1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

1,500 Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ live in Israel. They are appallingly mistreated

A 2001 law promised housing, medical care to this group of heroes, but scandalously has never been implemented. Maybe interest sparked by the remarkable TV series will change that

Ksenia Svetlova
Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Chernobyl liquidators visiting the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

The much-discussed new TV series, “Chernobyl,” which focuses on the worst nuclear disaster of the twentieth century, has reminded the world about what happened at the plant’s No. 4 nuclear reactor 33 years ago.

Despite the very real health dangers, many curious tourists have been making their way to the remote Ukrainian city where time stopped in April 1986. And journalists have been seeking out the people who fought the devastating fire and built the Chernobyl sarcophagus, the massive steel and concrete structure that was constructed on top of the destroyed reactor to isolate it and limit radioactive contamination of the surrounding area.

The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl “liquidators”— those who were called in to deal with the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic nuclear leak — who are still alive today reside in the former Soviet Union. But about 5,000 of them immigrated to Israel at the start of the 90s, and 1,500 of them still live here. Unfortunately, the liquidators are elderly and suffer from ill health. Unsurprisingly, those facts are less interesting than the painful memories from those terrible days: the friends who died, the hair that fell out, the diseases that spread.

I came into contact with this unique group of people four years ago in the course of the election campaign for the twentieth Knesset. The head of the association of Chernobyl liquidators here, Alexander Kalantirsky, got in touch with me before I was elected, and asked for my help. When we started talking, it emerged that he had studied construction engineering together with my mother at the same university in Moscow.

Alex Kalantirsky (R) during a demonstration of Chernobyl liquidators at the Knesset in Jerusalem. (Ksenia Svetlova)

Kalantirsky was in his 40s, married and with children, when he was sent to Chernobyl to work on the construction of the sarcophagus.

Did he know what was waiting for him there, and that his health would be irreparably harmed? Absolutely. But at no point did he contemplate evading this mission.

“We knew that if the radiation continued to spread, not only would Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia be hit, but all of Europe, including the Mediterranean basin. That was all we were thinking about. We hoped we would be able to neutralize that immense danger,” he told me in our first discussion.

A concrete and steel sarcophagus that seals the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor is seen in this picture from December 8, 1999, in Ukraine’s Chernobyl. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The rights of the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are anchored in several international treaties to which Israel is not a signatory. Nonetheless, when the liquidators immigrated to Israel, they asked for the assistance that would enable them to deal with their illnesses and other needs.

And indeed in 2001, the late Knesset member Yuri Stern initiated legislation that recognized the liquidators’ work and gave them a unique status. The law specifies their right to public housing, to a one-time grant and to treatment in a special medical facility to be set up for this purpose.

An aerial view of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is seen in April 1986, two to three days after the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. In front of the chimney is the destroyed 4th reactor. (AP Photo)

Since the passage of the law 18 years ago, however, the state has not implemented it and has not allocated the funding to implement it. In the four years that I served as a Knesset member, I sought answers from the government ministries responsible for this failure. Some of their responses were quite fascinating.

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and the Construction and Housing Ministry, for example, completely ignored the liquidators. The insurance companies refuse to insure the liquidators, because of the high level of illness to which they were exposed, but an effort to involve the Treasury in this issue was thwarted, with the explanation that the Treasury has no right to require private companies to insure or not insure an individual.

Deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman during a press conference after meeting with president Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 15, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But the most outrageous response of all was from Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who told me that “research does not prove that the Chernobyl disaster liquidators suffer from illnesses as a consequence of their work at the reactor. Most of them are smokers and it is possible that cancer in their cases is a consequence of that smoking.”

Once that contemptuous and offensive response was received, the path to a petition to the High Court of Justice was plainly open, since the 2001 legislation had instructed the government ministries to set up a medical facility to treat the Chernobyl liquidators. A petition was submitted by attorney Gilad Sher, who has been working for years on their behalf.

A doctor examines a boy who was evacuated from near the Chernobyl disaster area to Artek, June 14, 1986. (AP Photo)

At a hearing on December 17, 2018, the High Court accepted most of the liquidators’ key demands. The court made clear that the state had no right not to provide the liquidators with all their rights via a pretext that their medical situation was unclear.

The state was given 120 days to rectify the situation. But then the election campaign, and now the second election campaign, have frozen the work of the government and the Knesset, and nothing has moved.

Children from Chernobyl come to Israel for medical treatment in 1990 (Natan Alpert / GPO)

Very few reporters have taken an interest in this saga and the dire situation of the liquidators here. Among those who have focused on the story at all, most have concentrated on the awful details of what happened 33 years ago and interviewed these elderly, ailing people about that. For most of the liquidators, this is a profoundly traumatic experience.

And now came the remarkable “Chernobyl” historical drama.

Poster for Chernobyl, the 2019 miniseries

Says Kalantirsky: “This series returned me to the nightmare. The more I talk about my experiences there, the sicker I get.”

He and his friends, he says, do not understand why interviewers ignore their tales from the last three decades in Israel — the relentless battle they have been waging against government ministries who try to fob off responsibility from one ministry to another, and their dire financial situation.

“It’s been 18 years since Yuri Stern’s law passed. How many more years will it be before they start taking care of our issue?” asks Kalantirsky, a wise, intelligent, clearheaded man.

He has been amazed by the number of requests he has received for comments from the media, and disappointed by the superficiality of the questions.

“I have no problem talking about what happened at Chernobyl, even though it’s not easy for me,” he told me recently. “I watched the series. It was staggeringly accurate, apart for a few minor details. But it’s vital for me that it is not only the story of what happened then that is heard, but also our cry today.”

Workers who constructed the cement sarcophagus covering Chernobyl’s reactor four, pose with a poster reading: “We will fulfill the government’s order!” in summer of 1986 next to the uncompleted construction.(AP Photo/ Volodymyr Repik)

In contrast to the characters in the TV series, the Chernobyl disaster liquidators are real people, flesh and blood.

I can only hope that the renewed interest in the greatest ecological disaster of the twentieth century will eventually lead the media to focus not only on the horror stories of the two-headed chickens and the prematurely lost teeth, but also on the actual lives of 1,500 Israelis who live here.

Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ testify at a Knesset committee meeting (Ksenia Svetlova)

As their right, and not as an act of pity of charity, they require and deserve our practical help with homes and medical treatment. This is the least we should be doing for them, and it is scandalously long overdue.

The writer was a Zionist Union member of Knesset in 2015-19.

This article originally appeared in Hebrew on Zman Yisrael, ToI’s Hebrew site

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli researchers find ‘potential hope’ for some pancreatic cancer patients

New drug stalls progression of disease for patients who have the BRCA genetic mutations, study by Sheba Medical Center with AstraZeneca and Merck shows

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

Researchers at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer said Sunday that a targeted cancer therapy drug they developed together with pharma giants AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Inc. offers “potential hope” for patients with a specific kind of pancreatic cancer, as it delays the progression of the disease.

Dr. Talia Golan, the head of the Sheba Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, has been conducting research and clinical trials with AstraZeneca and MSD, as Merck is called outside the US, to evaluate the safety and test the efficacy of a new drug treatment regimen based on Lynparza, or olaprib, tablets.

The tablets are a pharmacological inhibitor of the enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, or PARP. PARP inhibitors are a group of drugs that inhibit the enzyme. They were developed for a number of indications, but most importantly for the treatment of cancer, as several forms of cancer are more dependent for their development on the enzyme than regular cells are. This makes PARP an attractive target for cancer therapy.

Those who received the medication in the study on average went 7.4 months before their disease began to worsen, known as “progression free survival” rates, compared to 3.8 months in the group that took the placebo, the researchers said.

The study, called POLO, was held with 154 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who carried the BRC -1 and BRCA-2 genetic mutations. Patients with these mutations “make up a small subgroup of those with metastatic pancreatic cancer,” the researchers said in their study. Golan said in an interview that this subgroup accounts for six to seven percent of the metastatic pancreatic cancer patients.

The results of the Phase III randomized, double-blind study with a placebo control group will be published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine, the partners said.

“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” Golan said in the statement. “This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 & 2.”

In the study, patients were randomly assigned to get the tablets, at a dose of 300 milligram twice daily, or a placebo.

However, though the drug was seen to slow the disease’s progression, an interim analysis showed “no difference” in overall survival between those who took the drug and the placebo group — a median of 18.9 months versus 18.1 months, the study said.

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, and accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Net. The five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is 9%. The cancer is often difficult to diagnose, as there are no specific cost-effective ways to screen for the illness, meaning that it is often found at later stages, when it has spread. For the 52% of people who are diagnosed after the cancer has spread, the 5-year survival rate is 3%, Cancer.Net says.

“When we saw the results were positive it was an exceptional, phenomenal moment,” said Golan in an interview. “For the field it is a huge thing.”

She added that this is the first Phase 3 biomarker study that is positive in pancreatic cancer and the drug “provides tremendous hope for patients” with the advanced stage of the cancer.  “This drug has shown efficacy and a tremendous really phenomenal response in this patient population,” she said.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A significant number of Ashkenazi Jews (those of European origin) around the world are carriers of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes.

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Mother of Nechama Rivlin’s lung donor: ‘Another part of you has gone’

Sari Halabli, mother of 19-year-old Yair who died in March drowning accident, eulogizes president‘s ‘modest’ wife, says she will ‘rest in peace, together with my enchanting son’

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

Nechama Rivlin (R), wife of President Reuven Rivlin, on June 16, 2016. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90) Yair Yehezkel Halabli (L), who donated his lung to Rivlin. (Twitter)

The mother of the young man whose lung was transplanted into Nechama Rivlin said Tuesday she grieves the passing of President Reuven Rivlin’s wife.

Sari Halabli, the mother of 19-year-old Yair Halabli, who died in March after drowning in a diving accident in Eilat, said Rivlin’s death at the age of 73 meant another part of her son had died.

Rivlin was “a modest woman, just like Yair,” Halabli told the Ynet news site.

“Rest in peace, together with my enchanting son,” she said in a message to Rivlin, before addressing her late son: “Another part of you has gone, and of my heart.”

Memorial candles are lit next to a picture of Nechama Rivlin, the late wife of President Reuven Rivlin, outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Halabli’s family donated several of his organs after his death. Rivlin received his lung on March 11 after a long time on a waiting list as she suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which scar tissue accumulates in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. She died earlier Tuesday from complications linked to the transplant.

Her funeral will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. Prior to the ceremony, her coffin will be placed at the Jerusalem Theater, where the public can go to pay its respects.

On Thursday and Friday, the president and his family will receive condolence visits at his official residence in Jerusalem as part of the traditional Shiva mourning period.

“I’m happy Nechama is no longer suffering. She really deserves the love she is getting now and the recognition of her service and work,” Channel 12 news quoted Rivlin telling friends following his wife’s death.

Rivlin died on the eve of her 74th birthday at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated after relapsing following the lung transplant.

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama Rivlin. (GPO)

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Rivlin was eulogized by Israeli politiciansfrom across the political spectrum. She was also mourned by foreign diplomats stationed in Israel, as well as US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East peace.

Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier all called Rivlin’s office to express their condolences, according to Channel 12, which reported the president only spoke by phone with a few close friends of his and his late wife’s.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Moshav Herut in the Sharon region. She married Reuven Rivlin in 1971, and worked for many years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, until her retirement in 2007, at which point her lung condition was discovered.

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Veterans Affairs hospital for malpractice, forged records after vet files formal complaint and sues

THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

 

Feds probing Veterans Affairs hospital for malpractice, forged records after vet files formal complaint and sues

Feds probing Veterans Affairs hospital for malpractice, forged records after vet files formal complaint and sues
Veteran, Gary Zambito, enters the Primary/Specialty Care Pavilion, at the VA Medical Center in Northport, New York, for treatment. (David Wexler/for New York Daily News)
In June 1970, in the thick of the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrators upset over the invasion of Cambodia took over a U.S. Navy building in Evanston, Ill. and beat 20-year-old Ensign Gary Zambito into unconsciousness.

Injuries from that attack forced the young law officer out of the armed services and caused him health problems for the next 50 years, including fainting spells, heart irregularities and high blood pressure.

Now in his 70s, Zambito turned to the Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically the Northport VA hospital on Long Island, for treatment he needed and was qualified to receive. But instead of getting better, he nearly ended up dead from a combination of misdiagnoses and neglect, according to a federal lawsuit and the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs.

Zambito sued the federal government for $4 million, the outcome of which is pending. The government has denied any wrongdoing, but the U.S. Attorney’s office in Central Islip has taken up a criminal investigation into malfeasance at the clinic, according to sources, which could result in criminal charges. The U.S. Attorney’s office would not confirm a criminal investigation, but the Daily News saw emails indicating a probe has been opened.

His ordeal with the Northport VA hospital began in December 2015 when Zambito, a Long Island resident, went there for a cardiology referral to treat increasingly frequent fainting spells that ended in blackouts, according to court papers.

“Mr. Zambito came to Northport VAMC as a Veteran with disabilities in need of proper medical care,” Benjamin P. Pomerance, a deputy director of the state VA liaison office, wrote in a February 2019 email to the hospital’s administrators. Zambito was referred to Pomerance by a veterans’ law clinic.

“What Mr. Zambito got instead from Northport VAMC was lies, broken promises, negligence, misconduct, further physical injuries, extraordinary mental strain and exhaustion, a set of multiple falsified medical records, an attending urologist whom Mr. Zambito simply cannot trust any longer, and cancerous tumors on Mr. Zambito’s kidneys that were never properly medically treated by the Northport VAMC despite the fact that treatment was readily available.”

The Veterans’ Administration and Northport VA hospital declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (David Wexler/for New York Daily News)

Zambito told doctors at the Northport VA hospital that the 1970 attack had left him with heart irregularities, and that after tests he was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, an abnormally rapid heart rhythm. But, Zambito said in interviews and court records, doctors could not identify the cause of the fainting spells and he crashed onto sidewalks 18 times, injuring his eye, face, hands and knees. He said questions about the possibility of a relationship between his heart condition and fainting were ignored.

In his complaint to the VA, Pomerance wrote, “These injuries would have been avoided if the cardiology unit had diagnosed Mr. Zambito appropriately and treated him accordingly, rather than summarily dismissing him from their care.”

After three years of struggling with the VA hospital, the veteran said he went to a private doctor, who gave him an electrocardiogram and determined that his heart condition, which resulted from the attack, could be treated with a drug called Flecanide Acetate. It was prescribed on March 11, 2017, and quickly eliminated the fainting problem, he said.

“If they had given me that medication 14 months earlier, I would never have had those 18 (fainting spells) and never have suffered my five permanently disabling injuries, which are all service related because they were caused by the attack on the naval facility,” Zambito explained.

Still, Zambito said he kept seeking help at Northport because he could not afford private care. He was now walking with crutches, and using braces for his neck, right arm and hand and a patch on his right eye but relied on public transportation because he could not afford to use car services.

During the course of his cardiology treatment, tests showed growths on his kidneys and doctors prescribed surgery. Zambito said that urologist Dr. John Fitzgerald told him that because of his heart condition, removing the tumors under general anesthesia could be fatal. So, Zambito said, the doctor referred him to a private clinic, which he co-owned, for treatment under local anesthesia.

But, Zambito said, when he showed up for the procedure it was scheduled for general anesthesia.

“Had this surgery proceeded as scheduled, I would have been placed at risk of life-altering negative consequence, perhaps even death,” he told The News.

Zambito claims that after confronting him, the doctor began missing appointments but stated in records that the veteran was the “no show.” Zambito said on one trip to the Northport VA hospital he waited 8 hours, only to be told, without explanation, that the doctor was not available.

Ultimately, the doctor told Zambito the cancerous tumors could not be treated using local anesthesia, according to correspondence between the state and VA administrators. Pomerance noted in correspondence to the VA that verbally and in writing, the doctor used the word “impossible” to describe the chances of any medical provider offering this treatment to Zambito.

Fitzgerald, through his assistant, deferred comment to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Zambito’s dire circumstances drove him to find a treatment, and he ended up in Manhattan at the VA hospital on E. 23rd St. He said that within a couple of hours he was scheduled for treatment at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

“Had Mr. Zambito not taken these additional steps on his own, he would still be waiting for this medically necessary procedure without the slightest hope for resolution from the doctors and other medical leaders whom he was supposed to trust as experts in his care,” Pomerance told the VA in an email.

BROCCOLI COULD TREAT DIABETES 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK’S ‘DAILY MAIL’)

 

BROCCOLI COULD TREAT DIABETES

Broccoli could be key to treating diabetes – as a compound in the vegetable helps to lower blood sugar levels.

Research has found that eating or drinking broccoli in the form of juice could help stop type 2 diabetes.

Professor Anders Rosengren, of Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden, said: ‘Since sulforaphane has very few side effects and can easily be provided as a broccoli shake or drink – for example – it has the potential to become an important complement to existing treatment options for type 2 diabetes.

‘We will now work to make broccoli sprout extract available to produce as a functional food.’

Why does cabbage make you need the toilet? 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK’S ‘DAILY MAIL’)

 

Why does cabbage make you need the toilet?

The ‘taste buds’ that line the wall of the intestines are called enterochromaffin cells.

The specialised cells first caught the attention of scientists when it was revealed that they produce 90 per cent of the body’s serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood and appetite.

Researchers have now discovered that enterochromaffin cells are also specially adapted to sense irritants released by diet.

Specifically, the cells are able to sense allyl isothiocyanate found in cabbage, which irritates the gut by causing inflammation.

The scientists found that when enterochromaffin cells sense these chemicals, they start to pump out large amounts of serotonin.

Chemicals found in cabbage which can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, new research suggests

Chemicals found in cabbage which can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, new research suggests

Serotonin activates nerves in the intestine, which then send ‘warning’ signals to the brain.

The brain responds to these signals by speeding up bowel movements, sometimes causing diarrhoea and vomiting.

Links to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

‘It might also give you a general sense of discomfort as a way of letting you know you’ve got some kind of inflammatory episode going on in there,’ lead researcher Professor David Julius, from the University of California, San Francisco, told New Scientist.

The findings suggest that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition characterised by constipation and diarrhoea, may have extra-sensitive enterochromaffin cells, the researchers said.

‘We’re now looking into whether these cells might be hypersensitive in people with IBS,’ Professor Julius said.

The research was published in the journal Cell.

IBS: What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

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Cabbage causes your brain to speed up bowel movements

How the humble cabbage can stop cancers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

How the humble cabbage can stop cancers

CabbageImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

Scientists say they have discovered why some vegetables – including cabbage, broccoli and kale – can reduce the risk of bowel cancers.

That cruciferous veg is good for the gut has never been in doubt but a detailed explanation has been elusive.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute found anti-cancer chemicals were produced as the vegetables were digested.

Cancer Research UK said there were plenty of reasons to eat more veg.

The work focused on how vegetables alter the lining of the intestines, by studying mice and miniature bowels growing in the lab.

Like the skin, the surface of the bowels is constantly being regenerated in a process that takes four to five days.

But this constant renewal needs to be tightly controlled, otherwise it could lead to cancer or gut inflammation.

And the work, published in the journal Immunity, showed chemicals in cruciferous vegetables were vital.

From kitchen to cancer prevention?

The researchers investigated a chemical called indole-3-carbinol, which is produced by chewing such vegetables.

“Make sure they’re not overcooked, no soggy broccoli,” said researcher Dr Gitta Stockinger.

The chemical is modified by stomach acid as it continues its journey through the digestive system.

In the lower bowel, it can change the behaviour of stem cells, which regenerate the bowel lining, and of immune cells that control inflammation.

The study showed diets high in indole-3-carbinol protected the mice from cancer, even those whose genes put them at very high risk of the disease.

Without the protective diet, the gut cells divided uncontrollably.

Dr Stockinger added: “Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression.”

Presentational white space

Signs of bowel cancer include persistent:

  • blood in the stools
  • changes in bowel habits, such as going to the toilet more often
  • tummy pain, bloating or discomfort
Presentational white space

Dr Stockinger said the findings were a “cause for optimism”.

She has reduced the amount of meat she eats and now consumes a lot more vegetables.

She told the BBC: “A lot of dietary advice we’re getting changes periodically – it is very confusing and not clear cut what the causes and consequences are.

“Just telling me it’s good for me without a reason will not make me eat it.

“With this study, we have the molecular mechanisms about how this system works.”

Prof Tim Key, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This study in mice suggests that it’s not just the fibre contained in vegetables like broccoli and cabbage that help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, but also molecules found in these vegetables too.

“Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.”

Follow James on Twitter.

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California School Teacher Out With Cancer Has To Pay The Salary Of Her Substitute

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

San Francisco parents rally around teacher with cancer who has to pay for her own substitute

Parents at Glen Park Elementary School are pitching in to help the teacher fighting breast cancer cover the costs for her substitute.

 

 

Several Hospitalized After Blast At Waukegan Illinois Silicon Plant

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Several hospitalized after blast at Illinois silicon plant

A massive explosion in a silicon plant in northern Illinois sent at least four people to the hospital late Friday night.

The 9:30 p.m. blast at AB Specialty Silicones, located at an industrial park in Waukegan, also left an unknown number of employees unaccounted for, CNN reported.

Local police said an “active search and rescue” operation was underway, according to Chicago TV station WGN. The cause of the blast was under investigation.

Loud booms were heard and the ground shook in towns in the region, about 50 miles north of Chicago along Lake Michigan.

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Mental Health Patients Detained In Hospital Wards For Decades

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER OF THE UK)

 

Mental health patients detained in hospital wards for up to 21 years

Guardian finds many people confined far from families, sometimes for decades

Patient in NHS secure unit
 Library image. One patient at Birmingham and Solihull mental health NHS foundation trust spent 7,914 days – more than 21 years – in one of the wards. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

A patient locked in a secure ward for more than 21 years is among hundreds of people with mental health problems being kept in what one MP has called “old-style asylums” in NHS hospitals, an investigation can reveal.

Keeping people in so-called “locked rehabilitation wards” has been condemned as “outdated and sometimes institutionalised care”, by the NHS watchdog, with many patients housed far from their homes. This is despite a 2017 report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that said the model of care had no place in a modern healthcare system.

Using freedom of information laws, the Guardian has found that:

  • At least 435 patients spent time in locked rehabilitation wards in 2018, up from 404 in 2015.
  • One patient at Birmingham and Solihull mental health NHS foundation trust spent 7,914 days – more than 21 years – in one of the wards.
  • The average length of stay in a locked unit at Sussex Partnership NHS foundation trust was 602 days, almost two years.

There is no set definition of a locked rehabilitation ward, but it generally means a unit where patients are unable to leave as and when they want. They started being used about 10 years ago, mainly provided by the private sector to treat people who were considered high risk to others, so with serious conditions such as psychosis.

But critics have condemned the approach “which has no place in modern Britain”, according to MPs. A report from the CQC in 2017 warned that the practice leaves already vulnerable patients feeling isolated and less likely to recover.

Rajesh Mohan, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ rehabilitation psychiatry faculty said that a lack of clear definition of “locked rehabilitation” care means, there are no agreed quality standards and it’s hard to “say whether a person’s liberties are deprived”.

“If the principle of care is based on locking the doors, people cannot leave the building, then you cannot have voluntary patients at all there … It means restrictions are applied to everyone rather than there being a focus on recovery,” he said.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said: “They are like old-style asylums that have no place in modern Britain. What we are doing is a fundamental breach of people’s human rights.

“It is a complete contradiction in terms: locked rehabilitation ward. Their [the CQC’s] conclusion was that many people in these wards don’t need to be there. That means that there are lots of people who are capable of living independent lives with support who are locked up.”

Mohan said that in the last 10 to 15 years more than a third of NHS rehabilitation services have been wiped out. “The need for these services has not gone away. People with lots of complex and enduring symptoms need rehabilitation treatment and the private sector stepped in to bridge this service gap, but people may become isolated in these units for long periods of time.”

He said he would not describe these services as old-style asylums but the problem is people end up in these units for too long as there is no step-down provided and no community services to support people leaving wards.

“People in rehabilitation units should be able to move on to less restrictive rehabilitation settings. But that will only happen if they have places to bedischarged to, such as supported accommodation with 24-hour supported community care. There will be some people whose illness and symptoms are very severe, but that does not mean they should be stuck in hospital for 21 years. There needs to be more focus on community rehabilitation teams and high quality supported housing.”

The Guardian found that 404 patients in NHS hospitals were in locked rehabilitation wards in 2015, rising to 435 in 2018. A freedom of information request sent to all mental health trusts resulted in 11 trusts saying they had such wards, compared with 32 who said they did not. Thirteen trusts did not respond in time.

Central and North West London NHS foundation trust had the highest number of patients, with 104 staying in secure wards in 2018. The longest stay of a patient was 2,914 days – six days shy of eight years.

The trust said it runs specialist rehabilitation services for people with “complex mental health problem” and are one of the largest providers because they cover a large local and neighbouring area.

”We’re very different from old style asylums; our facilities are hospitals, modern and bright … The majority of people stay between six and 18 months … There are a few people who need to stay longer (eg Home Office restriction orders), and we work to identify other options for them.”

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS foundation trust had a patient stay for 7,914 days, more than 21 years. Another patient stayed for 6,174 days, almost 17 years.

They did not comment on these individual cases but said: “There remain a small number of patients within our locked rehabilitation wards in Solihull who have required long-term treatment in a hospital setting. There are currently no alternative settings in Solihull offering appropriate residential care for this group, who need specialist support. Cases are reviewed regularly.”

At Sussex partnership NHS foundation trust the average length of stay in a locked unit was 602 days, almost two years. The trust said: “Our priority is always to ensure that the people who need our specialist services receive the best possible care, at the right time and, crucially, in the right setting and that they remain in that setting only for as long as they need to.”

In 2017, a report by the CQC found that more than 3,500 patients in 248 mental health wards were kept locked-in, the majority in private mental health hospitals.

The report stated: “Our inspectors were concerned that some of these locked rehabilitation hospitals were in fact long stay wards that risk institutionalising patients, rather than a step on the road back to a more independent life in the person’s home community.

“We do not consider that this model of care has a place in today’s mental healthcare system.”

Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said: “These findings echo our own concerns highlighted last year that some people in mental health rehabilitation wards experience long stays in services, some situated a long way from the patient’s home. Rather than helping people get well these factors can increase their sense of institutionalisation and slow down recovery.

“Rehabilitation wards are an essential element of a comprehensive mental health service but they should live up to their name and be focused on helping people recover rather than being ‘long-stay’ wards in disguise. ”

An NHS England spokesperson said: “As the CQC make clear, ‘inpatient’ rehabilitation wards are a key part of good mental healthcare and while no one should stay any longer than necessary, in a tiny number of cases, it might remain the safest and most appropriate treatment setting for both the individual patient and wider community. Patient confidentiality of necessity means individual details must be kept private, but absent this specific information known to patients and their clinicians it behoves commentators not to jump to ill informed generalisations.”

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Israeli Breakthrough: 3D Printed Heart

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

After Israeli breakthrough: The ethics of a 3D-printed heart

Within a decade, manufactured hearts could obviate the need for organ donations; ethicists highlight potential pitfalls along the way

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of a heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv on April 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of a heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv on April 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

At a Tel Aviv fruit and vegetable store on Monday night, shoppers suddenly stopped what they were doing to stare at a television screen overhead. The television news anchor was announcing a medical breakthrough: a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University had 3D-printed a heart using a patient’s own cells and biological material.

“The future is here,” one shopper remarked to another.

Israelis are swelling with pride at the scientific breakthrough revealed at a press conference on April 15 and in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Science. ‏Until now, scientists have been able to 3D print simple tissues without blood vessels, but the Israeli team, led by Prof. Tal Dvir of TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, has printed an entire heart including cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.

The grape-size heart shown at Tel Aviv University does not work yet. It needs to be matured in a bioreactor, where electrical and mechanical signals will coax the cells into contracting synchronously, a process that will take about a month. Researchers also need to figure out how to generate more and bigger cells so that they eventually can 3D print a human-size heart, which contains billions of cells. They also have yet to transplant a heart into animals which will eventually be followed by clinical trials on humans.

This breakthrough, Dvir estimated, is likely to lead 3D-printed human hearts in hospitals within a decade.

But not everybody is gung-ho about the heart breakthrough, citing ethical implications — like whether it will widen the gap between rich and poor, and whether superhuman hearts or other mutations can also be manufactured.

Robby Berman, director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society, told The Times of Israel he had mixed feelings about the Tel Aviv University announcement, mostly because people might think they no longer need to donate organs.

“The artificial heart is good in that it shows we are progressing, that one day we will be creating organs to save lives,” said Berman.

Robby Berman (Courtesy)

But Berman pointed out that only 16 percent of Israelis have signed organ donor cards (compared to 50% in the United States) and that while the Tel Aviv University breakthrough may one day ameliorate Israel’s organ shortage, that day is a long way off.

“ I hope this doesn’t send the untrue message that we are just a few years away from artificial organs, because we are not. People still need to have the conversation with their families and let everyone know — family and friends — that they want to be an organ donor.”

Dr. Rabbi Ira Bedzow, director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program at New York Medical College, told The Times of Israel that whenever there is a new medical discovery, both those who view its potential as utopian and those who fear its unintended consequences are failing to grasp the complexity of the situation.

“My assumption is that if this works it is going to be life-saving,” Bedzow said. “What it’s going to end up doing is addressing the issue of organ shortages, and it’ll also be easier for the patients because the patients won’t have to worry about organ rejection, or Graft Versus Host disease, or taking immunosuppressants, because the cells the organ is made of are going to be from their own body.”

However, Bedzow said there are potential pitfalls involved with categorizing the organs as body parts or medical devices. If they are organs, they can’t be bought and sold and no one owns them, according to the law in most countries. This would probably keep the cost of such organs low and prevent other abuses.

This photo taken on April 15, 2019 at the University of Tel Aviv shows a 3D print of a heart with human tissue. (Jack Guez/AFP)

But if they are categorized as medical devices, they can be patented and the owner of the organs could conceivably charge a lot of money for his product, rendering it unaffordable to many unless covered by insurance.

Another related question is whether a patient will sell the rights to her genetic material to the company printing the heart. Would the company then be able to create more hearts using her cells or use her cells for other purposes? In the United States, for instance, a person’s genetic material is owned by them and a research or medical facility must get their consent if they want to use it in any way, he said.

Bedzow said the problem of organs being considered medical devices is doubly problematic because the medical devices industry itself has been a subject of controversy.

A November 2018 series of exposes by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists revealed how “health authorities across the globe have failed to protect millions of patients from poorly tested implants that can puncture organs, deliver errant shocks to the heart, rot bones and poison blood, spew overdoses of opioids and cause other needless harm.”

Ira Bedzow (Courtesy)

In March, the Department of Homeland Security warned that certain heart implants were hackable from a short distance.

“There is a rush to innovation that sometimes has had very bad consequences for patients,” said Bedzow. “It’s one of the problems that we have of looking at helping patients as a public good but then privatizing a lot of these markets where players seek financial gain.”

Bedzow said that people creating medical devices need to “recognize their mission as much as their margin” and that medicine should be a public good and not merely a good or service bought and sold in a market like potato chips and clothing.

Superhuman hearts

As for whether customizable 3D-printed organs could lead to a community of large-hearted superhumans, Bedzow said there was little reason to worry.

If a doctor put a “superheart” into someone’s body, it wouldn’t make a huge difference to their overall health and longevity because it has to work within the rest of the person’s cardiopulmonary systems.

If a doctor were to hypothetically replace all of a person’s major organs with 3D-printed ones it might add another 20 years to their life, Bedzow said. “I’d be more worried about genetic engineering than I would about organ printing. Genetic engineering is going to potentially change the entire person’s genetic code and that of their descendants as well,” he said.

He added that fears of medical innovations leading to unnatural physical enhancements of a new class of humans with superior health and abilities were nothing new.

This photo taken on April 15, 2019, at the University of Tel Aviv shows a 3D print of heart with human tissue. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

“The choices made by biotechnologists setting out to create a 3D-printed heart could possibly lead to research and technology that could serve a eugenic function. but that’s always been the case. Think about when glasses were invented. What if people said, ‘oh my gosh now we’re going to have a class of people who can see better.”

“It’s not the medical technology itself that has that moral risk,” he said. “It’s the people who have that moral risk.”

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