Ohio preparing for 1st execution in more than 3 years

Published: Friday, July 07, 2017 @ 2:16 PM
Updated: Friday, July 07, 2017 @ 12:06 AM

The sedative midazolam was one of the two drugs used in the execution of Dennis McGuire last month. Ohio was the first state to use the two-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone, a painkiller. Louisiana announced last week that it would change its protocol to include those two drugs. Ohio’s preferred drug is pentobarbital, but supplies of that drug expired in September 2013. CONTRIBUTED
The sedative midazolam was one of the two drugs used in the execution of Dennis McGuire last month. Ohio was the first state to use the two-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone, a painkiller. Louisiana announced last week that it would change its protocol to include those two drugs. Ohio’s preferred drug is pentobarbital, but supplies of that drug expired in September 2013. CONTRIBUTED

Ohio is following a mandatory checklist for putting inmates to death as it prepares for the state's first execution in more than three years, a prisons agency official said.

The state wouldn't release documents related to those checkups to The Associated Press, saying open records law shields such information.

"We can confirm, however, that to date all steps of Ohio's execution protocol have been complied with in preparation of the execution scheduled later this month," JoEllen Smith, prisons department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, is scheduled to die July 26. It's his third execution date of the year following earlier reprieves to allow legal arguments over the drugs Ohio plans to use.

RELATED: Appeals court ruling opens door to Ohio resuming executions

In a significant ruling, a federal appeals court last month opened the door to Phillips' execution and others by permitting Ohio's use of a contested sedative.

That drug, midazolam, was used previously in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona and Arkansas in which inmates didn't appear fully sedated before other drugs kicked in.

Attorneys for death row inmates fell short in attempts to prove that "Ohio's protocol is 'sure or very likely' to cause serious pain," the appeals court said in an 8-6 ruling.

An appeal of that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected.

Phillips, 43, also has separate federal appeals pending that argue his age at the time — he was 19 — should be a consideration for mercy. The nation's high court already has banned the execution of people under 18.

"We're going to continue to fight as vigorously as we can to see that this execution does not go forward," said Tim Sweeney, an attorney representing Phillips.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014 when death row inmate Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution in the state to date. The state used midazolam and a painkiller on McGuire in a method that's since been abandoned.

RELATED: Ohio executions resume; DDN reporter witnessed last lethal injection

What Ohio's protocols require:

30 days before the execution:

— The warden of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, where executions are carried out, determines whether the state has sufficient execution drugs and reports his findings to the prisons agency director. The state has said in court filings it has enough drugs to carry out at least four executions.

—The execution team begins weekly training sessions.

21 days beforehand:

— Prison medical staff evaluates an inmate's veins and plans for the insertion of the IV lines.

— A member of the prison system's mental health staff evaluates the inmate's stability and mental health in light of the scheduled execution.

14 days beforehand:

The warden of Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where death row is housed, verifies the inmate's pre-execution visitors, his spiritual adviser, execution witnesses and funeral arrangements.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins

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Teacher contracts both flu strains, now on life support

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 3:41 PM

The Reason the Flu Shot Didn’t Work Half the Time During Last Year’s Flu Season

A special education teacher in Texas is fighting for her life after contracting both flu strains.

Crystal Whitley, 35, was physically active and had no underlying physical conditions, friends told WFAA, when she contracted both strains of influenza two weeks ago. She then developed pneumonia in both lungs and a MRSA infection.

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While she is showing some signs of improvement, Whitley remains on life support at Baylor Scott & White, WFAA reported.

Whitley received a flu shot after giving birth in October, friends told WFAA.

Doctors are cautiously optimistic about Whitley's chances for recovery, but told family that she could remain in the hospital for months, WFAA reported.

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Infertility 'breakthrough': Human eggs fully grown in lab for the first time

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 6:37 PM

Family Welcomes Quadruplets With No Fertility Treatment

A group of scientists are touting an infertility "breakthrough" after human eggs have been grown in a lab from their earliest stages to the point of potential fertilization for the first time.

»RELATED: New, affordable at-home fertility test gives women better data on eggs, fertility timeline 

Researchers from the United Kingdom and the United States conducted the research, recently publishing their results in the scientific journal Molecular Human Reproduction

Taking ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late 20s and 30s, the scientists activitated the eggs to develop from their earliest stage to maturity, using different cocktails of nutrients. In total, 48 eggs reached the second to the last stage of maturity and nine reached full maturity.

"It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue," Dr. Evelyn Telfer, one of the researchers, told the BBC, discussing the results.

However, Telfer cautioned that much more research needs to be conducted before the technique could be used by fertilization clinics. Widespread implementation of the procedure could still be years away.

"But that has to be tempered by the whole lot of work needed to improve the culture conditions and test the quality of the oocytes [eggs]," she said.

"Apart from any clinical applications, this is a big breakthrough in improving understanding of human egg development."

The process would make it much easier for women to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), if developed fully, The Telegraph reported. They would simply have a small tissue biopsy, instead of distressing rounds of hormone-triggered ovulation.

Experts also suggest the breakthrough could lead to new approaches to fertility preservation for women at risk of premature fertility loss, such as those undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Young girls who have not yet gone through puberty could even preserve and freeze their ovarian tissue for future implantation.

At the same time, some scientists caution that the approach could have drawbacks for those with cancer.

"The big worry, and the big risk, is can you put cancer cells back," Dr. Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, who was not involved with the study, told The Guardian.

At the same time, Telfer pointed out that it could be the only option for young girls who hope to get pregnant later in life after beating cancer.

"[For young girls] that is the only option they have to preserve their fertility." she said.

This new method could also dramatically increase the viable number of eggs that could be harvested from an individual woman about to undergo chemo.

With current techniques, patients must "go through the quick cycle of IVF before their chemo, so it can sometimes delay things, and also you may only get 15 eggs or so; because IVF is so inefficient, only having 10 or 15 eggs is not going to guarantee them a baby," Lavery explained.

"With this [new] procedure, you could potentially get thousands or hundreds of eggs," he said.

In the past, scientists have only managed to achieve partial growth of the human egg cells in a lab. The new study is groundbreaking in that the same human eggs were brought from their very earliest stages of development to the point when they would be released from the ovaries, ready for fertilization.

However, even as scientists are hailing the breakthrough, they also recognize potential problems and drawbacks. 

The lab grown eggs reached maturity in just 22 days, while the process takes five months in the body. This makes it unclear whether they can readily combine with sperm to make a healthy embryo. Telfer thinks the quicker growth may simply be due to many inhibitory signals from the body being absent, but more research is needed to determine exactly.

"Significant further research is now needed to confirm that these eggs are healthy and functioning as they should do," Dr. Helen Picton, an expert in reproduction and early development from the University of Leeds, said.

Despite the remaining questions and need for further study, experts are hailing the results as "extraordinarily important."

"It has real potential for application," Kyle Orwig, a stem cell biologist at the Magee-Womens Research Institute at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, who was not involved with the study, told Science Magazine.

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Professor at Yale and dental students took selfie with severed heads

Published: Monday, February 05, 2018 @ 1:14 PM
Updated: Monday, February 05, 2018 @ 1:14 PM

A Yale professor is in trouble after the Associated Press received a copy of an inappropriate photo. AP said the photo showed Flavio Uribe, an assistant professor, and several graduate students. They were were two severed heads on the table, the AP reported. The use of cadavers is an established part of medical training. A Yale official said the selfie was "an egregious violation of Yale policy."

Graduate dental school students and a top University of Connecticut orthodontics professor took a selfie with two severed heads used for medical research at a training workshop at Yale University last year — an episode Yale officials called "disturbing" and "inexcusable."

The selfie was taken in June at the Yale School of Medicine during the 2017 DePuy Synthes Future Leaders Workshop, which focused on dental-related facial deformities.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the photo from a person who received it through a private group chat. That person, who demanded anonymity because of potential harm to their career, said the person who took the selfie would not give the AP permission to publish it for fear of being expelled.

The people in the photograph include Dr. Flavio Uribe, an assistant professor and orthodontics program director at UConn Health and a visiting associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. In the photo, Uribe and several graduate students are looking at the camera, while others continue to work. All are wearing surgical masks. The two severed heads are on tables, face up.

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Uribe told the AP that he was teaching students how to place screws in the cadaver heads. At one point, he said, someone took a photo.

"Somebody unfortunately took a photo," Uribe said. "It was so quick. I wasn't sure of the surroundings or scenery at that point."

Officials at Yale and UConn Health said the universities have taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. Yale officials said they are improving oversight at such training events and making participants agree in writing to ethical standards of conduct.

Christopher Hyers, UConn Health's chief communications officer, said in a statement that "UConn Health was made aware of the matter at the time it happened and took appropriate internal steps."

Asked what those steps were, Hyers said: "UConn Health does not comment on personnel matters."

Uribe said he has never been disciplined by UConn for any reason.

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Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy said the School of Medicine took the matter very seriously. He said there is clear signage forbidding photography at each entrance to the laboratory. He also said the symposium was not part of Yale's anatomy program, and the heads in the selfie were not donated to Yale.

"The photograph taken at a symposium at Yale was disturbing and an inexcusable deviation from anything Yale would expect to occur," Conroy said in a statement. "Yale is developing a centralized coordinating function to ensure adequate oversight is provided for use of anatomical parts in any training conducted at the school.

"The faculty member who was involved in the training at which the photograph was taken has been informed of Yale's expectations in this regard," he said.

It was not clear how the heads were obtained.

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Dr. Lawrence Rizzolo, a surgery professor and director of medical studies at the Yale School of Medicine, called the selfie "an egregious violation of Yale policy" in an email, obtained by the AP, responding to a person who made a complaint about the photo.

Medical students and professionals taking inappropriate photos is nothing new. Schools and hospitals across the country now have social media policies about what can and cannot be posted online.

Last year, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital in Bedford, Pennsylvania, was cited by health officials for multiple violations after staff took photos and videos of a patient being treated for a foreign object lodged in their genitals. One doctor was suspended for 28 days and another was suspended for seven days.

In 2010, a resident doctor at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York was asked to remove a Facebook photo showing a former classmate next to a cadaver giving a thumbs up sign. The incident led the medical school to develop a social media policy.

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Obesity surgery safer than traditional treatments, study suggests

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 1:05 PM

Anti-Obesity Drug May Allow You To Lose Weight Without Changing Food Intake

Having surgery to treat obesity may seem like a drastic option, but a new study suggests it may actually be a safer route than more traditional options.

Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Clalit Research Institute in Israel, recently published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

»RELATED: New anti-obesity drug could help you get rid of fat without dieting

The analyzed data, which traced patients history for 10 years, revealed that middle-aged men and women who had bariatric surgery have a death rate 50 percent lower than those who had traditional obesity treatments (such as dietary changes, behavioral adjustments and exercise).

"We showed that a long-term effect of bariatric surgery is a longer life for obese patients," study co-author Dr. Philip Greenland, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University said in a news release. "They had half the death rate, which is significant."

Among individuals who did not have surgery, the rate of death was 2.3 percent as opposed to 1.3 percent in those who had surgery. Researchers analyzed the medical data of 8,385 people who had the surgery (65 percent women and 35 percent men), compared to 25,155 who chose non-invasive treatments.

After the data was adjusted to take into account factors such as sex, age and related diseases, the researchers noted that individuals who did not have a bariatric procedure were twice as likely to be dead within the ten year period of the study.

» RELATED: Obesity linked to 11 types of cancer as overweight population grows, study says 

Additionally, bariatric surgery patients showed a greater reduction in body mass index (BMI), improved blood pressure and lower rates of new diabetes diagnosis. A higher percentage of those who had diabetes, and chose surgery, went into remission as well.

"Surgery sounds like a radical approach to managing obesity, and a lot of people reject it because it seems like a risky thing to do, but it's actually less risky to have the surgery," Greenland told The Guardian.

At the same time, the studies authors have cautioned that surgery may not be right for everyone. The new study also has limitations, as it was an analysis of patient data and not randomized. It's possible that those who chose to forego surgery were already sicker than their counterparts.

The risks of obesity surgery and its potential complications have long been highlighted by physicians as well.

Ray Shidrawi, a leading doctor in the United Kingdom, warned against the procedure in an interview with The Independent in 2015. Citing serious complications, Shidrawi said the surgery can "ruin people's quality of life and can affect you for the rest of your life – or at least for months and years afterwards."

"I've got patients who've not eaten solid food for four years. They have to live on soup. They can't go to a restaurant in case they vomit up their food because it gets stuck in their throat," he explained.

But another smaller recently published study also appears to corroborate the potentially greater health benefits of bariatric surgery.

Looking at 113 patients, who had been treated for obesity through traditional methods and/or surgery, the research showed those who underwent a bariatric procedure lost more weight after one year. A higher percentage of those who underwent surgery had also achieved their goals for cholesterol, systolic blood pressure and a benchmark for glucose.

"Bariatric surgery is an increasingly frequent treatment for severe obesity," Dr. Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern, who was a co-author of the first-mentioned study, said, according to Jerusalem Post.

"It's highly effective in promoting weight loss but is also invasive and can lead to short and long-term complications. For patients and doctors to make the best-informed decisions about what weight-loss strategies to pursue, they need to understand the true costs and benefits of the procedures."

Although Greenland believes bariatric surgery may be a lifesaver for many, he also cautions of taking the new studies findings as the all-encompassing answer on obesity.

"We don't think this [new study] alone is sufficient to conclude that obese patients should push for bariatric surgery, but this additional information certainly seems to provide additional support," he said.

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