Saturday, January 31, 2009

CPSC Delays Lead Testing Requirements

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has been inundated with pleas from manufacturers and retailers for more time to comply with the new laws for making and selling children's products, voted yesterday to stay for one year the enforcement of certain product testing and certification requirements, which would have gone into effect this Feb. 10. Manufacturers and sellers still won't be allowed to sell products that do not comply with the new lead standards.

The CPSC decision does not reverse the law's application of tougher limits on lead to children's products made before the new laws were passed last August, nor does it delay the Feb. 10 date on which those lead limits become effective this year. Congress will need to address those issues, says the CPSC. Read more.

Friday, January 30, 2009

'Roid-Rage Wrestler's Doctor Pleads Guilty to Overprescribing Drugs

The Chicago Tribune reports that the personal doctor to the late Chris Benoit, the professional wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son in 2007 in an apparent steroid-induced rage, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally distributing prescription drugs to patients, one of whom died. Dr. Phil Astin, 54, pleaded guilty to a 175-count federal indictment charging him with illegally distributing and conspiring to distribute prescription drugs. He also admitted that prescriptions he wrote resulted in the overdose death of a female patient in 2007. His attorneys did not specifically name any patient or link the doctor to Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment's Chris Benoit.

Kids Shouldn't Cross Street While Talking on Phone

In a report published in last month's issue of Pediatrics, researchers found that preteens participating in an interactive simulation were more likely to suffer a virtual accident if they talked on the phone while crossing a street. The experiment showed talking on the phone increased the odds of being hit or almost hit by a virtual car from 8.5 to 12%, a 43% increase in risk. The study follows several others that have shown that talking on the phone interferes with the attention and visual processing skills of drivers, and may make the risk of an automobile accident four times as likely. Read more.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Michelin Tire Recall

Michelin is recalling Michelin Pilot Alpin PA2 ZP 225/50R17 94H tires manufactured between September 17, 2006 and June 14, 2008. These tires fail to conform to the labeling requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 139, "New Pneumatic Radial Tires for Light Vehicles." The "DOT" symbol of the DOT TIN is missing. Without the "DOT" symbol on the sidewall, the tire contains no declaration as to its certification. Michelin will notify owners and replace the noncompliant tires free of charge, including mounting and balancing. The recall is expected to begin during January 2009. Owners may contact Michelin Consumer Care toll-free at 1-800-847-3435 between 8:00am and 8:00pm EST Monday through Friday.
For more information click here.

BPA Plastic May Stay in Body Longer

A new study indicates that the controversial plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) lingers in the body at high levels for much longer than was previously thought, even after fasting for 24 hours, suggesting that BPA either does not metabolize rapidly, or is coming from non-food sources, or both. BPA is used to harden plastics in many types of products, including baby bottles and water bottles, and is also used in PVC water pipes, as a coating inside metal food cans, and to make dental sealant. Read more.

Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune

From at least 1957-1987, some of the drinking water plants at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune were contaminated with volatile organic compounds including TCE (trichloroethylene), DCE (dichloroethylene), PCE and benzene. Anyone who resided at Camp Lejeune between 1957-1987 should register to receive updated information and notifications regarding the ongoing Water Study. To learn more, click here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FDA Warns Against Dietary Supplement

The FDA is warning consumers not to use Venom Hyperdrive 3.0, a dietary supplement, because of potential safety risks. The supplement may contain sibutramine, "a potent controlled substance with risks for abuse or addiction." Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said, "Sibutramine is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved prescription drug used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss." She added that, "when present in a dietary supplement, it may harm unsuspecting consumers because sibutramine can substantially increase blood pressure and heart rate, and may present a significant risk for people with a history of heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeats or stroke." Read more.

FDA Whistleblowers Fear Retribution

The New York Times reports that "Nine dissident scientists at the Food and Drug Administration who say they were forced to approve high-risk medical devices sent a letter to President Obama on Monday stating that agency officials might have made them the targets of a criminal investigation into their complaints."

In the letter, the FDA scientists write, "It has been brought to our attention that F.D.A. management may have just recently ordered the F.D.A. Office of Criminal Investigations (O.C.I.) to investigate us rather than the managers who have engaged in wrongdoing! It is an outrage that our own agency would step up the retaliation to such a level because we have reported their wrongdoing to the United States Congress." Heidi Rebello, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, "said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a criminal investigation." The nine scientists have written a number of letters this year, to Congressional leaders and members of the Obama transition team charging "that agency officials have acted illegally and that patients are routinely put at risk from high-risk medical devices that are approved for sale even though manufacturers have never proved that the products are either safe or effective." But under the law, "it can be a crime for agency employees to reveal documents or information considered confidential by companies seeking agency approval for medical products."

Peanut Corp. Knew Products Were Contaminated

Hard to believe: in what appears to be a new low for corporate misconduct, the government now alleges that Peanut Corp. of America, the peanut butter manufacturer tied to a nationwide salmonella outbreak, knowingly shipped products in 2007 and 2008 after internal tests found bacterial contamination in violation of food safety regulations. The latest salmonella outbreak has sickened 501 people in 43 states and is believed to have contributed to eight deaths. Read more.

Hartford Archdiocese Settles Sex Abuse Claim for $750,000

The Archdiocese of Hartford has agreed to a $750,000 settlement in the latest case against the Rev. Stephen Foley, a former fire chaplain who was removed from his parish in 1993. This is the 13th settlement involving Foley, who allegedly lured young teenage boys into his psuedo-police car, got them drunk and molested them. Plaintiff William Noll alleged that he was abused starting in 1978, when he was 14 and Foley was working as associate pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Church inWindsor Locks. Noll was not a member of Foley's church but met Foley at a convenience store in town.

As part of the settlement, a videotape of Foley being questioned during his deposition can be available to victims of clergy sexual abuse. Read more.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Legislators May Extend Statute of Limitations For Sex Abuse Claims Against Hospital

From the AP: "Connecticut legislators are considering a plan that may allow more people to sue St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford over alleged child sex abuse by a prominent doctor." The proposed "measure would extend a statute of limitations to 2010 in the case of Dr. George Reardon, who began working at St. Francis in 1963." There are "more than 100 people who say Reardon abused them when they were suing the hospital, claiming negligence in failing to prevent Reardon's actions."

Chamber Spent $3 Billion Lobbying Last Year

USA Today reports that "Despite the sharp economic downturn, lobbying spending in the nation's capital surged past $3 billion last year as industries and special-interest groups wooed Congress and federal agencies on a host of issues, including taxpayer bailouts for financial companies and automakers." According to CQMoneyLine, the "U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent the most of any group, pumping more than $62 million into lobbying in 2008." The Chamber "pressed a range of issues, from opposing efforts making it easier for unions to organize to pushing Congress to pass a $700 billion bailout for the financial industry in October."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't Overhaul the Tort System

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Philip Howard, author of the book "Life Without Lawyers" writes: "Calling for a 'new era of responsibility' in his inaugural address, President Barack Obama reminded us that there are no limits to 'what free men and women can achieve.'" However, Howard says, "Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference" because "the growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices." He says, "We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk." Howard says that "riving the can-do spirit that made America great requires a legal overhaul of historic dimension" and "we must scrape away decades of accumulated legal sediment and replace it with coherent legal goals and authority mechanisms, designed to affirmatively protect individual freedom in daily choices."

While there may be some areas that are over-regulated, let's not lose sight of the fact that the basic principles underlying the tort system have been in place since the beginning of our legal system, namely the basic negligence standard (reasonable care under the circumstances) and the right to trial by jury, among others. Most people understand that acting reasonably is all that is expected of them, and are able to act accordingly.

New Book Says Understanding Risk is Key to Better Health Decisions

In a new book, "Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics," some Dartmouth Medical School physicians suggest that taking the time to understand the often-confusing statistics used in the medical industry is the key to making smarter decisions about your individual health care. "To know what a discount means, you have to know the regular price," said Dr. Steven Woloshin, one of the authors. "The same is true in health care. If a drug promises '50 percent fewer deaths,' you need to know, 'Fewer than what?' " Read more.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Station Fire Settlement Distribution Still a Ways Off

Projo says lawyers for the more than 300 victims of the Station nightclub fire are "trying to hammer out the wording of a release form the plaintiffs will have to sign to get money from a $176-million settlement fund that all of the defendants have agreed to contribute to." Distribution of the settlement money is still expected to be months away.

GAO Slams FDA, regulators

The AP reports, "The US regulatory structure policing the financial sector is outdated, federal oversight of medical products is inadequate and the government's tracking system for toxic chemicals is in danger of becoming obsolete, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday." The Government Accountability Office said in its report for the new Congress that "shortcomings in regulation topped a list of 30 programs needing broad-based transformation or at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement." Among the issues to be addressed, "the report said that...the Food and Drug Administration must improve its inspection program of foreign drug and medical device manufacturers."

The Washington Post says, "The GAO document also questioned the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety of drugs and medical devices." The report said, "The agency is facing significant challenges that compromise its ability to protect Americans from unsafe and ineffective products."

Get the report here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kellogg's Peanut Butter Snack Recalled for Salmonella

The FDA said yesterday that salmonella was found in a package of peanut butter sandwich crackers made by Kellogg. Read more.

Litigation Provides Recourse

In a recent column, "Litigation Nation," writer George Will blasted what he called America's litigious "cult of safety" that threatens the very fabric of society. In response, Fred Orr, president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association wrote that Will's column "contained grossly distorted examples of lawsuits and misconstrued the fundamentals of our Constitution and America's appreciation for basic safety." Orr said, "The Constitution ensures that all people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system, even when taking on powerful corporations." He added, "Try imagining a world in which injured persons were not permitted to seek compensation from the responsible party: children would still be wearing flammable pajamas, certain cars would still explode from minor impacts, unsafe pharmaceutical products would still be killing hundreds of thousands, the pipes in our homes would still be insulated with cancer-causing asbestos, no one would know the true dangers of cigarettes and business practices of unscrupulous corporations would be commonplace." Litigation is typically the only means of recourse for ordinary citizens to obtain a measure of justice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Doctor Urges Skiers, Snowboarders to Wear Helmets

Dr. Robert Williams, a pediatric anesthesiologist, avid skier and medical adviser to the ski patrol at Smugglers' Notch, is urging skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets. Research indicates that if skiers and snowboarders wore helmets, 7,700 head injuries (44% of the total) could be prevented or reduced in severity each year. Read more.

Warwick Doctor Loses License

The state of Rhode Island has revoked the license of a Warwick ophthalmologist, Dr. Steve Tu, who also has a practice in CT. Tu abruptly closed his practice without making arrangements for his patients’ care and did not respond to inquiries by the state Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline or show up at the hearing on his case. "Both patient abandonment and failure to respond to the state licensing board constitute unprofessional conduct, said Dr. Robert S. Crausman, the board’s chief administrative officer." More.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tainted Peanut Butter in CT

The "King Nut" brand of peanut butter that was recalled for possible salmonella contamination was distributed to about 200 restaurants and institutions in Connecticut and may be related to eight cases of illness here and nearly 400 across the country, acording to the Courant. The recalled peanut butter was not sold in retail stores and is not likely to be in consumers' homes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Airline Accidents More Survivable Now

Better crew reaction and training and sturdier planes are cited as among the reasons why passengers are surviving crashes that used to be fatal. Everyone survived in four recent major airline accidents. Read more.

Friday, January 16, 2009

AMA President Pushes for "Liability Reforms"

In a USA Today opinion piece, Nancy Nielson, president of the American Medical Association writes that the AMA "is committed to reducing medical errors and ensuring greater patient safety" but "it is clear that medical liability reforms are necessary." Nielson says, "Strong medical liability reforms keep physicians caring for patients, while still allowing patients their day in court. ... No patient should live with reduced access to health care because of the broken liability system." Let's see what reforms she's talking about. A "day in court" is rendered almost meaningless if injured plaintiffs cannot recover full and fair damages.

Fisher-Price Play Yards Recalled

"The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Thursday recalled 200,000 potentially deadly play yards with Fisher-Price's Rainforest theme, the alert raising questions about the promptness of the warning and whether other models could have the same flaw." About "1,350 consumers complained that one or both sides of the Rainforest play yard had collapsed, with many reported injuries that included a broken nose, a mild concussion and a broken wrist." The play yards "are often used as portable cribs and have a bassinet attachment" and "when the rails collapse, babies can fall out, get trapped or gain access to unsafe areas." Read more.

Medtronic Paid Doctor $19 Million

According to the Wall Street Journal, "A prominent spine surgeon and researcher at the University of Wisconsin received $19 million in payment over five years from Medtronic Inc., one of the country's largest makers of spinal devices." This "report of multimillion-dollar payments to Dr. Thomas Zdeblick comes amid a growing movement for more detailed disclosure of the financial ties between doctors and outside interests."

Coke Accused of Fraud Re: Vitaminwater Marketing

"Coca-Cola's Glaceau enhanced water business is being attacked by US consumer health advocates, who accuse it of misleadingly marketing its 'vitaminwater' drinks as a healthier alternative to sugared sodas" according to the Financial Times. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says that Coke's statements about its enhanced water "cross the line into outright fraud." The AP also covers the story.

Judges In Favor of Using Law for Private Civil Trials in RI

The Providence Journal reports that "The justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court appear ready to implement rules to effectuate a law that would allow people to hire retired judges to preside over private trials in civil cases." The judges did not express reservations over "the constitutional implications raised by some who argued against the law's implementation." Now, the legislature would have to "amend or revoke the law, which has been on the books since 1984 but never used." The Rhode Island Association for Justice did not support implementing this law.

RI Lawmakers Seek Oversight on Medicaid Reforms

The R.I. Senate has released legislation that would introduce strict oversight provisions into the Carcieri administration's controversial plan to overhaul Rhode Island's Medicaid system, says the ProJo.

GAO Criticizes FDA Medical Device Testing

A report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office concludes that most medical devices "have never been shown to be safe or effective, and for the riskiest devices this must change, reports the NYT.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Many Pools Still Not in Compliance with Drain Cover Law

CNN reports that according to child safety advocates, "Children's lives are at risk in swimming pools across the country as government agencies waffle on how to enforce a new federal law" requiring new drain covers on pool filtration systems. "The covers prevent children from being caught in the suction, disemboweled and completely eviscerated -- 'turning your insides basically into your outsides,' said Alan Korn, public policy director of Safe Kids USA, a Washington-based nonprofit organization." But many pools are not in compliance with the law, which went into effect December 19, although pool operators have known about it for more than a year. Read more.

New Surgical Safety Checklist

A study in the NEJM indicates that use of a simple safety checklist helps reduce surgical errors. The NY Times discusses here.

Court Awards $1.5 Million to Abuse Victim

A judge has ordered a former West hartford teacher and school administrator to pay $1.5 million to a former student who says he was repeatedly abused by him in the late 1970s. Apparently it is a default judgment. The Courant article quotes the judge saying "Under Connecticut law, Ronco's failure to address the charges, either in person or through a lawyer, means he is deemed to have admitted to all the essential elements in the claims against him."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cribs, Clothes Recalled

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Stork Craft Baby Manufacturing Inc. and federal regulators in the U.S. and Canada recalled more than one million cribs Tuesday because of metal support brackets that can break, the latest in a rash of crib recalls linked to hardware problems that have led to infant deaths or injuries." The issues involving "U.S. crib safety have spurred the recalls of more than three and a half million units in the U.S. since September 2007, many prompted by reports of babies being strangled or injured in cribs with malfunctioning or missing hardware." According to regulators there has been "one toddler injury and 11 incidents of malfunctioning hardware."
In addition to the cribs, "about 16,000 Taggies Sleep'n Play baby garments, made in China and imported by Rashti & Rashti of New York," have been recalled "because the snaps on the garments can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children." Read more.

Consumers Need FDA and Tort System

Noting that "FDA approval doesn't guarantee that a drug will be 100 percent safe," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that both the FDA and the tort system should work to hold companies accountable and make it so that "when the FDA gets it wrong, the tort system offers insurance to harmed consumers that they can seek corrective justice." No argument here.

Pressman Slams FDA On Doctor Conflicts

Gabe Pressman, 84-year-old veteran correspondent for New York's WNBC-TV, accusing the FDA of doing "virtually nothing to monitor the conflicts of interests of doctors who do clinical trials of drugs and medical devices used on human subjects" here.

Shortage Leads to More Temporary Surgeons

This is somewhat disconcerting. The Wall Street Journal examined how an "exodus" from the field of general surgery is "creating a growing market for temporary surgeons-for-hire." The number of general surgeons per capita has declined by 25% over the last 25 years, according to a study published earlier this year in the Archives of Surgery. The "increasingly grueling schedules, shrinking payments and the temptation of more profitable surgical niches have made the field less attractive," according to the Journal. In addition, it is now "one of the few fields where the absolute number of surgeons is actually shrinking," the Journal reports.

RI Considers Private Trials for ADR

Should RI allow "private trials?" Projo says the idea of retired judges deciding civil cases in private proceedings that unfold behind closed doors is a concern to civil libertarians. “It’s a way for people to keep dirty laundry out of the court process while making full use of the court process,” says Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. "To others in the legal community, it would give parties another option to work out differences — on their own terms." Read more.

RI Congressmen Unhappy with Gov's Medicaid Changes

In follow up to an issue previously looked at, we note that the Providence Journal reports that "All four members of the state's Congressional delegation sent Governor Carcieri a letter Tuesday, warning that the proposed Medicaid overhaul that he is promoting 'could pose serious risks to the Medicaid program, leading to unprecedented cuts' to both patients and providers.
In their letter, U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. James Langevin and Patrick Kennedy reiterated many of the concerns that have been voiced during three days of State House hearings, namely: that the administration has not yet spelled out what it is going to do to the government-paid medical insurance program that covers 180,00-plus Rhode Islanders."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Times Says Shays Intervened to get FDA Approval for Constituent's Device

The New York Times reports an FDA official "overruled front-line agency scientists and approved the sale of an imaging device for breast cancer after receiving a phone call from" Rep. Christopher Shays, "according to internal agency documents." His "call and its effect on what is supposed to be a science-based approval process is only one of many of accusations in a trove of documents regarding disputes within the agency's office of device evaluation." Documents obtained by the New York Times show "that front-line agency scientists, like many outside critics of the agency, believe that FDA managers have become too lenient with the industry." According to the documents Shays called to "express concern about the fate of a computer device" made by Fujifilm Medical Systems in Shays' district.

Connecticut Law & Cyber Bullying: More Is Needed

My short article is up on JD Supra, click here.

A newly released report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Electronic Media and Youth Violence: A CDC Issue Brief For Educators and Caregivers, discusses “electronic aggression,” defined as any kind of harassment or bullying (including “teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors, or making threatening or aggressive comments”) that occurs through email, instant messaging, text messaging, chat rooms, websites, or blogs. Electronic aggression is a growing problem. While Connecticut’s anti-bullying statute, in our view, encompasses online aggression, Connecticut should do more to prohibit—and prevent—cyber bullying.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Casino Jackpot Winner Alleges Deceptive Trade Practices

A Texas man who won a progressive jackpot at Mohegan Sun, supposedly $125,733 according the the machine's digital display, is unhappy with his casino experience. He says the only check he ever received for $125,000 "was the big fake one they used for the picture they took of him. In the end, he says, after he returned to Texas from his holiday visit in Connecticut with family here, he settled for an $81,000 payout." In fact, "on the night of Dec. 26 he was offered only $5,987.30, the first of more than 20 years of annual payments for an annuity that would eventually add up to $125,733. And the check, he says, was produced only after he waited close to six hours in a casino VIP lounge, having been told he couldn't leave." He says, “It's a deceptive trade practice. It's not right.” Read more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Court Approves Plan For Three Nursing Homes

A newly formed Canterbury company's offer to acquire the Haven Health Center nursing homes in Norwich, Willimantic and Danielson, which have been overseen by a state-appointed receiver since July, has been accepted by a state superior court judge, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has announced. Read more.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Used Item Retailers Worried About New Federal Regulations On Lead

USA Today notes that federal regulations aimed at eliminating lead-tainted childrens' products, passed under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August and set to go into effect Feb. 10, "could force used-item retailers and thrift stores to trash many children's toys and clothing [and] are getting a second look from the Consumer Product Safety Commission."

The regulations require all such products, including clothes, toys and shoes, to be tested for lead and phthalates, the chemicals used to make plastics pliable. "The main issue for retailers is the costly testing, which can run from about $400 for a small item to thousands of dollars for larger toys with multiple pieces, according to Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association." Under the new regulations, any products not tested would be deemed hazardous whether they contain lead or not.

Abby Whetstone, owner of a Denver consignment store, says shops such as hers would not be able to afford the expensive lead tests, and that "every piece of inventory we have" would be affected. The CPSC voted this week "to work on exemptions to the regulations and evaluate the way they could impact sales from consignment shops, online retailers and even yard sales."

More Melamine (and Cyanuric Acid) Found in Formula

The Orlando Sentinel reports the FDA says "the industrial chemical melamine and a byproduct, cyanuric acid, have now been detected in four of 89 containers of infant formula made in the United States, doubling previously reported positive results." However, the "contamination is extremely minute, at levels federal regulators say are safe for babies."


Seniors Mixing OTC and Prescription Drugs

According to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost 70% of older adults who take prescription medications also use non-prescription drugs, dietary supplements, or both, researchers say, and one in 25 older adults is at risk of suffering a bad reaction to a poor combination of drugs.

Scientists say seniors also are using more medications than in the past. Almost one third take more than five prescription drugs, and more than half rely on a combination of five or more prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements.

The study, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 adults, ages 57 to 85, who were surveyed between June 2005 and March 2006. Read more.

DMV: First Student Falsified Records

According to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, a local school bus company, First Student, falsified maintenance records regarding serious vehicle problems and operated a handicap-accessible bus recklessly in New Haven. Read more.

Judge McLachlan Appointed to CT Supreme Court

Judge C. Ian McLachlan of the Connecticut Appellate Court was named Thursday by Gov. Rell to fill a vacancy on the Connecticut Supreme Court. McLachlan, 66, of Chester, would succeed Justice Barry R. Schaller, a Rell appointee who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 last year. McLachlan's appointment must be confirmed by the legislature. Article here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Station Fire Plaintiffs Back Settlement Distribution Plan

All of the people who are seeking money damages in connection with the catastrophic Station nightclub fire are in favor of a proposed plan for distributing $176 million in settlement money, according to a lawyer for many of the plaintiffs. Read more.

Prof. Sunstein to Become Regulatory Czar

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor who pioneered efforts to design regulation around the ways people behave, will be named the Obama administration's regulatory czar, a transition official said Wednesday." The Journal says that although the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs position is "obscure, the post wields outsize power. It oversees regulations throughout the government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration" and "Obama aides have said the job will be crucial as the new administration overhauls financial-services regulations, attempts to pass universal health care and tries to forge a new approach to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases."

Sunstein recently published a law review article suggesting OSHA was unconstitutional.

FDA Scientists Press for Agency Overhaul

Dow Jones Newswires reports that "A group of scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team pleading with him to restructure the agency, saying managers have ordered, intimidated and coerced scientists to manipulate data in violation of the law." The letter says that the FDA "is a 'fundamentally broken' agency...where honest employees committed to integrity can't act without fear of reprisal." The letter may push incoming HHS Secretary Tom Daschle to "make sweeping changes" at the FDA.

Bush Enacts More Pro-Business Regulations

According to Bloomberg News,"George W. Bush is using the waning days of his presidency to implement a raft of pro-business regulations, triggering vows by the incoming Obama administration and congressional Democrats to gut the measures." He proposes "changes to federal rules that critics say make it more difficult to protect US workers from exposure to toxic chemicals, reduce the use of employee medical leave and open more land to oil and gas exploration." Matt Madia, a regulatory policy analyst for OMB Watch said, "It's the Bush administration taking its policies and making sure they're in place and securing a legacy." Bloomberg News notes, "Aides to Democratic President-elect Barack Obama say he may block proposed rules that haven't been published yet." Additionally, "Democratic leaders...may use a 1996 law, employed only once before, that allows rules imposed within the last 60 legislative days to be voided, according to Representative Chris Van Hollen."

Higher Co-Pays Keep Seniors From Seeking Mental Health Care

A study published recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association, which analyzed the records of 43,892 Medicare beneficiaries who had been hospitalized for a mental illness between 2001 and 2006, indicates that seniors who were hospitalized for a psychiatric illness were less likely to get recommended follow-up care if their Medicare plans required that they pay more for mental health care than for other medical care. The study found "that these co-payments act as a pretty potent barrier to getting appropriate care,” said Dr. Amal N. Trivedi, assistant professor of community health at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and an author of the study. “We have solid evidence that people who get appropriate care after leaving the hospital are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital and have better mental health outcomes,” he said. Read more.

Early C-Sections Increase Risks For Babies

An analysis of more than 13,000 births published today in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that thousands of people put their babies at needless risk of respiratory disfunction, hypoglycemia and other medical problems by scheduling cesarean deliveries too early. Elective cesarean deliveries performed after 37 or 38 weeks of pregnancy had up to four times the risk of serious complications compared with procedures done after 39 weeks. The study found even deliveries that were just one, two or three days shy of 39 weeks carried a 21% increased risk of complications. "It looks like a day or two makes a difference," said Dr. John Thorp, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and coauthor of the study. Read more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ER Docs Commonly Encounter Suspected Police Brutality

A survey of 315 emergency room physicians, contained in the Emergency Medicine Journal's January issue and based on 2002 data, indicates that nearly 98% of emergency room physicians believe some patients were victims of suspected excessive force by police. However, most of the suspected incidents went unreported because no laws require physicians to alert authorities. The survey is believed to be the first doctors' account of suspected police brutality, according to H. Range Hutson, the lead author and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard. Read more.

New CDC Report on Electronic Aggression

Electronic aggression is defined as any kind of harassment or bullying that occurs through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, blogs, or text messaging. A newly released paper from the CDC summarizes what is known about youth and electronic aggression, provides strategies for addressing the issue with young people, and discusses the implications for school staff, education policy makers, and parents and caregivers.

More On Crib Recalls

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Jardine Enterprises and federal product-safety regulators expanded a crib recall issued last June because of wooden slats and spindles that can break and entrap and strangle infants, underscoring continuing problems with US crib safety that have spurred the recalls of more than three million units since September 2007."

Law Would Better Protect Whistle-blowers

"Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said Tuesday that if the state had an independent Inspector General's Office, Connecticut whistle-blowers would be better protected when they complain about wrongdoing."

McKinney says, "Under current law, there is an inherent perception problem that intimidates potential whistle-blowers." He added, "As long as whistle-blower charges are handled by the same office responsible for defending state agencies against whistle-blower complaints, people are going to be afraid to come forward when they have witnessed abuses of power." Read more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Don't Try This At Home: Canceling Your Auto Insurance Is the Wrong Way to Save Money

Indy news reports many Indiana residents looking for ways to cut costs in tough economic times are canceling their automobile insurance. BAD IDEA! If you get hit by someone without insurance, you need your uninsured motorist coverage to fall back on. If you get injured by someone with inadequate coverage, you may need your underinsured motorist coverage. Not to mention if you get sued, you need liability coverage. Find other ways to cut back.

Authors Suggest Doctors Must Disclose if Cancer Patients Can Get Better Care Elsewhere

The NYT discusses an article in the online journal PLoS Medicine, in which the authors argue that "as part of the informed-consent process, doctors have an ethical obligation to tell patients if they are more likely to survive, be cured, live longer or avoid complications by going to Hospital A instead of Hospital B. And that obligation holds even if the doctor happens to work at Hospital B, and revealing the truth might mean patients will take their business someplace else."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fall Caused by Dog Results in Large Arbitration Award

The Conn. Law Tribune reports that a woman who fell and suffered knee injuries that required multiple surgeries after a husky dog charged her poodle has received an arbitration award of over $220,000. Christine Elkins, a Meriden court reporter, was standing in her driveway with her poodle on a leash when her neighbor’s dog, a husky, headed for the poodle. At that point, the poodle entangled Elkins’ feet in the leash and crawled under her car, causing her to fall. The arbitrator awarded $272,737.16, which was reduced by prior award payments of $52,265.36. In addition, Mrs. Elkins’ husband received $12,000 in loss of consortium damages.

State to Study Safety of Artificial Turf

The Conn. DEP will study the safety of the artificial turf made of rubber bits to determine if it's safe for student athletes and the environment. Read more.

Most Accidents with Big Trucks Caused by the Car Driver

After analyzing tens of thousands of car v. tractor trailer accidents, AAA says most are caused by errors of the car driver. Adjust your driving accordingly.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bristol Hospital Cited for Violations

"State regulators have disciplined Bristol Hospital after inspections uncovered violations, including cases in which a patient received 10 times the ordered dose of medication, a man was severely burned in an MRI machine and a woman died after being taken off a ventilator when her advance request for ventilation was changed without evidence that she agreed." Read more.

Hat Tip to Stop & Shop

The Wall Street Journal reports that Stop & Shop and its sister chain Giant Food are to unveil a product-labeling system known as "Healthy Ideas," designed to help customers find their stores' healthiest foods. The new system "will distinguish more than 3,000 of the stores' products and fresh produce with a bright green-and-blue symbol signifying they meet U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal guidelines defining what makes a food healthy." The new program appears to be a response to increasing anxiety over obesity and diabetes, as well as an answer to the "confusing" labeling system required by the FDA.