The Man Behind The ‘Personhood’ Crusade; Atul Gawande On SCOTUS; ‘No One Dies Alone’ Program

Every week, KHN reporter Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

Newsweek: Behind ‘Personhood’ Leader Keith Mason’s Anti-Abortion Crusade
In the four years since Mason launched the pro-life group Personhood USA, he has been crisscrossing the country to convince voters that the best way to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that legalized abortion, is to define human embryos as people from the moment of fertilization. … Mason, the man at the heart of the maelstrom, is part preacher, part hipster. … As Mason’s team gathers signatures for the fall ballots in his most ambitious season so far, opponents are bracing for a fight. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other groups have filed lawsuits and launched extensive publicity campaign (Abigail Pesta, 6/25).

The New Yorker: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Tens of millions of Americans don’t have access to basic care for prevention and treatment of illness. … most American leaders, regardless of their politics, believe that people’s health-care needs should be met; they’ve sought to insure that soldiers, the elderly, the disabled, and children, not to mention themselves, have access to good care. But many draw their circle of concern narrowly; they continue to resist the idea that people without adequate insurance are anything like these deserving others (Dr. Atul Gawande, 6/28).

The New York Times: For Uninsured In Texas, Supreme Court Ruling Adds To Uncertainty
In Texas — where 25 percent of the population lacks health insurance, the highest uninsured rate of any state, according to the Texas Medical Association — the Supreme Court’s ruling was not quite the partisan victory or defeat it might have been in Washington. Though those without health coverage perhaps had the most at stake, the ruling was one more element of uncertainty in uncertain lives, drowned out by more pressing medical needs and financial pressures. The uncertainty was intensified by unanswered questions over the state’s efforts to fight the expansion of Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for low-income and sick people (Manny Fernandez, 6/29).

The Daily Beast: Obamacare: It’s Cheaper!
Amid the cheers and boos following last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, one question remained unanswered: What the heck does it mean for me? For now, not much, considering most of the law won’t go into effect until 2014. But when it does, many of us are in for some big—and affordable—changes. Here, a user-friendly guide to the numbers (7/5).

The Economist: Building Up The Arsenal
When the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced on June 18th that Texas A&M University had been awarded a whopping contract to build a new biodefence centre, outsiders took notice. The federal government’s goal is to improve America’s ability to develop and deploy vaccines and other responses to a global pandemic or to biological warfare. …  [c]ompared with other states, Texas is generally perceived to loathe the federal government, to dislike spending money and to have little interest in providing public goods (6/30).

Los Angeles Times: No One Dies Alone Program Offers Comfort To The End
When (Barbara Farkas) heard that the hospital was starting a program called No One Dies Alone, she was intrigued. A few years earlier, she regularly visited a friend who was dying and felt good for being able to help with his care and comfort him. Today she is one of 32 volunteers who attend to patients as their schedules allow. Since signing up two years ago, Farkas has sat with at least 30 patients, and the experience has changed her, she says, leading her to discover patience, calm and compassion she didn’t know she had.  … No One Dies Alone was started in Oregon in 2001 when a dying man asked a nurse to sit with him. She agreed but first needed to make her rounds. When she returned, the man was dead, and the nurse resolved to enlist volunteers to stay with patients who were alone and close to death (Thomas Curwen, 7/5).