KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Doctors’ Misunderstanding Of Test Results; The Medical Facts About Birth Control

Every week KHN reporter Marissa Evans finds interesting reads from around the Web.

BBC News: Do Doctors Understand Test Results?
[Gerd] Gigerenzer, director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy in Berlin, is an expert in uncertainty and decision-making. His new book, Risk Savvy, takes aim at health professionals for not giving patients the information they need to make choices about healthcare. But it's not just that doctors and dentists can't reel off the relevant stats for every treatment option. Even when the information is placed in front of them, Gigerenzer says, they often can't make sense of it (William Kremer, 7/6). 

Reuters: How To Fix A Broken Market In Antibiotics
The drugs don't work - and neither does the market, when it comes to antibiotics. When sophisticated bugs that medicines used to kill within days start to fight back and win, all of healthcare, and the people it keeps alive, is in trouble. ... It's a glimpse of what Britain's chief medical officer Sally Davies calls the "apocalyptic scenario" of a post-antibiotic era, which the World Health Organisation says will be upon us this century unless something drastic is done. Waking up to the threat, governments and health officials are getting serious about trying to neutralize it. It may seem like a question of science, microbes and drugs - but in truth it is a global issue of economics and national security (Ben Hirschler and Kate Kelland, 7/6).

The New Republic: The Medical Facts About Birth Control and Hobby Lobby—From An OB/GYN
If you’ve read the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby or the reaction to it, then you know what sparked the lawsuit. The Affordable Care Act says that employer-provided insurance must include essential health benefits, including all medically authorized forms of contraception. The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to this requirement, because they believe that four common forms of birth control—two versions of the "morning-after pill" and two kinds of intrauterine devices (IUDs)—are "abortifacients." In other words, the owners of Hobby Lobby think these contraceptives end pregnancies rather than prevent them. And they believe that is tantamount to ending a life. The claim, which you can find on virtually any conservative website, has been making the rounds for a long time. It’s stuck because the science on how these particular drugs and devices work wasn’t that great (Jen Gunter, 7/6). 

MedPage Today: Profiles In Medicine: Mystery In The Delta
It's not unusual for physicians to encounter a slew of memorable characters in the early days of their career -- the overbearing attending who compensates for insecurity by eliminating the competition, the aggressive trial lawyer, the scalpel-happy surgeon who's potentially more dangerous than helpful -- all of which make for good tales to share at the dinner table. But for one Mississippi physician those characters furnished plot lines for novels. Darden H. North, MD, partner in a 16-member ob-gyn group practice in Jackson, Miss., has published four novels in the last 9 years, and is now hard at work on a fifth. The books' characters all hail from those early days of his career. They are his stories' backbone, he says (Suz Redfearn, 7/6). 

The Atlantic: Should We 'Fix' Intersex Children?
M was born with genitals that were not clearly male or female. Also known as disorders of sex development (DSDs), the best guess by researchers is that intersex conditions affect one in 2,000 children. The response by doctors is often to carry out largely unregulated and controversial surgeries that aim to make an infant’s genitals and reproductive organs more normal but can often have unintended consequences, according to intersex adults, advocates and some doctors. A long and gut-wrenching list of damaging side effects—painful scarring, reduced sexual sensitivity, torn genital tissue, removal of natural hormones and possible sterilization—combined with the chance of assigning children a gender they don’t feel comfortable with has left many calling for the surgeries to be heavily restricted (Charlotte Greenfield, 7/8).

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