Jennifer Huculak and her husband Darren Kimmel of Saskatchewan, Canada went to Hawaii for a beach vacation in October 2013. At the time, Huculak was six months pregnant. Prior to the trip, the mom-to-be received permission from her doctor and purchased travel insurance from Blue Cross, CTV News reports.
But just two days into the vacation, Huculak’s water broke. She was airlifted from Maui to a hospital in Honolulu, where she had to remain on bed rest for six weeks, The Toronto Sun reports. Huculak delivered her daughter Reece nine weeks early via emergency C-section on December 10, and the baby girl spent her first two months in the NICU.
At the end of their medical ordeal, Huculak and Kimmel were finally able to return home to Canada with their healthy baby girl. But they were also left with an astounding $950,000 medical bill that Blue Cross is still refusing cover.
“We thought we had done everything right,” Huculak told CBC. “We thought we had covered all avenues and we thought we were covered. We thought we were safe to go.”
In the midst of the cone of silence surrounding sterilization, there’s an epicenter: Disabled people with significant impairments who are at the whims of doctors, guardians, and courts when it comes to their reproductive rights. That is slowly starting to change. Earlier this month, a group of Australian disability rights activists demanded an investigation from the United Nations into why at least 47 disabled Australians were forcibly sterilized by court order between 2004 and 2014. Reproductive rights activists worldwide should take a lesson here: In a landscape where everyone should have the ability to take personal control of her own fertility, they must acknowledge and confront the historical and continuing sterilizations of disabled people. In the process, advocates must take an intersectional approach to address concerns about other vulnerable groups also targeted for sterilization.
The UN considers forcible sterilization to be a form of torture, pointing to a growing body of public opinion and legal cases. The UN’s report on the issue, released in February 2013, specifically noted that disabled people are often targeted for sterilization and articulated why forced sterilization is so damaging to reproductive and personal freedoms:
In numerous states, laws regarding sterilization for reasons of disability still remain on the books. These policies are not simply holdovers from a previous era, however. In 1993, a mentally ill patient was sterilized by court order, with a later court upholding the judgment on appeal. Five years later, a Michigan court approved a request for sterilization in the case of Lora Faye Wirsing, who had developmental disabilities, at the request of her guardian. And the horrific “Ashley Treatment” got a pass from a bioethics committee in 2007. In that treatment, surgeons removed a girl’s uterus and breast buds, while she was put on growth-stunting medications to keep her small, on the grounds that she would pose a “hardship” to her family as she matured. That procedure has been used on multiple children in the subsequent years.
Dr. Eric Mallow, a neonatologist and researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has long suspected that preterm infants are being overexposed to chemicals in the plastic medical equipment intended to nurse them to health.
Phthalate plasticizers are chemicals added to plastics to make them durable and pliable, and Mallow was concerned about a chemical called DEHP. The only phthalate plasticizer allowed in medical equipment, it helps soften breathing tubes, intravenous (IV) lines, fluid bags, and catheters. Mallow had read studies showing overexposure to DEHP to be associated not only with hormonal disruption (similar to the effect of BPA, another plasticizer) but with nonhormonal effects like liver damage, a problem common in preemies. He had noticed that if a breathing tube was in a patient for a long time, it came out stiffer than when he put it in. DEHP, which doesn’t chemically bind to the plastic of the tube, had leaked out.
In a study published today in Nature’s Journal of Perinatology, Dr. Mallow and Johns Hopkins colleague Dr. Mary Fox present an alarming conclusion: The “daily intake of DEHP for critically ill preterm infants is on the order of 4,000 and 160,000 times higher than desired to avoid reproductive and hepatic [liver-related] toxicities, respectively.” In other words, sick preemies are regularly exposed to levels of DEHP—in breathing tubes, feeding tubes, catheters, IVs, and blood storage bags—that are thousands of times higher than have been deemed safe for infants.
There is such a thing as too much fresh air
As anyone who saw Gravity knows, oxygen density decreases as altitude rises. Oxygen deprivation from high altitude induces a condition called hypobaric hypoxia, which ranges in severity based on how little oxygen is available. Some hypoxic effects are well known — nausea and headaches from altitude sickness, nosebleeds and lower alcohol tolerance, for example. But while physical afflictions associated with hypoxia have gained academic and mainstream attention, scientists have largely ignored its potential impact on mental health.
Renshaw believes that oxygen-poor air tampers with brain chemistry, leading to a drop in serotonin and an uptick in dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that relay signals between neurons and other cells.
Serotonin, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, helps stabilize emotions. Antidepressants — SSRIs, (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), which include Prozac and Lexapro — work by blocking the transport of serotonin back to the neurons, thereby increasing its supply in the brain.
Dopamine, an excitatory neurotransmitter, plays a vital role in our ability to focus. Too little dopamine can make us scatterbrained, whereas a dopamine increase causes hyper-concentration and feelings of euphoria. Caffeine, prescription drugs, including some ADD/ADHD medications, and illegal stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, work by increasing the availability of dopamine in our brains.
When you think philanthropy, Facebook and Google don’t usually come to mind.
But maybe in your travels across the Internet this week, you notice that both companies placed banners ads on their pages asking you to help end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Google pledged to match every dollar donated by its users with $2. The company has already reached its limit of $7.5 million — $5 million from Google and $2.5 million from donors.
It’s the first time Google has asked its users for money to support a cause. Separately, Google CEO Larry Page also donated $15 million of his own money through his family foundation.
For many, Planned Parenthood is synonymous with one thing: legal abortion. But nationally, abortion makes up only 3 percent of the services the health care provider performs — and clinical services represent only a portion of the organization’s overall work.
“Most people don’t have any clue about the breadth of work we do,” says Joan Malin, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood New York City, or PPNYC, which has four health centers — one in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island, with one opening in Queens next year. In 2013, for example, PPNYC provided roughly 88,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections; 26,800 HIV tests; 64,200 family planning visits; 17,800 abortions; and set up some 6,300 clients with public health insurance, according to internal figures. PPNYC opened its doors to The Huffington Post, and its staff members gave us a glimpse of what happens in their offices on a given day, in their own words:
Today is a very big day in the health care world: around 1:30 a.m. this morning, Obamacare’s health insurance marketplaces went live for round two of open enrollment. This is the start of a three-month long sign-up period, where people who bought Obamacare last year can renew their plans — and others who are still uninsured have another shot at getting covered.
oung pre-teens are likely to misuse over-the-counter medicines if they’re not educated about proper use and the dangers of abuse, experts warn in a new campaign encouraging parents to talk with their children about household drugs.
Research suggests so-called tweens begin to self-administer over-the-counter (OTC) medicines during the fifth or sixth grade, experts say.
In 2012, U.S. poison centers managed nearly 300,000 exposure cases in children aged six to 19; more than half these cases involved medication errors and misuse. Each year, some 10,000 emergency center visits involving individuals younger than 18 are caused by adolescents self-administering OTC medicines, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).
4. Banning abortion is effective and won’t lead to unsafe procedures.
Legislation is, of course, intended to accomplish policy goals, and abortion opponents have been clear about their objective of lowering the number of women who have abortions. But the actual data suggests they’re not accomplishing this. Anti-abortion administrations have not successfully lowered the abortion rate despite advancing policies that restrict access to the procedure. Multiple studies have found that harsh abortion bans don’t lead to a fewer number of abortion procedures. In fact, restricting abortion is simply associated with a higher number of unsafe procedures.
Even so, lawmakers are able to get people on the witness stand to argue otherwise. For instance, Michael J. New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has testified before Congress in support of imposing additional restrictions on minors seeking abortions — which he argues will protect public health by lowering the number of teens who go through with the procedure. And proponents of new state laws frequently cite dubious research conducted by Elard S. Koch, an epidemiologist in Chile who has argued that his country’s harsh abortion ban has no relationship to maternal mortality.
The lack of real evidence in this area hasn’t prevented this from becoming a major theme in the way that the anti-choice community talks about abortion policy. Lawmakers almost always suggest that their proposed restrictions will ultimately lead fewer women to choose to end a pregnancy. And right-wing activists claim that the data about botched back alley abortions in the years before Roe v. Wade has simply been inflated.
A project manager for a manufacturing company, she is one year removed from a cardiac arrest and the subsequent physical recovery is being dwarfed by a near-impossible fiscal recovery. She was sent last Sept. 9 to the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital, which was out of her insurance network, instead of to Meriter Hospital, three blocks away, which was covered by her insurance. It’s the difference between a $1,500 maximum out-of-pocket expense and the now-$50,000-plus she’s facing in bills.
“I was unconscious when I was taken to the hospital,” she said. “Unfortunately, I was taken to the wrong hospital for my insurance.