KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Rethinking Involuntary Commitment; Awaiting A Transplant

Each week KHN staff find interesting reads from around the Web. 

The Washington Post: Behind The Yellow Door, A Man’s Mental Illness Worsens 
Everyone is worried about the man in the house. His ex-wife, his mother, his father, his neighbors, the psychiatrists he has seen and no longer sees, they are all concerned because he has been alone in the house in suburban Maryland for two years. ... Once, the man’s family might have handled the situation by having him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution. For decades, it was a routine and simple procedure: If a doctor agreed that the patient had a mental illness, he could be institutionalized even against his will. The problem was that it was a process with few safeguards, and during much of the 20th century, all kinds of people who didn’t belong — from free-thinking women to gay people, minorities and rebellious children — wound up locked in hospitals where abuse was common and conditions were often bleak. So the system changed .... But 40 years after that standard was established, some people are asking whether society’s concern for the constitutional rights of people with mental illness has led to their abandonment (Stephanie McCrummen, 6/28).

The Boston Globe: Learning The Difference Between Medicine And The Medical Industry
Last month, I was standing in an intensive care unit, wearing my white coat and trying to look like I knew what I was doing. My third year of medical school had just begun. It was my first day on a clinical rotation, my first time actually taking care of patients. My assigned team had started morning rounds, discussing the patients on the unit and making decisions about their care. While the dialogue bounced among residents, nurses, and attending physicians, I struggled to keep up with the conversation (Nathaniel P. Morris, 6/30).

The Cincinnati Enquirer: How An Organ Transplant Changed My Life 
This is an organ transplant support group, and everybody here knows sickness intimately and speaks of it openly. They talk about constipation and catheters like most people talk about the weather. I look around to see if anyone else is about to hyperventilate. Two of us are waiting for transplants, and we say almost nothing. Everyone else has already received one, and they don't stop. I don't want to know about hard times and doubt. I have no interest in drug protocols and risk factors. I want to stop being a diabetic. I want to take control of my health. I want to grow old and read books and take walks with my wife. I want to see our little girl, Lucy, now 7, walk down the aisle. I want to be well. I have no interest in the truth (John Faherty, 6/29).

The New York Times: I Couldn't Turn My Abortion Into Art
Yet as I looked around the room, my expectations began to shift. This wasn’t the liberating environment I’d expected to enter. The uncomplicated message of those protests led me to think that legal abortion would be light. Lite. I wasn’t prepared for the saturnine cloudiness of the room, all those sad-looking women burying their faces in tabloid magazines. ... Fifteen years later, happily coupled with a wonderful man, I gave birth to my first daughter; I now have two. I don't wish I had a 20-year-old. I didn’t want that baby, with that man. Abortion rights, yes, I’ll always support them, but even all these years later, I wish the motto wasn't "Never again," but "Avoid this if there’s any way you possibly can, even if it’s legal, because it’s awful." I wish that someone had alerted me to the harshness of the experience, acknowledged the layers of regret that built and fell away as the months and years passed. I want my daughters to have the option of safe and legal abortion, of course. I just don’t want them to have to use it (Lisa Selin Davis, 7/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Gary Mendell Is New Voice In The Fight Against Addiction 
Mr. Mendell says, Brian is the only thing that matters. His son's drug addiction and ultimate suicide in October 2011 at the age of 25—after a year of sobriety—set Mr. Mendell on a new path. In 2012, he left his career to dedicate himself full-time to the launch of a organization called Shatterproof, which he hopes will become the first national umbrella group dedicated to addiction—a goal that has ruffled a few feathers among existing nonprofits. Mr. Mendell put in $5 million of his own money to start the group, and has raised another $3 million (Melanie West, 6/27). 

WBUR: For Rwandan Man In Boston, New Arms Replace Those A Father Destroyed
At United Prosthetics in Dorchester, Greig Martino, grandson of the company’s founder, pounds the final rivet into a new right forearm for Patrick as he waits downstairs. The prosthetic is a brown tube that ends in tong-like, curved hooks. "Ooo," Patrick says after sliding the soft flesh below his elbow into the socket. He stretches the arm out several times before raising it toward his face. "Now I can scratch. This is incredibly amazing." ... The arms will change his life, Patrick says, although he’s surprisingly adept without them (Martha Bebinger, 6/30).

PBS NewsHour: Pediatric Cancer Survivors Face Lifetime Of Health Challenges
Thanks to better treatments, more people are surviving cancer. But those treatments come with a downside: Survivors, especially those who got sick as children, are at greater risk for other significant health issues later. The NewsHour's Cat Wise profiles a clinic at the University of California, San Francisco that specializes in caring for survivors of pediatric cancer and studying their long-term health (Wise, 6/30).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.