KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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End-Of-Life Talks Taking Backseat To Promises Of Immunotherapy Miracles

“In the oncology community, there’s this concept of ‘no one should die without a dose of immunotherapy,’” said Dr. Eric Roeland, an oncologist and palliative care specialist. “And it’s almost in lieu of having discussions about advance-care planning, so they’re kicking the can down the street.” In other public health news: prostate cancer, home visits for moms, later-in-life fatherhood, herpes vaccine tests and more.

Stat: Immunotherapy Is Postponing Hard Conversations, Sometimes Until Too Late
Anew generation of immune-boosting therapies has been hailed as nothing short of revolutionary, shrinking tumors and extending lives. When late-stage cancer patients run out of other options, some doctors are increasingly nudging them to give immunotherapy a try. But that advice is now coming with unintended consequences. Doctors who counsel immunotherapy, experts say, are postponing conversations about palliative care and end-of-life wishes with their patients — sometimes, until it’s too late. (Tedeschi, 9/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Help For New Moms And Their Babies Could Be At Risk
Tamara Garel makes her rounds in the Bronx most weekdays dragging a portable scale, paper rulers to measure babies and leaflets of advice for their first-time moms. The 32-year-old mother of two is part of a small cadre of registered nurses working to improve the outcomes for babies born to women in poverty by checking on them every week or two, from the early days of pregnancy until the children are 2 years old. (Brody, 8/31)

NPR: Fatherhood After 40? It's Becoming A Lot More Common
If you've put off starting a family, you're not alone. In the U.S., the average age a woman gives birth to her first child has been rising. And, a study published Thursday in Human Reproduction shows dads are getting older, too. In 1972, the average age of fathers of newborns in the U.S. was 27. Now, it's closer to 31 years old (30.9 years to be specific), the study finds. (Aubrey, 8/31)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Bizarre Medical Diagnoses That Sent Americans For Help Last Year
Doctors must list every condition they treat using one or more of the multi-digit codes on the medical diagnosis classification list developed by the World Health Organization. Amino, a San Francisco-based company that analyzes health care data, took a deeper dive into nine billion insurance claims to come up with some surprising and offbeat observations. In 2016, it found 17,200 patients were treated after they walked into a wall; 25,500 people were injured after they wandered into furniture, and 400 sought medical care after strolling into a lamppost. No mention was made of how these injuries came about or if, as we strongly suspect, cellphone use was involved. (Schaefer, 9/1)

Kaiser Health News: St. Kitts Launches Probe Of Herpes Vaccine Tests On U.S. Patients
The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments. The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. (Taylor, 8/31)

KQED: As Human Gene-Editing Advances, Doudna Says Ethical Discussions Can’t Wait
If you want to have a role in shaping the near and coming future of biotechnology, the time is now. ... This was the primary takeaway from Jennifer Doudna’s recent public remarks at CRISPRcon, a two day event at UC Berkeley, intended to get nonspecialists talking about the promise and potential peril of the fast-moving biotech landscape. (Venton, 8/31)

The Washington Post: Protecting Unauthorized Immigrant Mothers From Deportation Improves Children’s Mental Health, Study Shows
When U.S.-born kids whose parents are undocumented immigrants know their moms won’t be deported, they are dramatically less worried and stressed.That is the chief conclusion of a study published by the journal Science on Thursday, as the Trump administration deliberates whether to eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that is shielding nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation. (Siegel, 8/31)

Marketplace: School Districts Address Lunch Shaming
The practice is common enough that it’s got a name — lunch shaming — when parents have unpaid bills but the kids pay the price. This school year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is requiring all districts to have policies in place, making it clear to parents how schools will respond in those situations. (Scott, 9/1)

Kaiser Health News: Some Thyroid Cancer Patients Can Safely Delay Surgery
Most people diagnosed with cancer want to start treatment as soon as possible, for fear that delaying care will allow their tumor to grow out of control. So Terry DeBonis’ approach to treating her thyroid cancer might seem surprising. Although she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, she still hasn’t begun treatment. (Szabo, 8/31)

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