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Health – National PostHealth – National PostMy eyes hurt after staring at the eclipse: Am I going blind?No moral reason not to create chimeras capable of making human eggs, ethicist arguesGrey Matters: Deferred annuities can be retirees’ financial lifesaverHealth Canada approves application for interim safe injection site in TorontoAn Australian researcher may have developed a long-term cure for peanut allergiesMan says he was cured of pedophilia at Ottawa clinic: ‘It’s like a weight that’s been lifted’Cuts, burns and rashes: More pubic hair grooming means more injuries, study saysA new organ donation club in the U.K. requires transplant recipients to pay for donors’ funeralsGrey matters: Age limits pose major roadblock for older drivers‘Environmental entrapment’: Is the food industry conspiring to make you fat?Grey matters: Vague eligibility for medical aid in dying may put doctors at riskMelodrama at Ontario doctors’ group ‘like a bad episode of House of Cards’Ontario woman told she can’t donate blood because of intellectual disability fights backSomething wicked this way comes: How real life stepmothers are battling centuries of fiction to overcome stereotypesHow much does the ‘average’ Canadian pay in a year for public health care?Scientists discover method to rejuvenate aging human cellsGrey matters: Make paying pensioners a super-priorityIt’s not always a good idea to finish your prescription, researchers sayFalling sperm counts threaten the human race? Don’t get your shorts in a twist over it just yetGrey Matters: For elderly, there’s a hole in our health care system Canadian News, World News and Breaking Headlines Thu, 24 Aug 2017 08:46:27 +0000 en hourly 1 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:47:31 +0000

My eyes hurt after staring at the eclipse: Am I going blind?

Admit it, you caved.

You tilted your head back yesterday and briefly squinted at the sun during the eclipse — even if, like President Donald Trump, you had special protective glasses available and heard all the experts yelling, “Don’t do it!”

But you only peeked, right? So how much damage could really be done to your eyes? If you’re worried, you’re not alone: Google searches for “my eyes hurt” reportedly peaked after the moon moved away from the sun.

So are you going blind now? It depends, really. But if you are worried today, here’s a quick guide to whether you hurt your eyes by squinting at the total (or partial, at least in Canada) eclipse on Monday.

Does a quick glance still mean I’m screwed?

Everyone has glimpsed the sun on days without eclipses; what matters is whether you looked long enough for ultra-violet light or near-infrared radiation to essentially burn your retina. It’s something called “solar retinopathy,” and it’s possible you’ve had it before and not realized it — maybe after a long trip to the beach or camping without sunglasses. The good news is, in mild cases it corrects itself in three to six months.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks up toward the Solar Eclipse on the Truman Balcony at the White House on August 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.

So how do I tell if I did any damage?

It takes about 12 hours for any real symptoms to show up, so if your eyes were sore yesterday, after switching between protective glasses or a pinhole viewer and bright sunlight, that could just be fatigue from the constant change in light.

However, according to an NPR interview with Ralph Chou at The School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Waterloo, if your vision feels off today you may have actually damaged your eyes.

Chou described the symptoms as: “blurred vision, where the very centre of the vision might have a spot, or multiple spots, that were missing in their vision — that were very, very blurred. Around it, there might be some clear spots. It really depends on exactly what happened, and what kind of injury there is at the back of the eye.”

Headaches can also be a symptom of eye strain.

About half the time, he said, the damage can be permanent.

My eyes hurt just from reading this. What do I do?

Book an appointment with your optometrist. If the damage is severe, he or she may refer you to an ophthalmologist for further treatment.

What’s the worst case scenario?

If you stared — for more than a few seconds — at the burning sun, you could go partially blind. For some people that means blurry vision in one or both eyes, difficulty reading and general damage to your central vision. There’s no treatment, as the suns rays have essentially damaged your retina at the cellular level.

Will sunglasses help?

Apparently, sunglasses won’t help heal your eyes. That said, good, UV-protective sunglasses are good for your general eye health and should be part of your wardrobe.

Above all, don’t panic.

Chances are a quick glance upwards did little to no damage

“You would have to be staring at an extremely bright image for minutes at a time before you started to get any clinically significant damage,” Chou said.

]]> 2 My eyes hurt after staring at the eclipse: Am I going blind? Admit it, you caved. *** BESTPIX *** President Trump Views The Eclipse From The White House acsanady Tue, 22 Aug 2017 01:44:18 +0000

No moral reason not to create chimeras capable of making human eggs, ethicist argues

First came the prospect of pigs incubating human organs. Now a medical ethicist is raising new moral questions by suggesting scientists create human-animal chimeras to produce human eggs.

While the goal, for now, would be to create a ready supply of eggs purely for biomedical research purposes, should the hybrid human eggs turn out to be as good as ones produced by humans, “I do not see any reason for not using them for treating human infertility,” said César Palacios-González, of the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King’s College London.

In a commentary in Reproductive BioMedicine Online, Palacios-González tests arguments against creating chimeras for human gamete production, and finds all of them wanting.

“Despite ongoing research and scientific and ethical discussions about the development of chimeras capable of producing solid organs such as kidneys and hearts for transplantation purposes,” he writes, “no wide discussion of the possibility of creating chimeras-IHGP (intended for human gamete production) has taken place.” If anything, scientists have fallen over themselves to reassure the public steps will be taken to avoid creating such creatures.

A leading Canadian reproductive biologist called the paper “deeply thought provoking” and says the idea isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

“Humans are mammals and there is really nothing intrinsically different about the process of reproduction between humans and every other mammal,” said Roger Pierson, a world expert on ovarian physiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

“We’re talking here not about what the combination of mammalian gametes might become, but we’re talking about the actual biological processes of passing our DNA from one generation to the next,” he said.

“The biology that comes out of this analysis is questioning some of the tenets of our assumptions about reproduction.”

In theory, the process could involve “interspecies blastocyst complementation” — the same technique researchers are exploring to create pigs capable of generating human organs for transplant.

A blastocyst — an early embryo — is taken from an animal and genes crucial for the development of a particular cell line or organ edited out. “In this case you would aim at the reproductive system,” Palacios-González said in an interview.

Next, human pluripotent stem cells (cells that have the potential to develop into any type of tissue in the body) taken from a donor’s skin are injected into the blastocyst to “compensate for the existing niche,” he said. “In this case human stem cells would complete the reproductive system, which would then create gametes.”

What conceivably could result is the ovary of a sow (or cow or other animal) that produces human eggs.

In January, Salk Institute scientists reported in the journal Cell they had succeeded in creating the first human-pig chimera embryos. None were allowed to grow beyond four weeks and half were abnormally small. But in others, the human stem cells survived and turned into progenitors for different tissues and organs.

The achievement was hailed a scientific “tour de force.” It also rattled ethicists, who warned of the remote but not impossible risk human stem cells intended to morph into a new liver, pancreas or heart could wend their up to the animal’s brain, raising the prospect of a chimera with human consciousness.

Others worried about transplanted human stem cells generating reproductive tissues. “Few people want to see what might result from the union between a pig with human sperm and a sow with human eggs,” the New York Times warned.

Palacios-González said that as far as he is aware, no one is actively pursuing creating chimeras capable of producing human sperm or eggs. “But maybe I am wrong, the world is just too big.” (The research that comes closest, he said, was published in 2014, when stem cells were taken from a skin sample from a man who produced no sperm and transplanted into the testicles of a mouse, where they became immature sperm.)

However, Palacios-González argues that claims that the creation of chimeras violates human dignity are “just false.”

Most don’t consider lab mice grafted with human cells such a violation, he writes in Reproductive BioMedicine. “Neither do we consider that human dignity is violated when someone receives a pig heart valve, which effectively turns them into a chimera.”

If human dignity is tied to “the possession of certain higher mental capacities,” he added, gene-editing tools like CRISPR could be used to avoid generating brain tissue, thereby reducing “the possibility of accidentally creating a chimera with human brain cells.”

Fears a human egg-producing chimera could become pregnant is a practical issue that could easily be avoided by, for example, creating only female chimeras, he writes. “This would be the most sensible thing to do given that there is no shortage of human sperm for research purposes.”

Even if it should one day become desirable to create chimeras capable of producing both eggs and sperm, “we could just take the appropriate measures for (the chimeras) to be segregated by sex.”

He also argues that — whether generated by humans or chimeras —  human gametes “do not possess intrinsic worth capable of being debased” and that the eggs incubated by chimeras could go toward research “capable of saving people’s lives.”

Pierson said that, with focused work and funding, “this kind of work could be done in probably a year or less. This is not far fetched.”

“This is not about having a male mouse that’s ejaculating human sperm, coupled with a female mouse that’s ovulating human eggs and creating a human embryo in the mouse,” Pierson said.

Rather, among research questions, “It’s about understanding what our reproductive processes are — and what they could become,” he said. “We need to lay down the ethical principles for exploring these new types of ideas.”

Pierson said it could be the next step toward the completely lab-based generation of sperm and eggs. In vitro gametogenesis, or IVG, a technique still in its infancy, is aimed at creating functional sperm and eggs from induced stem cells. Last year, researchers in Japan reported in the journal Nature they had created mouse pups born from eggs created in a petri dish.

Pierson said any eggs generated from a nonperson chimera would likely come from a cow, and not a mouse, noting cows and humans share similar ovarian function.

NYU School of Medicine bioethicist Arthur Caplan said the technology is “a decade or more away and would need safety testing in animals for another few years, if it even worked.”

“Safety issues are huge for chimeras, just huge,” he added, including unknown mutations, subtle chemical differences in the derived eggs and the risk of communicating animal viruses.

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]]> 0 No moral reason not to create chimeras capable of making human eggs, ethicist argues First came the prospect of pigs incubating human organs. Now a medical ethicist is raising new moral questions by suggesting scientists create human-animal chimeras to produce human eggs. pig-embryo skirkey Mon, 21 Aug 2017 16:23:12 +0000

Grey Matters: Deferred annuities can be retirees’ financial lifesaver

By Wanda Morris

If you’ve been doing any financial planning for retirement, you have estimated how long you will live.

If you are in good health, the answer could be “a good long time.” If you are half of a 65-year-old male/female couple, there is almost a 50 per cent chance that you or your partner will live to age 90, there’s almost a 25 per cent chance that one of you will live to age 95 and there’s a 10 per cent chance that one of you will celebrate your 100th birthday. That’s a long time to make your savings last.

The problem is that while most of us will die before we hit 90, if we don’t save as if we will live that long, we risk living in poverty.

One casualty of the decrease in defined pension plans in Canada is the decline of what’s called pooled risk. In a risk pool, the amount put aside for each pensioner is lower than the amount that may be needed for any single pensioner. Some folks will live longer than others. The extra payments to those who live longest are offset by the savings in payments to those who die early. But fewer and fewer of us can rely on such pensions for financial security.

We can buy individual financial products that reduce our risk. A registered annuity will pay us a guaranteed income for life, but it won’t be cheap. At today’s rates, a woman aged 65 will pay more than $200,000 for a guaranteed monthly annuity of $1,000 for life. If you live to 90, it was a great decision, but if you pop off in your sleep at 67 after only two years of payments — your spouse or kids receive $175,000 less from your estate than if you’d just put the $200,000 under your mattress.

Or you could take your nest egg and carefully stretch it out. If you’ve stashed away $100,000 in a tax-free saving account by 65, and continue to earn money on the balance at four per cent after taxes and fees, you can spend $1,012 a month — as long as you die by age 75. But if you live to 85, you’ll have to spend only $606 a month or your savings will run out.

So what’s the solution?

Just as we have life insurance to protect our loved ones in the event we die too early, we need a type of death — or perhaps long-life — insurance to protect ourselves in the event we don’t die soon enough.

Annuities solve this problem — but they’re not cheap. This is because we start receiving payments as soon as we purchase an annuity. What’s more, life insurance companies that sell annuities know their purchasers are relatively healthy, so they charge enough to cover years of payouts. After all, if we have a terminal diagnosis and just a few months to live, we wouldn’t be in the market for an annuity.

But there is a way around this.

In the U.S, individuals can buy a deferred annuity. For example, at 65, a U.S. retiree could purchase an annuity to pay a set monthly amount for life — but only once they’ve reached 85. Because payments don’t start for 20 years, there is a chance that no payments will be made, so the cost of the deferred annuity is far cheaper than a regular one. The insurer is effectively pooling the risk that an individual will live extra long.

If you had a deferred annuity that kicked in at 85, you could spend all your savings by your 85th birthday, knowing that, if you do win the extreme old age lottery, you won’t be spending your final years eating cat food and Kraft Dinner.

The time for waiting is over. Canadian regulators need to license the sale of deferred annuities now.

Wanda Morris is the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000 member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care and freedom from ageism for Canadians as we age. Send questions to [email protected] To join CARP or learn more, call 1-800-363-9736 or visit

]]> 0 Grey Matters: Deferred annuities can be retirees’ financial lifesaver By Wanda Morris grey-matters postmedianews Sun, 20 Aug 2017 22:12:32 +0000

TORONTO — Health Canada announced Sunday that it has approved an application by Toronto Public Health to open a safe injection site several months earlier than anticipated.

An “interim safe injection site” will open for service on Monday, Aug. 21 in the same building as the planned permanent site, which is currently under renovation.

“Supervised consumption sites save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding area,” Health Canada said in a statement.

Three permanent safe injection sites were set to open in the city this fall. But harm reduction experts say those plans were made years ago, before the opioid crisis was as severe as it is now.

“I think it’s safe to assume, given what’s happening, that there may be a need for more than just the three that have been proposed,” Jason Altenberg, program director at Toronto’s South Riverdale Community Health Centre, said last month, after a weekend that saw four deaths and over 20 overdoses in the city’s downtown core.

Last week, harm reduction workers began setting up an unsanctioned safe injection site in Toronto’s Moss Park, saying the space is needed as the city grapples with a string of overdoses and suspected overdose deaths.

There are safe injection sites currently running in Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna, Kamloops, and Montreal. Clinics are under review in many other Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Health Canada approves application for interim safe injection site in Toronto TORONTO — Health Canada announced Sunday that it has approved an application by Toronto Public Health to open a safe injection site several months earlier than anticipated. edited0814_na_injection canadianpressnp Fri, 18 Aug 2017 20:21:46 +0000

An Australian researcher may have developed a long-term cure for peanut allergies

A major breakthrough in allergy treatment shows that a permanent cure for peanut allergy might be close. Eighty-two per cent of children with peanut allergies who underwent the clinical trial suddenly found themselves able to tolerate the killer nut.

Prof. Mimi Tang of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia says she is “very excited about the results,” which would allow allergic kids to consume peanuts without fear of death. Effects from the treatment lasted for years from the original study — 80 per cent were still eating peanuts four years later.

“This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in Western societies,” Tang said in a news release.

Peanut allergies have risen dramatically in recent decades, and the anaphylactic shock that comes with them is extremely deadly. Researchers from AllerGen NCE Inc. estimate that one in thirteen Canadians have a food allergy, and 1.93 per centˇ — over 700,000 — have a serious peanut allergy.

Tang’s trial gave children the probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, along with peanuts in increasing amounts every day for 18 months, to build up a tolerance. She also ran a placebo trial, in which only four per cent of kids were tolerant to peanuts after the trial.

When Tang followed up four years later, she found that the majority of kids who completed the study had been freely eating peanuts without a care in the world. Over half were eating “moderate to large” amounts.

“The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanut like children who don’t have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanut,” she said.

Now, Tang is looking at whether the effects of the treatment improved kids’ quality of life, which should be a much easier study.

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]]> 0 An Australian researcher may have developed a long-term cure for peanut allergies A major breakthrough in allergy treatment shows that a permanent cure for peanut allergy might be close. Eighty-two per cent of children with peanut allergies who underwent the clinical trial suddenly found themselves able to tolerate the killer nut. peanuts jackhauen Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:24:37 +0000

Man says he was cured of pedophilia at Ottawa clinic: ‘It’s like a weight that’s been lifted’

The Ottawa man had recently retired when it happened: a charge of possessing child pornography that demolished his comfortable life virtually overnight.

The 63-year-old’s wife left him after the arrest three years ago, his three adult children disowned him and his siblings became “secondary victims” to the shame of one of society’s most reviled crimes. That was all before he was sentenced to a 90-day jail term.

But then the former civil servant sought help from the Royal Ottawa hospital’s Sexual Behaviours Clinic, whose unconventional approach to pedophilia has made it an international stand out.

The results seem striking. Following a year or so of therapy that included a steady diet of adult pornography, he says his sexual interests have settled exclusively on age-appropriate women, and young people no longer arouse him.

“It frees me, it frees me completely,” said the patient about his transformation, asking that his name not be published. “I have nothing to keep inside any more, I have nothing to hide. It’s like a weight that’s been lifted.”

Indeed, the psychiatric hospital claims not only to make pedophiles less of a risk to society, but to essentially cure them — help them shed for good their sexual attraction to pre-pubescent boys and girls.

That boast has garnered widespread attention and accolades for the clinic headed by psychiatrist Dr. Paul Fedoroff. The clinic won a gold achievement award in 2015 from the American Psychiatric Association, which praised the unit for its innovative approach and apparent success.

Dr. Paul Fedoroff, a forensic psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre who routinely treats sex offenders

But many experts remain highly skeptical, saying scientific evidence indicates pedophilia is, in fact, unchangeable, as hard-wired for men as being heterosexual or gay. They argue that Fedoroff’s one major study to back up his hypothesis is deeply flawed, and worry about the impact of sending pedophiles off into the world convinced their cursed predilection has been vanquished.

Fedoroff’s ideas would be appropriate as part of a well-regulated study, where participants are informed there is little evidence they can be changed, but not as a routine treatment, argues James Cantor, a scientist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

“There’s no problem testing it,” he said. “But going ahead and implementing it gives me the heebie-jeebies.”

A failure of the treatment would not just affect patients: “It’s (also) a random victim who might be harmed,” Cantor warned.

He and other researchers stress the Royal Ottawa has yet to back up its claims with hard data.  They  say Fedoroff’s purported success at converting pedophiles – with a program that relies heavily on talk therapy and group counselling – simply defies logic.

“The world’s most hated kind of person is the child molester, somebody who not only is attracted to children, but actually acts on it,” said Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at Chicago’s Northwestern University. “Why would anybody go there if it was easy enough not to, and to have some other kind of sexual interest?”

Fedoroff responded that there is no evidence pedophilia cannot be altered, and plenty from his practice that it can be. Meanwhile, his team is working on more studies to bolster their case.

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre in Ottawa, Ont. on Aug. 11, 2017

“Our treatment works all the time,” he said. “We have evidence all day from people who say they’ve gotten better, their partners say they’ve gotten better, their criminal records say they’ve gotten better and they’re better in the lab.

“If people are no longer thinking about children and not committing crimes, I don’t know what you call that, but why not call it success?”

Cantor conceded there is no gold-standard of treatment to help people with pedophilia. The conventional approach  is stabilizing the person’s life: ensuring they have decent housing, a good social network, a job – a sense they have something to lose if they act on their urges, he said.

Clinics also traditionally focus on strategies to avoid trouble, like keeping out of situations where the person is alone with children, said Martin Lalumiere, a colleague – and critic – of Fedoroff’s at the University of Ottawa, where Fedoroff is a professor of psychiatry

Then there are drugs, prescribed voluntarily, that suppress sexual drive altogether – so-called chemical castration.

In fact, many pedophiles never act on their desires, and few of the actual “hands-on” molesters who are caught harm a child again. Studies peg the recidivism rate at around 15 per cent.

But Fedoroff says his clinic goes further, recording what appears to be a zero rate of re-offence by actually shifting sexual interests to adults.

The Royal Ottawa’s treatment course is different for different patients, and always voluntary, he said.

But a typical progression would see a pedophile first prescribed anti-androgen drugs to smother sexual drive, providing a “vacation” as they attend group sessions and counselling that encourages them to form healthy, non-exploitive relationships with older people.

They’re also taught to find sexual stimulation from individuals of a similar age, using repeated sessions with adult pornography as “practice,” said Fedoroff. He likens the process to a student being immersed so deeply in a new language that speaking and comprehending it becomes second nature.

If a patient has developed a consenting, non-sexual relationship with someone they’re attracted to – and are still on libido-inhibiting drugs – he could at that point be taken off the medication, Fedoroff said.

“People always come back saying ‘This is much better, I enjoy this so much more than what I used to go through,’ which is feeling isolated, feeling guilty, shameful, worried they’re going to be arrested,” said the psychiatrist. “It’s really quite a gratifying thing to see.”

Cantor, though, says evidence suggests pedophilia is a solidly entrenched sexual orientation. His own research has linked physical brain anomalies with the condition. What the Royal Ottawa experts do is equivalent to the failed “conversion therapy” once practiced on gay men, he said.

To answer calls for verification of their ideas, Fedoroff and colleagues published a paper in 2014 that used “phallometric” testing – measuring the extent of an erection in response to different sexual stimuli — on 43 men diagnosed with pedophilia.

Six months or more after their first test, the team reported 21 of the men showed significantly increased response to adult stimuli, and significantly decreased arousal from child stimuli – apparent evidence of change.

But four papers sharply critiqued the study, arguing the measurement technique was unreliable, prone to patients faking their response, and the findings a likely result of  “regression to the mean.” That’s the statistical phenomenon where a measurement that is extreme one time will tend to fall closer to the average – the mean – the next time.

“I think his data were not appreciably different than random coin tossing,” said Bailey, who wrote one of the critiques. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and yet Paul’s paper is extraordinarily weak.”

Fedoroff, however, likened his situation to that of Ignaz Semmelweis, the 19th-century Hungarian doctor who recommended surgeons wash their hands before delivering babies to avoid a high maternal death rate. Most colleagues dismissed Semmelweis’s proposal, partly because it “contradicted the paradigms” of the day, he noted.

And he clearly has supporters. Dr. Gregg Dwyer, a psychiatry and behavioural sciences professor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, has collaborated with Fedoroff on research, and shares his belief that pedophilia is a sexual interest, not an orientation. As people grow older, their interests usually shift to partners similar in age, he says, so pedophiles ought to also be malleable.

“Healthy interests change. Why would unhealthy ones be somehow special?”

The Ottawa man said he has had pedophilic urges for most of his life, as well as being attracted to adult women, and 30 years ago was convicted of an actual hands-on offence against a child. Even as he signed up with the Royal Ottawa clinic, he didn’t believe he could change.

But hearing other patients’ success stories, and undergoing treatment that included adult-pornographic stimulation, he said he became a new man. Pedophilic thoughts still enter his mind occasionally, but they disappear soon after and he never dwells on them, the ex-bureaucrat says.

“When I look at a child now, I look at a child, it’s as simple as that,” the patient said. “Before I would fantasize certain situations. I don’t do that any more.” 

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Man says he was cured of pedophilia at Ottawa clinic: ‘It’s like a weight that’s been lifted’ The Ottawa man had recently retired when it happened: a charge of possessing child pornography that demolished his comfortable life virtually overnight. Postmedia Calgary blackwell2001 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:30:59 +0000

Cuts, burns and rashes: More pubic hair grooming means more injuries, study says

Trimming, waxing and otherwise grooming the nether regions is not only common, it comes with a not-so-trivial risk of genital injury, new research suggests.

About a quarter of people who engage in pubic hair depilation report grooming-related injuries, according to a paper published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology. A third of those injured reported experiencing five or more injuries during their lifetime.

While most reported injuries were minor, such as cuts, razor or wax burns,  “this high rate of injury emphasizes the need for safer grooming practices,” the authors cautioned.

Body hair removal has become an increasingly popular trend, driven in part by perceptions of what’s been described as “genital normalcy.” People do it for different reasons, the authors add, including sexual appeal and “higher levels of sexual response,” ready access to pornography and other sexually explicit images, and feelings of “cleanliness.”

Less studied are the associated risks.

One 2012 paper based on emergency room data estimated that 11,704 grooming related injuries occurred from 2002 to 2010 in the U.S. The number of injuries increased fivefold during that period.

More recently, in a study published last December, researchers linked “Brazilians” and other forms of extreme grooming with an almost four-fold increased risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection. The more obsessive people were about grooming, the higher the magnitude of risk.

The new study was based on a web-based survey of randomly recruited men and women, aged 18 to 65. People were asked, among other things, about grooming frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, every three to six months, every year or no regular grooming) “self-perceived degree of hairiness” (on a scale of seven) instrument most often deployed (non-electric blade, electric razor, wax, scissors, laser hair removal, electrolysis) and who performs one’s grooming (self, partner or friend or professional).

Of the 7,570 people who completed the survey, 76 per cent reported a history of grooming; 1,430 groomers reported a grooming-related injury.

Laceration (cut) was the most common injury followed by burns and rashes. Of the self-reported injuries, three per cent required antibiotics, and 2.5 per cent required some form of  “surgical intervention” such as stitching to close a cut, or incision and drainage of an abscess.

For men, injuries were most common in the scrotum, for women, the pubis.

For both sexes, the frequency and degree of grooming, unsurprisingly, increased the risk of injury. 

“You are getting at all the nooks and crannies of your body — you are going to get places you can’t see very well and that probably in turn leads to a greater likelihood of getting injured,” co-author Dr. Benjamin Breyer, a urologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the British newspaper, The Guardian.

Hairier men had a higher risk for injury, however no grooming instrument in particular was associated with injury in men. For women, waxing decreased the odds of “high-frequency” injuries compared with non-electric blades, perhaps because waxing removes the entire hair follicle and hair regrowth takes longer, leading to fewer “grooming exposures.”  However, the authors noted that serious waxing-related injuries and infections have been reported and stressed more study is needed before claiming waxing is “the safest mode of hair depilation.”

Some practices were riskier than others, particularly lying on one’s back while grooming or having someone else do the primping.

“Lying on one’s back may make visualization more challenging,” the authors postulate, while having a partner do the grooming eliminates a “self-tactile sensation,” both of which may predispose to injury. (However, “a grooming partner may encourage the injured to seek medical attention,” they wrote.)

The mean age of respondents was 42, most (68 per cent) were white, most (63 per cent) were married or living with a partner. Overall more women (85 per cent) than men (67 per cent) reported a history of grooming.

Breyer recommended grooming less frequently, “and also taking off less hair in total.”

The study has several limitations, notably that the survey dealt with a sensitive topic. People may not have answered truthfully “owing to embarrassment or fear of breach in anonymity,” the authors wrote.

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]]> 0 Cuts, burns and rashes: More pubic hair grooming means more injuries, study says Trimming, waxing and otherwise grooming the nether regions is not only common, it comes with a not-so-trivial risk of genital injury, new research suggests. Sensual girl making waxing epilation skirkey Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:48:09 +0000

A new organ donation club in the U.K. requires transplant recipients to pay for donors’ funerals

This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Author: Greg Moorlock, Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Warwick

Anyone in the U.K., of any age, can sign the Organ Donor Register, and give permission for their organs and tissue to be donated after death. How you register your wishes depends on where you live: in Northern Ireland and England, one must sign a register to opt in, while Wales currently operates an opt-out system, and Scotland plans to follow suit.

More than 23 million people are registered as potential organ donors across the U.K., but that is still not enough. Every day patients are dying while they wait for a transplant.

In light of this, a rival system called Organ Tree was recently launched, which has raised significant concerns among transplant experts.

Organ Tree works very differently from the standard register. When you join Organ Tree, you pay a small registration fee — it is free to sign the organ register — and can join as a donor or a recipient. If you join as a donor, and die in a way that allows you to become an organ donor, Organ Tree claims that your organs will be offered to other members registered as recipients. These recipients are expected to compensate a donor’s chosen beneficiary by an agreed amount.

Organ Tree is essentially an organ donation club, designed to benefit its members.

Choosing recipients

This approach immediately throws up two controversial ethical and legal issues: directed donation, and payment for donation.

Following a case in 1998, when a donor’s relatives requested that his organs were given only to white recipients, there has been a general ban on deceased donors choosing their recipients in the U.K. Only in a very narrow range of circumstances can exceptions to this be considered, for instance, when someone dies with a family member on the waiting list.

It seems unlikely that the service offered by Organ Tree would fall into this permitted category. It is a fundamental aspect of deceased donation that organs are allocated according to clinical need, which accords with broader National Health Service (NHS) principles about access to treatment. So it is difficult to see how a private organ donation club could hope to match their donors with their recipients, given that the organ retrieval and transplantation would be undertaken within the NHS.

Reimbursing donors

Organ Tree’s website states that “a nominated beneficiary is eligible to be reimbursed to help offset funeral costs.” The recipient of the donated organs is expected to make this payment.

Although it has been suggested that the NHS meeting funeral costs might be ethically acceptable, this is not something that currently occurs. And it is especially not something that organ recipients are expected, or permitted, to do.

In addition, the Human Tissue Authority, which regulates the use of human tissues and organs, cautions that anyone attempting to enter into a financial arrangement regarding organ donation is likely to be breaking the law. Although the payment may be described by Organ Tree as “reimbursement,” the donor’s family would pay funeral costs if donation did not go ahead, so it is challenging to view it as anything other than incentive.

A two-tier system

The transplantation system in the U.K. is a remarkable communal response to medical need, where the selfless generosity of individuals saves or extends the lives of patients who are often in desperate situations. It is not a perfect system, and does not meet the needs of everyone, but the introduction of additional private systems seems unlikely to improve anything.

Some have suggested that systems which prioritize registered donors might offer advantages, by giving people an additional reason to become a donor. Such a system exists in Israel and, until recently, an organization called LifeSharers ran a similar service in the U.S. In the U.K., however, these would fall foul of NHS principles by allocating resources according to factors other than clinical need.

Organ Tree is different again, however. Rather than accessing the club by displaying a willingness to help others — which anyone can do — to receive a transplant through Organ Tree one must be able to pay the donor’s family. So recipients could buy preferential access to transplantation, which runs completely contrary to the ethos that underpins organ donation in the U.K.

Is it worth it?

If organisations like Organ Tree resulted in many more people agreeing to donate, then some compromise of ethos may be justifiable: the organ donation system is after all intended to save lives, not just to promote selfless giving. But it seems more likely, given the current legal and policy restrictions, that this kind of transplant club will just confuse the situation, and lead to some people not joining the official organ register.

Attempts to increase the number of organ donors should be encouraged only if they are likely to be effective, and are ethically and legally acceptable. Given the issues described above, and advice issued by the Human Tissue Authority, clubs such as Organ Tree are unlikely to meet any of these criteria.

If you would like to become an organ donor, the best advice remains as it has for some time: join the real organ register, and discuss your wishes with your family.


This article was originally published on The Conversation. Disclosure information is available on the original site. Read the original article:

Organ donation clubs aren’t the solution to transplant shortages

]]> 0 A new organ donation club in the U.K. requires transplant recipients to pay for donors’ funerals This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site. heart_transplant natpostblogstheconversation Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:26:25 +0000

Grey matters: Age limits pose major roadblock for older drivers

By Wanda Morris

An online survey from State Farm recently made headlines. Based on the experiences of 3,581 participants, the insurance company’s news release raised the alarm that older drivers are unsafe because of their disproportionate representation in automobile crashes causing severe or fatal injuries.

This is misleading. A rear-end collision that gives a younger driver a headache may send an older one to the hospital. Because of the relative frailty of older drivers, a sustained injury is not an objective way to measure the severity of a collision.

We should be concerned about road safety. But road safety policy must be founded on facts, not opinion polls. According to State Farm, 10 per cent of respondents indicated they had been in a collision with someone age 65 or older. This would only be informative if the actual percentage of collisions involving older drivers was disclosed. It wasn’t, so this poll result should never have been published and should now be quickly forgotten.

Equally inappropriate is the idea that we should set arbitrary upper age limits for driving. Telling people to hang up their keys at a certain age is not good policy — it’s ageism.

Does this mean there should be no restrictions on driving? Not at all. But restrictions should be based on people’s ability to drive, not on the year on their birth certificate.

As we age, we lose some of our physical abilities and mental quickness, but we also gain skills from years of practice. Even more importantly, we all age at different rates, some people are old at 50, others complete marathons in their 80s.

Even mandatory testing at certain ages, a program in force in some provinces, can be unreliable. With so much riding on a successful outcome, test-takers may feel unduly stressed, score false negatives and fail even though they are competent drivers.

One possible solution is the use of graduated de-licensing. Just as new drivers face certain restrictions (no more than one passenger, no alcohol) we could implement graduated de-licensing for drivers that are losing their edge.

As drivers age, many already impose their own driving restrictions. Older drivers will often refrain from driving at night, in bad weather, or on major highways.

Making this mandatory for all drivers would be reasonable, provided that the restrictions are tied to limitations that directly impact driving ability — for example, loss of peripheral vision, slower reaction time, or uncorrected vision loss — and are not arbitrarily age-based.

Another option is increased testing for all drivers. I see plenty of drivers, of all ages, whose driving certainly warrants testing — or at least a few lessons. Some provinces use licence renewals to test vision and response times. Why not expand that to include a mini-road test, too? A driver who fails this could be required to take remedial driving lessons and retake the road test within a specific time frame.

Alternatively, we could use tickets and accidents as grounds for prescribing additional driving lessons or tests. Imagine if anyone who was at fault in a car accident, or received a ticket, had to pass mandatory driver training. This would be a simple, objective way to ensure that the drivers who need extra training are getting it — no matter what their age.

Focusing on age limits for drivers ignores the larger issue: far too many Canadians can’t readily access excellent, or even barely adequate, public transit. Many drivers of all ages are in their cars not because they want to be there, but because there are no reasonable alternatives.

Instead of scapegoating older drivers, we must invest in public transit. Excellent transit makes for livable cities, improved traffic and fewer fatalities. Now that’s a solution for the ages.

Wanda Morris is the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000 member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care and freedom from ageism for Canadians as we age. Send questions to [email protected]. To join CARP or learn more, call 1-800-363-9736 or visit

]]> 0 Grey matters: Age limits pose major roadblock for older drivers By Wanda Morris Man hand holding steering wheel in motion while drives. postmedianews Thu, 10 Aug 2017 16:57:38 +0000

By Sara FL Kirk, Professor of Health Promotion, Dalhousie University and Jessie-Lee McIsaac, Postdoctoral fellow, Dalhousie University

The scent of baked goods wafts towards you as the supermarket doors glide open. Your stomach rumbles and your mouth waters at the sight and smell of so much food.

Approximately 40,000 products are available in an average North American supermarket. Despite your best intentions, you succumb to the deals and offers that you don’t really need. Hey, why not get two bags of chips for the price of one? Before you know it, your shopping cart is full and that chocolate bar you grabbed at the checkout is in your mouth.

One bar won’t hurt, right?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It is now widely accepted that we are living in a food environment that does not value health. This “obesogenic environment” does not provide a set of rules to ensure easy and equitable access to healthy, affordable food. And evidence is mounting that some foods, particularly those high in fat, salt and sugar, are not easy to resist.

Food addiction actually shares common brain activity with alcohol addiction. And these high-fat, high-sugar foods also tend to be cheap and readily available, and strongly linked with chronic disease.

This unhealthy food culture permeates society, something we have explored through research at Dalhousie University. Our current food environment sets us up for healthy food choice failure. Yet when we overeat and weight gain ensues, society is there to dole out blame and shame for our “crime.”


Blame and shame for unhealthy behaviours occur because obesity is often framed as an issue of personal responsibility. In this narrative, we alone are responsible for what goes into our mouths. If we gain weight, it is a result of gluttony, sloth and a lack of willpower.

Any attempts to restructure our food environments so they are more supportive of health are often criticized as denying freedom of choice. Initiatives such as taxes on sugary drinks, for example, are referred to as the actions of a “nanny state.” Food manufacturers and retailers seem particularly fond of this argument. They actively promote a belief that the global obesity crisis results primarily from lack of exercise (“energy-out”) and deliberately minimize the impact of over-eating processed foods and drinks (“energy-in.”)

But what if we reframe the debate over personal choice and collective responsibility by thinking of our modern food environment in the same way as the legal defence of criminal entrapment?

Criminal entrapment occurs when law enforcement sets people up to commit a crime they may not otherwise commit, then punishes them for it. A successful entrapment case requires the defendant to prove three things:

1. The idea of committing the crime came from law enforcement officers, rather than the defendant.

2. The law enforcement officers induced the person to commit the crime, using coercive or persuasive tactics.

3. The defendant was not ready and willing to commit this type of crime before being induced to do so.


Let’s explore what it looks like if the food industry is put into the role of law enforcement, and the defendant is you — a member of society trying to make healthy food choices. The food industry heavily markets unhealthy food products, particularly to children, inducing over-consumption (the crime). Unfortunately, their business model often depends on it.

Food marketing frequently uses persuasive tactics to tempt you to eat (and overeat) their products. Examples include supersizing, meal deals, buy-one-get-one-free offers and priority product placement.

You find yourself in an environment that undermines healthy eating, and instead pushes energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. These are cheap to buy, heavily promoted and, let’s face it, often very tasty. The food industry has spent a great deal of money working out what pushes your buttons when it comes to flavour and taste.

Faced with all this temptation, you duly commit the crime of over-consumption (the trap), often unaware of the environmental cues and manipulations to which you have been exposed. In this example, all three components outlined above are present:

1. The idea of committing the “crime” of over-consumption came from the food industry, rather than you.

2. The food industry induced you to commit the crime of over-consumption using persuasive tactics.

3. As you tried to make healthy food choices, you weren’t ready and willing to commit this crime before being induced to do so.


Of course, not everyone is going to fall victim to this “environmental entrapment.” But we have enough evidence to know that — while people are aware of the dangers of over-consuming energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods — healthy eating is not easy. Our modern food environment is not reflective of current recommendations for good health, or for protecting ourselves against diseases such as cancer. Nor is it supportive of health within populations that are most at risk, like children or those experiencing food insecurity.

Can reframing the issue around environmental entrapment help to mobilize public support for healthier food environments?

If nothing else, it may start a conversation about the quality of our food supply, and the tactics that the food industry uses to undermine our abilities to eat in ways that lessen the burden of chronic diseases.

]]> 1 ‘Environmental entrapment’: Is the food industry conspiring to make you fat? By Sara FL Kirk, Professor of Health Promotion, Dalhousie University and Jessie-Lee McIsaac, Postdoctoral fellow, Dalhousie University food-1 natpostblogstheconversation Tue, 08 Aug 2017 14:00:45 +0000

Grey matters: Vague eligibility for medical aid in dying may put doctors at risk

By Wanda Morris

Two years ago the planets seemed aligned — in principle, law and practice — and I believed Canadians would soon have the right to medical aid in dying (MAID) if they were suffering unbearably from a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

I was naive.

There was (and still is) overwhelming support among Canadians (84 per cent) and CARP members (81 per cent) for MAID with reasonable safeguards. The Supreme Court of Canada had unanimously established this new constitutional human right in January 2015.

Practitioners were ready. In August 2015, 1,407 of our country’s doctors responding to an online Canadian Medical Association poll found that 29 per cent, or roughly 23,000 physicians, were willing to assist gravely ill patients who wanted to end their life.

Yet, two years later, thousands of Canadians mired in unbearable suffering are denied meaningful access to MAID and thousands of willing doctors are obstructed from providing it.

Of the 23,000 Canadian doctors initially willing to participate, fewer than 200 have actually done so; and many of these are now considering ceasing to do so. For example, the City of Toronto, with a population of just over 2.73 million, has only six physicians registered with the province as willing to provide MAID.

What the heck went wrong?

To begin with, the Canadian government passed legislation in June 2016 that fell far short of the Supreme Court’s decision. The legislation introduced a vague, and probably unconstitutional, eligibility requirement of a death that has become “reasonably foreseeable.” The government erred first by, first, restricting the ruling of the Supreme Court and, second, by using such vague language that doctors seeking to provide MAID face unreasonable risks, including possible criminal charges.

The term “reasonably foreseeable” is not defined in legislation or common law. This lack of clarity means that, while a doctor and patient may agree that a patient’s death is foreseeable, there is always the risk a court of law may rule otherwise. A doctor, instead of collecting heartfelt thanks and a modest fee, may face fines or even jail time. No wonder insurers and health-care lawyers are frequently cautioning doctors against providing MAID, regardless of the severity of their patient’s suffering. No wonder the numbers of physicians willing to provide MAID has dropped precipitously!

The roadblocks set up to prevent individuals from accessing peaceful deaths don’t end with the federal government’s ill-conceived legislation. The MAID process, while varying between provinces, is overly bureaucratic and needlessly arduous for physicians.

To relieve a patient of unbearable suffering through MAID, a doctor must wade through complex medical/legal assessments, collaborate with multiple physicians, complete a stack of paperwork, engage in sensitive family interactions, make home visits and, finally, provide the actual assisted death. These are all time-consuming and emotionally draining for the physician.

MAID should never be taken lightly, but it is hard to believe patients are better served by turning doctors into form-fillers than by ensuring they have the support to carry out the critical and emotionally draining work of journeying with a patient through an assisted death.

Yet across Canada, doctors are paid considerably less than half of the fees they could earn doing simpler, less taxing procedures in their office. In some cases, they receive less than a veterinarian charges to put an ailing poodle to sleep.

Urgent action is needed to protect both doctors and patients. MAID legislation should be updated to strike out the unconstitutional and confusing qualifier “reasonably foreseeable” and provincial procedures should be streamlined to provide better protection and reporting. While we cannot hope to compensate doctors for the emotional toll of providing such a critical service, we must at least compensate them fairly for their time.

Wanda Morris is the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000-member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care and freedom from ageism for Canadians as we age. Send questions to [email protected]. To join CARP or learn more, call 1-800-363-9736 or visit

]]> 0 Grey matters: Vague eligibility for medical aid in dying may put doctors at risk I was naive. gettyimages-667831614_720 postmedianews Sat, 05 Aug 2017 03:54:04 +0000

Melodrama at Ontario doctors’ group ‘like a bad episode of House of Cards’

They are among the country’s best-paid and most highly educated professionals, widely respected and responsible for the health care of 14 million people.

But Ontario’s doctors can’t seem to stop sniping at each other, turning their powerful professional group into a cauldron of discontent.

The latest upheaval has come with the resignation of nine members of the Ontario Medical Association’s 270-person governing council, firing off accusations of bullying, secretiveness and out-of-control bureaucracy as they go.

That followed a court case against the association by a specialist sub-group last year, online discussions that devolved into vulgar name-calling, and the overthrow of the OMA’s entire executive.

“The political melodrama is like a bad episode of House of Cards,” said Dr. Frank Warsh, a semi-retired family doctor and medical blogger in London, Ont. “I don’t think I’ve seen a more fractious collection of tribes.”

But the physicians who recently quit their positions on the association’s elected council say there remain serious issues beneath all that melodrama.

Those include alleged strong-armed tactics against doctors who oppose the OMA’s official line, an overly cozy relationship between the association and the Liberal government, and lack of transparency around how the group spends its annual budget of over $50 million, most of that drawn from the dues doctors are mandated to pay.

“It’s a culture of fear and intimidation and not one of freedom of speech,” charged Dr. Mark D’Souza, who quit as chair of the district representing Toronto physicians.

“Doctors are fearful of being advocates for their colleagues and fearful of being advocates for their patients, and that’s something all Ontarians should be concerned about,” added Dr. Kulvinder Gill, who resigned as chair of another Toronto-area district.

The picture is muddied, though, by an intriguing fact: several of the dissident doctors’ former allies are now part of the establishment, infiltrating the OMA executive and board in the wake of the earlier putsch.

As a founder of the group Concerned Ontario Doctors, Gill was a pioneer in the grassroots opposition along with Dr. Nadia Alam. Alam is now the OMA’s president-elect, while Dr. Silvana Bolano, who administered a thriving Facebook page linked to Concerned Doctors for a time, is on the powerful board.

And Dr. Shawn Whatley, another former critic of the association and Concerned Doctors supporter, is actually the president of the organization.

He says he was saddened to hear of the resignations and grateful for the “passion” of those council members, noting “we desperately need people who have strong opinions and are courageous enough to be involved in medical politics.”

But he argued that it’s much easier to reform the association from within.

“The people who are left in the grass-roots groups have to make a decision: do we have enough inside the OMA to drive change, or do we have to fight from the outside.”

The doctors who just gave up their inside roles respond that the new boss – despite his independent pedigree – has become much like the old one, captive to an entrenched 250-strong bureaucracy.

Among their charges is that the association or its officials have tamped down dissent by lodging complaints against opponents to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, triggering disciplinary investigations that can be profoundly stressful.

D’Souza and Gill say they’ve heard from more than 40 doctors who are now under review because of referrals from association leaders or officials, mainly about comments they made on social media or in emails related to a contentious fee agreement signed by the association last year.

A copy of one complaint says the messages either violate the regulator’s rules on physician behaviour or, in two cases, “raise concerns for me about the well-being of the individuals corresponding.”

D’Souza acknowledged that some pertain to clearly offensive commentary. Others, however, concern mere expressions of opinion, he said.

Though he’s not sure it was an attempt to suppress opposing opinions, Warsh said a board member reported him to the College himself over an “off-colour joke” on Facebook.

D’Souza and Gill say they’re worried such complaints could become a part of OMA policy. An internal report issued earlier this year recommended instituting a code of conduct for doctors that would include allowing the organization to refer physicians to the College when they “act against the OMA/OMA staff/OMA leaders” in contravention of rules or the law.

But Whatley says he doubts the council will approve the proposed change.

The critics also question the secretiveness around what they believe are 100 committees of doctors guiding the association. They have heard that members loyal to the OMA are paid honorariums of $25,000 or more and that some sit on multiple committees.

But neither the membership of those panels, nor the amount of the honorariums are made available to the council. When a motion of Gill’s called for the payments to be divulged, association staff responded that doing so would violate privacy laws.

Whatley says the group is looking at reducing the number of committees to as few as four.

D’Souza also laments what he describes as a symbiotic relationship between the OMA and government, cemented by the system that extracts $50 million in dues from doctors annually. If they don’t pay up, the government deducts the money from medical fees, then passes it to the OMA, he said.

Such accusations have only added to a tumultuous era for the profession in Ontario. Anger at the Liberal government’s cuts to physician pay – plus legislation perceived as anti-doctor – eventually transferred to the OMA, which was accused of not listening to its members or aggressively representing their interests.

Those misgivings climaxed with a contentious pay deal signed by the organization last year. A group of radiologists actually took the association to court, a judge ruling the OMA had abused its authority with a “sneaky” ballot on the agreement.

The deal was eventually rejected by members, and then a vote of non-confidence by the council prompted the executive to resign en masse.

Former confederates, Whatley and D’Souza don’t see eye-to-eye on much now. But they agree on one thing: all that strife within the profession is largely a byproduct of how the government has treated physicians lately.

“We have been three and half years without a contract and we have sustained multiple rounds of unilateral cuts,” the president said. “We have come through some of the darkest times since the beginning of medicare.”

(The story was modified Aug. 4 to clarify the role of some OMA leaders in the “grassroots” doctors’ movement.)

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]]> 0 Melodrama at Ontario doctors’ group ‘like a bad episode of House of Cards’ They are among the country’s best-paid and most highly educated professionals, widely respected and responsible for the health care of 14 million people. doctors-1 blackwell2001 Thu, 03 Aug 2017 20:36:56 +0000

Ontario woman told she can’t donate blood because of intellectual disability fights back

Yanhong Dewan was literally born into adversity, her first years spent in an overcrowded Chinese orphanage with little to eat and less human comfort.

It hasn’t always been easy in her adopted Canadian homeland, either, but when Dewan turned 17, she had an unusual wish: to donate blood and help others get well.

It was not to be.

The resident of the Windsor, Ont., area has no known blood-borne infections or other relevant health risks. She was rejected as a potential donor because her intellectual disability made it difficult to understand a lengthy screening questionnaire.

“I felt disappointed, not too happy about it,” Dewan said this week with characteristic directness. “Mad, too.”

Mad enough, in fact, that she and her mother lodged a complaint accusing the blood agency of discriminating against her on the basis of intellectual disability.

The resulting legal tussle has already lasted five years, and could stretch on longer. The Canadian Human Rights Commission essentially cleared the organization of any violations and the Federal Court of Canada has just upheld that ruling, but the young woman is now pondering an appeal.

At the heart of the case is how far CBS must go to accommodate a potential donor who seems physically healthy, yet is intellectually challenged.

Aided by a disability rights lawyer, Dewan argued she could have completed the screening with the help of a “clear-language interpreter,” similar to how deaf people or foreign-language speakers are vetted; CBS said that would undermine the system’s safety.

The dispute also cuts to the core of a key issue for all disabled people: the right to fully participate in society, and repudiate a past that saw many isolated in institutions or subjected to sterilization.

“It’s about people with disabilities having an equal chance to take part,” said Tess Sheldon of Toronto-based ARCH Disability Law Centre, Dewan’s lawyer. “It’s about making sure that the blood-donor screening process is accessible.”

Marc Plante, a CBS spokesman, said the agency works hard with various groups to accommodate donors and it is “unfortunate” it could not do so in Dewan’s case.

“To ensure safety, all donors must understand the risks and responsibilities of blood donation, which can be somewhat complicated,” he said.

The solutions suggested by Dewan and her lawyer “could undermine Canadian Blood Services’ ability to assess that understanding.”

The agency was created in the wake of the tainted-blood tragedy, mandated to ensure the blood supply is as safe for patients as possible, the Federal Court ruling notes.

Yanhong Dewan says she likes to help other people, but Canadian Blood Services won’t let her donate blood.

Dewan was living in an orphanage in Wuhan, China, when her Canadian mother, Yvonne Soulliere, adopted the four-year-old and brought her back to live in LaSalle, Ont.

Her challenges have sometimes made it difficult to fit in, but she has always thought of others, repeatedly growing her hair long, then having it cut off to be used in wigs for cancer patients, working for Meals on Wheels and helping raise money for the Special Olympics.

Even as he dealt her another courtroom loss last month, Federal Court Justice Alan Diner acknowledged that Dewan was “a young woman of exceptional kindness and generosity.”

She had often talked about donating blood as soon as she turned 17 — CBS’s cut-off age.

“I like to help other people,” Dewan explained. “I like to let people live and let them have a life and give other people a chance.”

But when she went to a clinic in LaSalle in early 2012, Dewan made it only six questions into a lengthy questionnaire before staff said she would not be able to give blood.

The screener’s notes quote Dewan’s mother as saying her daughter had the intellectual ability of a three-to-five-year-old. “Donor cannot read and doesn’t have an understanding of timeframes, transmissible disease — unable to understand questions even when restated in simpler fashion.”

An agency worker went further in a phone call with Soulliere, saying that donation “will never happen” for Dewan.

CBS rejected the idea of having a third-party interpreter put the screening questions in more easily understandable words, saying the language had already been made as simple as possible. Changing the vocabulary further would “create undue risk to the safety of the blood supply,” a Human Rights Commission report said.

But Sheldon says both sign-language and foreign-language interpreters make changes when words cannot be directly translated. A clear-language interpreter would be no more or less precise, she said.

“Clear language is not baby talk,” the lawyer said . “It’s not changing the message, it’s just using sentences that are short and clear, using only necessary words, using words that are direct and straightforward.”

But the rights commission rejected Dewan’s arguments, saying it was not necessary for the case to have a full hearing at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and the Federal Court upheld that decision.

Dewan burst into tears just before a telephone conversation with the National Post,  said Soulliere, and always points out signs calling for blood donors. The issue is upsetting for her, her mother said, but it is one she wants to contest.

“She doesn’t give up easily, about anything,” Soulliere said. “She sticks to it. When she gets her mind stuck on something, she goes for it.”

National Post

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]]> 7 Ontario woman told she can’t donate blood because of intellectual disability fights back Yanhong Dewan was literally born into adversity, her first years spent in an overcrowded Chinese orphanage with little to eat and less human comfort. Blood_-_03 blackwell2001 Thu, 03 Aug 2017 17:14:34 +0000

Something wicked this way comes: How real life stepmothers are battling centuries of fiction to overcome stereotypes

By Sabrina Maddeaux

From a young age, fairy tales teach children to fear the Big Bads in life: wolves, ogres, giants and stepmothers. While the former are mostly contained to the pages of storybooks, the wicked stepmother elicits a special sort of fear because she could very well come for your family next.

The Brothers Grimm favoured spectacularly evil stepmothers as villainesses. In The Twelve Brothers, a stepmom slanders a young queen until she’s burned at the stake. In a similar tale, The Six Swans, the stepmother steals newborns and smears her stepdaughter’s mouth with blood to imply she cannibalized her own children. In Hansel and Gretel, the stepmother encourages a father to abandon his offspring in the woods, while Snow White’s stepmom recruits help to murder the princess. Cinderella’s stepmother seems downright angelic by comparison, simply subjecting her to household servitude and a life of loneliness.

Disney picked up where the Grimms left off, albeit with less murder, infanticide and cannibalism. The studio didn’t do much to revamp stepmothers’ reputations though, creatively naming Lady Tremaine’s miscreant cat “Lucifer,” and bringing the the wicked archetype into live-action films like The Parent Trap, Enchanted, Into the Woods, Ella Enchanted and 2015’s Cinderella remake.

It’s rarely mentioned, but in the first editions of Grimms’ fairy tales there were no stepmothers – just moms. Evil mothers were quickly replaced with wicked stepmothers, most likely in order to preserve the ideal image of the mother. In Freudian interpretations, the mother/stepmother split is therapeutic and allows for channelling mom-related anger and frustration without the guilt associated with actually thinking negatively about the woman who gave birth to you. For children in particular, the idea of a cruel or murderous mother may simply be too terrifying and disturbing to tolerate.

Susan Sarandon (as mom) and Julia Roberts (as stepmom) in Stepmom.

Enter the wicked stepmother. Closely associated with witches, the stepmother often dabbles in the dark arts. Both were typically older women, depicted as selfish and manipulative, working against God and lacking the qualities of a saintly mother. They were both often accused, in fiction and reality, of harming other women’s children. As fear of witchcraft lessened in everyday life, stepmothers became the main archetype on which to project anxiety over female agency, creativity, self-empowerment and maternal ambivalence.

While stepmothers were often villainized in fiction, they were the only female characters to actually drive narratives and possess control over their own decisions and actions. Some commentators have, in retrospect, dubbed the wicked stepmothers of Grimms and Disney “iconic feminists” for being the original fictional women able to take charge and act powerfully to achieve their goals (for better or worse) in male-dominated societies.

Unfortunately, the modern-day stepmom isn’t feeling so liberated. The pervasive image of the malefic stepmother has real-life consequences and, even though research and psychologists reject the notion, age-old stereotypes are hard to break. A three-year study by Auckland University doctoral candidate Anna Miller found that a majority of stepmothers felt they were treated as if they played a negative role in their stepchild’s life. Miller found this to be due to their awareness of negative stigmas and accompanying societal pressures.

Experts say a stepmom is often the most powerless and vulnerable member of a blended family. Her fear of being branded “wicked” leads her to take a backseat role in parenting, striving to act as a friend and shower her stepchildren with endless love and generosity rather than establish herself as a respected authority figure. She also often makes excessive efforts to appear perfect in her new role. This often leads to her staying quiet as she’s subject to hostility, isolation, verbal and even physical abuse in her own home.

Despite cultural depictions, there are no hordes of stepmothers set on ruining their stepchildren’s lives through sinister plots. In fact, rather than being cruel, distant and petty, research by Athabasca University in Calgary shows they often serve as the glue that holds a family together after a divorce, providing essential support to children, improving family function and smoothing potentially tough transitions.

Elaine Hendrix as Meredith, soon-to-be stepmom in The Parent Trap (1998).

Nonetheless, second wives wary of being suspected of unscrupulousness are also more likely to sign pre-nuptial agreements that waive some of their economic rights while also feeling pressured to contribute financially to their stepchildren’s upbringing, travel and tuition. They may also refrain from asserting themselves in family financial matters and estate planning to their detriment.

Stepmothers are actually prone to “significantly greater anxiety and depression than biological mothers,” according to a study by Lisa Doodson, a psychologist who teaches at Thames Valley University. Divorce rates in remarriages is also higher than average, clocking in at 67 per cent for second marriages and 73 per cent for third marriages. This is, in part, attributed to the challenges and tensions of stepparent relationships.

The effects of this stereotype on both stepmothers and their families are far-reaching. The U.S. Bureau of Census reports over 1,300 new blended families are formed each day, and over 50 per cent of families are now remarried or re-coupled. Over 30 million American children live with one biological parent and that parent’s current partner. Experts predict that blended families will soon become the dominant form in North America.

But, taking a cue from the strong-minded stepmothers of Disney lore (minus the nefarious plots), this new generation of stepmothers is determined to fight back and band together to overcome their evil reps. They strive to rebrand stepmothers as dedicated, caring and generous. They even have a new name for themselves: “bonus moms.”

While there are countless support systems for mothers and more mommy blogs than the internet knows what to do with, stepmothers have scarce resources. It’s increasingly acceptable for biological mothers to publicly discuss their challenges and mixed feelings, but it’s still largely taboo for stepmothers to seek help, lest anything but exuberant positivity group them with the Evil Queen and Lady Tremaine.

Social media has provided much needed networking, support and visibility for the stepmom community, with hashtags such as #bonusmom, #stepmomtwitter and #stepmomlife gaining popularity. Sarah Patterson, a Toronto-based step-parent to five kids amongst two other biological moms, aims to further change the reputation with her online portal, Social Stepmom.

Lily James as Cinderella, Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmom in Cinderella (2015).

Articles and videos feature fellow prominent stepmothers, such as Ainsley Kerr and Christine Rezvanian, discussing issues like what to do when your stepchildren stand you up, the eternal mom/stepmom wars, how to manage Mother’s Day, feelings of loneliness and even when it’s appropriate to call yourself a “stepmom.” In her introductory video, Patterson candidly admits she sometimes wonders, “What was I thinking? It’s really, really tough.”

StepMom Magazine has also gained popularity as a monthly digital publication, offering a private online support group and advice on taboo topics like child support cheques, dealing with jealousy, ex-wife relations, practicing self-care without feeling selfish and protecting your assets. Each issue features a smiling stepmom on the cover– no pressed pouts or poison apples in sight.

It’s increasingly clear that stepmom reality doesn’t match up with centuries of fiction as women work to reclaim the term. Disney has recently produced films starring empowered princesses, diverse body types and familial love rather than ooey-gooey romantic happily-ever-afters. If they’re as determined to keep up with the times as they seem, they would be wise to bring a virtuous stepmom to a theatre near you. The sooner the better.

Something wicked this way comes: How real life stepmothers are battling centuries of fiction to overcome stereotypes By Sabrina Maddeaux Cinderella-disneyscreencaps_com-8502 specialnp Thu, 03 Aug 2017 00:40:01 +0000

How much does the ‘average’ Canadian pay in a year for public health care?

Health care is perhaps Canada’s defining obsession. As a nation, we crow about it and complain about it. We deify Tommy Douglas, rage about wait times, fret over private clinics and fight campaigns on minute points of privatization.

But for all the endless studies, Royal Commissions and political bloviating, it can be hard to know how much Canadians actually pay for health care, not as a nation, but as individuals.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) believes Canada spent approximately $228 billion on health care in 2016. That’s 11.1 per cent of Canada’s entire GDP and $6,299 for every Canadian resident.

Tommy Douglas in 1961 after being chosen NDP leader in Ottawa.

That per capita rate would put Canada near the high end of what other advanced economies pay. According to the CIHI, in 2014, the last year for which comparable data was available, Canada spent $5,543 per resident, more than the United Kingdom ($4,986) and Australia ($5,187) but less than Sweden ($6,245) and far less than the United States ($11,126).

Assuming roughly similar rates of growth, Canada will remain near the top of the tightly clustered group of wealthy countries that have strong public or mixed public/private systems in terms of per capita spending this year. (The primarily private system in the United States remains an outlier.)

But per capita is just an average. Not everyone pays the same. And figuring out what any individual Canadian, or even a representative sample of Canadian demographics, pays turns out to be a lot harder than it seems.

This week, the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver think-tank dedicated to small government thinking, took a thwack at the problem. Researchers at the institute used a proprietary system —the same one used to calculate the institute’s controversial Tax Freedom Day — to break Canadians into a host of economic tranches.

They then used their own calculations for the tax burden faced by each of those groups to figure out roughly what an “average” family pays for public health every year.

Their conclusion? The “average” Canadian family, consisting of two adults and two children, earning about $127,000, will pay about $12,000 a year for public health care.

Is that a lot? The Fraser Institute researchers think so. In their study, they paint a picture of out control health care costs growing at break neck speed (173 per cent over the last 20 years) compared to things like food (54.6 per cent) and shelter (93.4 per cent).

But not everyone agrees with their analysis. For one thing, the new study uses an old Fraser Institute system that critics have long charged vastly overestimates the tax burden faced by Canadians. For another, their definition of an “average” Canadian by income earned or income tax paid is not actually what a “typical” Canadian makes and pays, according to economist Richard Shillington.

A better measure than the average, Shillington believes, is the median. The average — the total taxes paid divided by the number of people in Canada — is pulled upward by a small number of individuals with a very high-income, he said. The median, the taxpayer in the exact middle of the sample, is a better, and considerably lower, estimation of what’s normal.

(Bacchus Barua, one of the authors of the study, points out that data for median earners is included, although it’s not broken down by family type. They calculate that an individual in the fifth decile of Canadian earners will pay approximately $5,789 in public health costs.)

The Fraser Institute numbers, too, only look at public health spending. And while that figure is rising, it’s not doing so particularly quickly as a percentage of GDP, according to Jean He, from the CIHI. In fact, Canadian health care spending as a percentage of GDP is still below its all-time peak, reached in 2010.

Public health care costs also aren’t the only ones rising. Only about 70 per cent of health care spending in Canada is public, according to the CIHI. The rest is split primarily between private insurance plans and out of pocket costs. So a true estimate of what Canadians pay overall for health care should include those numbers as well.

Barua believes the value of this study lies in reminding Canadians that public health care is not free health care.

“If you ask the average person,” he said, “I think many would struggle to give you an answer for how much they paid for public health care last year or what they can expect to pay going forward.”

That is definitely true, for health care, as well as public education, national defence, policing or anything else the government funds. Canada still has a primarily progressive system of taxation. That means that people who make more, pay more for services that all enjoy.

The CIHI estimates that Canadian governments collectively will have spent just under $160 billion on health care in 2016. (The Fraser Institute report cites $148 billion, but that appears to exclude federal and municipal health care spending, according to He.)

Putting the arguments over methodology aside, breaking that total down by individual taxpayer is a totally reasonable thing to do. But all that breakdown seems to do is provide one more platform to relitigate Canada’s endless healthcare fights: over value for money and public vs. private. It doesn’t help solve any of them.

If you want to know how much you pay for public health care, you can probably, based on how much you pay in taxes and how much the government spends, get somewhere close to figuring it out. What you’ll have more trouble doing, though, is deciding whether that spending represents a good value — for you, and for everyone else who benefits from a system meant to serve all.

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]]> 1 How much does the ‘average’ Canadian pay in a year for public health care? Health care is perhaps Canada’s defining obsession. As a nation, we crow about it and complain about it. We deify Tommy Douglas, rage about wait times, fret over private clinics and fight campaigns on minute points of privatization. seniors-1 richardwarnica Wed, 02 Aug 2017 18:45:34 +0000

Scientists discover method to rejuvenate aging human cells

John Cooke wants it to be clear that he and his fellow researchers at the Houston Methodist Research Institute have not discovered the fountain of youth.

“I’m not Ponce de Leon,” Cooke said in an interview on Tuesday, referring to the 16th century Spanish explorer who, legend has it, was seeking a water source capable of reversing aging.

But in a research letter just published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Cooke and his colleagues report they have developed technology in their laboratory that rejuvenates human cells, raising the possibility of treatment for an array of age-related diseases.

Working with cells from children suffering from progeria, an extremely rare genetic disorder marked by rapid aging, the scientists from the Houston Methodist Research Institute discovered a “dramatic effect” on the lifespan and function of the cells.

“We can at least stall or slow down accelerated aging, and that’s what we’re working toward,” Cooke, department chair of cardiovascular sciences at Houston Methodist, said in a news release. “Our next steps are to start moving this therapy toward clinical use. We plan to do so by improving existing cell therapies. I want to develop a therapy for these children.”

Sam Berns, 17, died in 2014 of complications from progeria.

The new research focused on telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes. Cooke likened a telomere to the tip of a shoelace, holding the chromosome together. They have also been compared to the fuse on a bomb, because they get shorter every time a cell divides. Eventually the cell can no longer divide and it dies.

Such shortening is typically associated with aging, and 12 of the 17 progeria patients studied — the oldest of whom was 14 — had shortened telomere, similar to what would be found in a healthy 69-year-old. The average person with progeria lives just 13 years, with heart attack and stroke a common cause of death.

The technology used by the researchers involved prompting cells to produce a protein, telomerase, which can lengthen the telomere. This was done by delivering RNA to the cells that encode telomerase.

“When we lengthen telomeres, we can reverse a lot of the problems associated with aging,” Cooke said in a video accompanying the publication.

An illustration of chromosomes.

“We were not expecting to see such a dramatic effect on the ability of the cells to proliferate. They could function and divide more normally, and we gave them extra lifespan, as well as better function,” Cooke said.

The challenge now is finding a way to deliver the RNA into a human body as opposed to cells in a petri dish. RNA is fragile and breaks down quickly in the bloodstream, so Cooke said they are studying the use of nanoparticles to deliver the treatment.

Animal studies will first have to be conducted to ensure safety before any testing on humans, but he is optimistic clinical treatment could be available within a few years.

In his medical practice, Cooke sees a lot of patients suffering from heart and vascular diseases caused by aging. He is hopeful the new findings will be as beneficial to them as they are to children undergoing rapidly accelerated aging.

“About a third of the people in this country succumb to strokes and heart attacks,” he said. “If we can fix that, we’ll fix a lot of diseases.”

A study published in the journal Nature in 2010 found that triggering telomerase production reversed aging in mice. But other studies have shown an increased cancer risk as cells stimulated with telomerase are again able to replicate.

Telomerase has become popular among many people hoping to combat aging, with some companies marketing costly telomerase activators in pill or liquid form.

Cooke does not want his research lumped in with the over-the-counter treatments for which he has seen no evidence of their effectiveness.

“I’m a physician. I’m skeptical, and any new therapies have to undergo the rigor of a randomized clinical trial and be shown to be safe and effective,” he said.

[embedded content]

National Post

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]]> 3 Scientists discover method to rejuvenate aging human cells John Cooke wants it to be clear that he and his fellow researchers at the Houston Methodist Research Institute have not discovered the fountain of youth. DNA sequence grhamilton Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:11:30 +0000

Grey matters: Make paying pensioners a super-priority

Wanda Morris

Every day, businesses make decisions: expand or retract, rent or buy, take a partner or go it alone. Once they sign a contract, they’re locked in. Our laws and law courts make it so — and with good reason. If businesses could walk away from their contracts, chaos would reign, and our economy would collapse.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a notable exception to this rule; businesses have been all too ready to walk away from pension commitments to employees, and the courts have been all too willing to let them.

It’s a sad irony that, in these cases, our laws and courts provide the least protection to those who need it most. Bankers have other loans, businesses have other customers, but most pensioners have only one workplace pension. What’s more, businesses are usually owed for a few months’ work, bank loans may extend for several years, but pensioner often have decades if not a lifetime of deferred earnings to collect.

Take Sears Canada. Employees contracted with the company to be paid partly in wages and partly in future pensions. They’ve held up their end of the bargain, working years or decades at partial pay in exchange for retirement security down the road. Suddenly Sears wants to walk away from more than $270 million in pension commitments, complaining that they can’t afford to pay. But within the past five years they’ve paid shareholders $600 million in dividends and, even now, are setting aside $9.2 million for executive bonuses.

This isn’t right.

Pension advocates have watched similar situations unfold too many times. They know how the story ends — and it’s not pretty. Companies encounter financial trouble, then ask the courts for permission to stop pension payments. The courts invariably agree. If a company restructures, it does so only after reducing the amount it is contractually obligated to pay pensioners.

If restructuring fails, bankruptcy ensues and pensioners go to the back of the line waiting for leftover pennies on what they’re owed.

Canada is a laggard in its treatment of pensioners. Article 8 of the EU Insolvency Directive requires member states to properly protect workers’ pensions. U.S. jurisdictions protect pensioners’ assets — up to $56,000 a year — and a special fund in the U.K. guarantees pensioners 90 per cent of their pension. In Canada, only Ontario provides pension protection, and that covers just the first $12,000 of an annual pension.

We must do better. That’s why CARP has launched a petition to put pensioners first. In a bankruptcy or restructuring, we want pensioners paid before other creditors. It’s called super-priority — and pensioners should have it.

In 2008, the federal Conservatives granted super-priority to pension payments due in the year of bankruptcy. That was a good start, but as companies can have up to 15 years to make up a pension shortfall, it’s not good enough. Now it’s time to extend that protection to all pension obligations. Tell Finance Minister Bill Morneau that pensioners need to come first. Sign the petition at

Why sign?

Whether you are a Sears pensioner or simply a compassionate Canadian, signing is the right thing to do.

For years, companies have been eroding pension contracts and obligations: Indalex, Nortel, Wabush Mines, Royal Oak Mines and many others. It’s Sears today. And it will be another company tomorrow — unless we put a stop to it.

Pensioners shouldn’t have their hard-earned assets confiscated, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the slack for companies that walk away from their obligations.

It’s time to put pensioners first. Sign now at

Wanda Morris is the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000-member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care and freedom from ageism for Canadians as we age. Send questions to [email protected]. To join CARP or learn more, call 1-800-363-9736 or visit

]]> 0 Grey matters: Make paying pensioners a super-priority Wanda Morris Sears Holdings Announces Additional Stores Closings specialnp Fri, 28 Jul 2017 22:16:04 +0000

It’s not always a good idea to finish your prescription, researchers say

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it may not always be best to finish your prescriptions, according to British researchers.

Doctors have traditionally told their patients to “complete the course,” meaning that even if their symptoms have gone away, they should keep taking antibiotics until they finish their prescription. The thinking was, that a patient should keep taking the medication to ensure that all of the bacteria have been destroyed so that remaining bugs won’t become drug-resistant. It’s been fairly standard medical practice for decades. But some experts are starting to question it.

A new analysis published in BMJ found that there’s a risk that prescription drugs could make other bacteria in the body resistant, which could then spread the resistance to more threatening bugs.

“It is very unlikely that all bacterial of a particular species are killed, even after a prolonged course of treatment, unless the host immune system finishes them off. However, it is also likely that other bacteria, ‘colonizers’ in the body which are normally harmless will get resistance and then be able, in the future, to pass on the resistant genes to other more harmful bacteria,” said Oxford University disease and epidemiology expert, Tim Peto, who co-authored the study.

For example, Peto said, “patients who are prescribed repeated doses of antibiotics for recurrent urinary tract infections are more at risk of developing resistant bacteria.”

Prolonged antibiotic use doesn’t just affect the target bacteria, it affects the whole body and all the other, usually harmless, bacteria in it. Once the target bacteria is gone or, at least, no longer a problem, the continued antibiotic use changes all the other bacteria in the body. Prolonged use of antibiotics selects for the strongest strains of all that bodily bacteria. The study found some of that bacteria can come out of it resistant to antibiotics. 

Down the road, that could turn into a problem for everyone.

The big resistance threats, the report noted, are Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia, Acinetobacter app, Pseudomonas app, Enterobacter app and others. Normally, these live in our bodies without harming us, but they can also act as carriers for drug-resistant genes. That resistance can then swap between other strains or species of bacteria. 

But “it is unclear whether the duration of each treatment course makes a difference,” Peto said.

Peto said patients obviously shouldn’t ignore their prescriptions, but insisted the whole process should be rethought so the dosage ends early if the problem is resolved.

“Our work is designed to facilitate a proper debate and further clinical research to obtain good evidence as to how to treat patients. In the short term, the clinician and patient together can probably easily work out a sensible treatment regimen which includes an early stop if the patient has a good response to treatment,” he said.

Doing that, the report said, should minimize bacterial exposure and adaptation to antibiotics.

This patient-centred approach can better adapt to the fact that some people recover from illnesses more quickly than others.

“Dr. Peto is absolutely correct that we need to continue to work hard at reducing the duration of antibiotic use” Dr. Allison McGeer, microbiologist at Mount Sinai hospital said, noting “the duration of antibiotics we use has decreased substantially in the last decade, as we have recognized the risk and worked hard at reducing duration.” However, McGeer said more research is needed and “it is difficult, expensive, and boring to do the studies that will demonstrate that five days of antibiotics are as good as seven or 10.”

]]> 1 It’s not always a good idea to finish your prescription, researchers say Contrary to conventional wisdom, it may not always be best to finish your prescriptions, according to British researchers. edited107993355 mthomp5on Thu, 27 Jul 2017 22:40:25 +0000

Falling sperm counts threaten the human race? Don’t get your shorts in a twist over it just yet

Plummeting sperm counts could spell the extinction of the human species? Um, not quite.

Stories this week about a study reporting sperm counts among Western men have fallen by more than half in less than 40 years had researchers warning of a fertility “crisis” and others offering tips on how men could counteract the “shocking” and “all-time low” sperm slump by, among other things, eating tomatoes and pomegranates.

However, a Canadian expert in human sperm pathophysiology says semen analysis tests are among the most poorly performed medical laboratory tests on the planet, with a margin of error as high as 50 per cent, and that while Monty Python sang that every sperm is sacred, what matters most isn’t the number of swimmers but morphology and motility — two heads instead of one? Too timid or sluggish?

Yes, all sorts of “nasty” things in the environment are undoubtedly affecting male fertility, says Vancouver’s David Mortimer, president and co-owner of Oozoa Biomedical, an international consulting company in reproductive biology. But it’s not necessarily time to get our shorts in a twist.

The new study, appearing this week in the journal Human Reproduction Update, is billed as the first systematic review and meta-analysis of trends in sperm counts. Researchers from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York analyzed 185 studies involving nearly 43,000 men from six continents and 50 countries who provided semen samples from 1973 to 2011.

Overall, they found a 52.4-per-cent drop in sperm concentration, and a 59.3-per-cent decline in total sperm count among men from Western countries (North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand), with no sign of a levelling-off in recent years.

No significant declines were found in men from South America, Asia and Africa, where few studies were published before 1985.

The fall-off in Western sperm counts has implications beyond fertility and human reproduction, the authors warned, citing recent studies linking lower sperm counts with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and premature death.

Co-lead author Dr. Shanna Swan was visiting Disneyland with her granddaughter Monday when reporters started calling. “People asking about sperm count, and my granddaughter shaking hands with Minnie. It was quite a juggling act.”

A professor in the department of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai, Swan said the first alarm over falling sperm counts went out 25 years ago, when a watershed paper known as the Carlsen paper warned of a “genuine decline” in semen quality between 1940 and 1990.

Swan was unconvinced. She, like others, thought maybe the methods of counting sperm had changed. Maybe the men entered in the studies had changed. Maybe they were smoking more. She spent almost a year re-analyzing the Carlsen data, to make the decline go away. To her surprise, she couldn’t.

“Now, 25 years later, if there’s been a change, we should have had enough time to have seen it,” Swan said. The goal was to make the “definitive analysis,” she said, and try to put the question — have sperm counts really declined? — to rest.

In their analysis, the team decided not to throw men with known good sperm counts (those who had fathered a child) into the mix with men who had never tried to get a woman pregnant. Instead, they separated out the fertile from males whose fertility status was unknown (so-called “unselected” men, mainly college students or men being screened for the military in Europe.)

In the unselected men from Western countries there was a more than 50-per-cent decline in sperm count over the 39 years of the study, from 99 million sperm per millilitres of semen to 47.1 million/ml.

However, while the average sperm counts for all men dropped from 92.8 million/ml, to 66.4 million/ml, that’s still considered within the “normal” range needed to conceive, the NHS Choices reported.

While the average sperm counts have dropped for all men, that’s still considered within the “normal” range needed to conceive.

In addition, the researchers analyzed sperm counts but not sperm motility and morphology, partly because that information was missing in older studies.

Still, Swan believes declining semen quality is a signal “something very wrong” is happening at a very basic level in male development, including prenatal exposure to phthalates, a group of hormone-disrupting chemicals most recently found in the cheesy powder in boxed mac n’ cheeses. According to Swan, phthalates have been known to decrease testosterone in early fetal life at the time the genitals are forming.

Her co-author Dr. Hagai Levine went further, telling the BBC falling sperm counts may foretell “the extinction of the human species.”

That’s a tad premature, others argue. Mortimer, a past president of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, said sperm motility and morphology are far more important parameters. In addition the World Health Organization’s cutoff, or reference thresholds for a male fertility issue, is now more like 15 million/ml.

“Am I concerned there are things in the environment affecting male fertility? Absolutely,” Mortimer said.

“Does a 50-per-cent decrease change fertility? Not enormously,” he said, adding that a far more significant factor in declining fertility rates is women waiting longer to have babies.

Mortimer also cautioned that studies linking low sperm counts with an increased risk of early death don’t prove cause-and-effect, just an association. “I remember when I was in high school years ago in the U.K. there was a correlation between people watching television and admission to lunatic asylums,” he said.

With sperm, “There’s no mechanistic evidence yet.”

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]]> 2 Falling sperm counts threaten the human race? Don’t get your shorts in a twist over it just yet Plummeting sperm counts could spell the extinction of the human species? Um, not quite. sperm-1 skirkey Wed, 26 Jul 2017 19:12:09 +0000

Grey Matters: For elderly, there’s a hole in our health care system

By Wanda Morris

If I had to choose one song that captures the essence of my work as an advocate for Canadians in the second half of life, it would be the folk song popularized in the early 1960s by Harry Belafonte and Odetta: (There’s a) Hole in the Bucket.

The song is burned into my brain from childhood camping trips where my dad had time to sing all its verses as we travelled west from Calgary, seeking a camping spot, an absence of insects and water in the form of lakes rather than rainfall.

The song, for anyone not familiar with it, is written for two voices, with Liza directing Henry to fix the hole in the bucket, and Henry asking how to do so. Henry raises a series of problems: straw needs to be trimmed with a knife that needs to be sharpened by a stone that needs to be wetted with water from a bucket, which, alas, has a hole in it.

In health care, too, many issues cannot be resolved without solving other issues. I suspect many of us feel like Henry; whether we are using the system, working in it, or trying to change it, we feel we’ve solved an issue only to find another, insoluble, problem.

For example, in trying to relieve pressures on family caregivers, we may increase pressures on intermediate or long-term care beds, the lack of these beds then creates a backlog of patients waiting for transfers from hospitals’ intensive care units, the lack of ICU beds keeps patients from getting into surgery, patients stuck waiting for surgeries are more likely to have difficulty moving around, and patients who cannot readily move increase strain on their family caregivers.

The best way to address these complex, tangled problems is to ensure they don’t develop in the first place. But now that such problems exist, the next best solution is to adopt and implement a strategy to recognize and address the interdependence of the many issues thwarting the ability of Canadians to age with health and dignity.

In January 2016, the Alliance for a National Seniors Strategy published An Evidence-Informed National Seniors Strategy for Canada, which focuses on four pillars: independent, productive and engaged citizens; healthy and active lives; care closer to home; and support for caregivers.

With the aging of Canadians and the challenges this presents, the Alliance calls for the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive seniors’ strategy to provide “the focus and commitment needed to ensure Canada can become the best country to grow up and grow old in.”

The Canadian Medical Association recently added its voice to the call for a seniors’ strategy with their Demand a Plan Campaign, garnering more than 50,000 signatures in support of federal government funding for a seniors’ strategy. The government was unmoved; the latest budget did not include funds for such a strategy.

Most of the 3,998 CARP members polled in May support the development of a comprehensive seniors’ strategy; 77 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the government should develop a comprehensive seniors’ strategy, while 14 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed and nine per cent were undecided or neutral.

A growing number of seniors face an array of persistent issues. The federal government missed its opportunity to fund a seniors’ strategy in this year’s budget. That mistake must be remedied soon. Without an effective strategy, the issues will continue to grow at an escalating rate.

See for our complete poll results.

Wanda Morris is the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000 member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care and freedom from ageism for Canadians as we age. Send questions to [email protected]. To join CARP or learn more, call 1-800-363-9736 or visit

Grey Matters: For elderly, there’s a hole in our health care system By Wanda Morris Hong Kong Launches Influenza Vaccination Program postmedianews