KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Friedman On Why Democrats Are Really The ‘Pro-Life’ Party; Myths About Doctor-Assisted Suicide

The New York Times: Why I Am Pro-Life
Hard-line conservatives have gone to new extremes lately in opposing abortion. ... These are the authentic voices of an ever-more-assertive far-right Republican base that is intent on using uncompromising positions on abortion to not only unseat more centrist Republicans ... but to overturn the mainstream consensus in America on this issue. ... So to those who want to protect a woman's right to control what happens with her own body, let me offer just one piece of advice: to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. And we must stop letting Republicans name themselves "pro-life" and Democrats as "pro-choice." It is a huge distortion (Thomas L. Friedman, 10/27).

The Washington Post: Bad Medicine From Drs. McDonnell And Cuccinelli
As a doctor, I know that the first rule of medicine is to do no harm. I believe strongly that rule should apply to government as well, but unfortunately my governor and attorney general appear to disagree. From fighting against health insurance reform to pushing transvaginal ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortions, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II and their allies in the General Assembly have sought to do harm to Virginia women and Virginia families. While they have failed in many of those efforts, it appears they will succeed in one: their crusade to limit access to reproductive health care by imposing unreasonable regulations on abortion clinics (Ralph S. Northam, 10/26).

The New York Times' Opinionator: Can Neuroscience Challenge Roe V. Wade
When I was asked this summer to serve as an expert witness in an appellate case that some think could lead to the next Supreme Court test of Roe v. Wade, I was surprised. Rick Hearn is the attorney representing Jennie McCormack, an Idaho woman who was arrested for allegedly inducing her own abortion using mifepristone and misoprostol — two F.D.A.-approved drugs, also known as RU-486 — and for obtaining the drugs from another state over the Internet. While the case against Ms. McCormack has been dropped for lack of evidence, Mr. Hearn, who is also a doctor, is pursuing a related suit against an Idaho statute, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”, and others like it that cite neuroscientific findings of pain sentience on the part of fetuses as a basis for prohibiting abortions even prior to viability (William Eggington, 10/28).

The New York Times: Want A Real Reason To Be Outraged?
If we’re offended by insensitive words about rape, for example, shouldn’t we be incomparably more upset that rape kits are routinely left untested in the United States? And wouldn’t it be nice if Democrats, instead of just firing sound bites, tackled these underlying issues? A bit of background: A rape kit is the evidence, including swabs with DNA, taken at a hospital from a woman’s (or man’s) body after a rape. Testing that DNA costs $1,200 or more. Partly to save money, those rape kits often sit untested for years on the shelves of police storage rooms, particularly if the victim didn’t come outfitted with a halo (Nicholas D. Kristof, 10/27).

The New York Times: Four Myths About Doctor-Assisted Suicide
In a little more than a week, voters in Massachusetts will decide whether to allow doctors to "prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person's life." A similar bill is being debated in New Jersey. Unfortunately, like so many health care questions, the debate about physician-assisted suicide is confused, characterized by four major falsehoods (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 10/27).

North Carolina Health News: Documentary Focuses Problems In Health Care System
Those not familiar with some of the numbers behind the U.S. health-care system – $2.7 trillion in annual spending, more than $300 billion each year on pharmaceuticals, tens of thousands who die from medical errors – might be stunned by the magnitude of them. The makers of the new documentary Escape Fire use those numbers to good effect to draw a comprehensive portrait of a health-care system that is irrevocably broken and in need of structural reform (Rose Hoban, 10/29).

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