told, made me a little nervous.

The powder had a strong odor that reminded me of badly burnt coffee, with perhaps a note of brown sugar.

I didn't dare open that bag. It contained crude caffeine, about 90 percent pure. That small bag held as much caffeine as 1,000 tall lattes from Starbucks, or 2,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi. It was enough to kill several people.

Diane Rehm in the KUOW studios.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Jeannie Yandel talks with longtime show host Diane Rehm about having to learn who she is without her husband, John Rehm. After 54 years of marriage, John Rehm chose to end his own life after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Diane Rehm writes about how his illness and death changed her in her book, "On My Own." 

HIV rates have been on the decline in the U.S. for years now, but stark disparities remain, with some groups of people at high risk of infection.

Here's the good part: The number of people diagnosed annually has dropped by about 20 percent in the last decade.

The drop was driven by plunges in certain groups of people, including heterosexuals, with a 35 percent decline since 2005; black women, with a 42 percent decline; and people who inject drugs, 63 percent.

Meat has a greater impact on the environment than pretty much any other food we eat. As The Salt has reported, billions of cows, pigs, sheep and poultry we raise as livestock guzzle massive quantities of water and generate at least 10 percent of the total greenhouse gases attributed to human activity.

But scientists say we've been slow to acknowledge yet another side effect of our taste for meat: nitrogen pollution.

A lot of visitors to Colorado figure they might give the state's good ganja a try, but they might not be prepared for the effects. When it comes to bad weed trips, out-of-staters have been doing much worse than Colorado residents and are going to the ER more often since recreational sales of marijuana began in 2014.

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