Big pathology cuts
PATHOLOGY spending will be slashed by up to $500 million in the May Budget as the federal government moves to cut Medicare rebates and impose restrictions on a range of high-growth tests, The Australian reports. All pathology tests will be vetted for efficacy and cost-effectiveness as the government tries to cut the annual growth in pathology spending from 7% a year to 5%. It has been alarmed at a sudden spike in testing for vitamin D deficiency after the number of tests grew tenfold, from 22 670 tests in 2000 to 2.2 million last year.

Health watchdog anger
THE federal government’s plans for a health watchdog empowered to deal directly with poorly performing hospitals is stirring an angry response from the states, The Age reports. Victorian Health Minister David Davis has attacked the measure as ‘‘high-handed’’ and New South Wales and Queensland health officials are believed to be unhappy with the legislation giving the National Health Performance Authority direct oversight of hospitals and other health facilities, bypassing state governments.

Pre-eclampsia finding
SCIENTISTS say they have identified genetic errors that appear to increase a pregnant woman’s chance of getting pre-eclampsia, BBC News reports. About four in 100 women develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Researchers reported in PLoS Medicine that faulty DNA may be to blame in some cases. The discovery could lead to new ways to spot and treat those at risk, they said.

Baby test concerns
THE Victorian Health Department is considering whether to expand a new written consent process for heel-prick tests on newborn babies following concerns parents are not being fully informed about future storage and use of the blood, The Age reports. The tests started in Victoria in the early 1970s and the blood, which is collected on absorbent cards, is stored indefinitely by the Victorian Clinical Genetics Services at the Royal Children’s Hospital ― which holds about 2.5 million cards. The cards can be used for secondary purposes including research. University of Melbourne researchers, in an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, said strengthened consent arrangements were insufficient to address the “legal quagmire” surrounding newborn screening programs.

First hand transplant
A VICTORIAN grandfather has been wriggling his new fingers since becoming the first Australian to receive a hand transplant, the Herald-Sun reports. Peter Walsh, 65, who lost his hands and feet due to an infection, had the landmark 9-hour operation at St Vincent’s Hospital last week after years of painstaking planning by Melbourne specialists. Surgeons have been cautious in declaring the operation’s short-term success but Mr Walsh has been displaying promising signs with his donated right hand. About 60 hand and arm transplants have been performed around the world, with a high success rate.

Euthanasia debate
SOUTH Australian Health Minister John Hill has revealed the life-defining moment 10 years ago when his sister was dying from cancer that caused a dramatic shift in his personal position on euthanasia, The Advertiser reports. Mr Hill has urged the state parliament to support new laws that would give doctors a legal defence if they administered drugs, at the request of a patient, to hasten death.

TB warning
THE World Health Organization has warned that more than two million people will contract a form of tuberculosis by 2015 that is difficult to treat, the Boston Globe reports. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide will die from multidrug-resistant strains of tuberculosis during that period unless greater efforts are made to properly diagnose all patients and provide them with correct medication, the WHO’s Stop TB department said. The warning came as an alliance of international health groups laid out their multibillion-dollar plan to contain the spread of tuberculosis.

Melanoma hits wealthy
RATES of melanoma among young white women have more than doubled in the past three decades, and wealthier, more educated women appear to be at greatest risk the New York Times reports. Experts aren’t sure why, but a new study published in the Archives of Dermatology suggests that these women may be at increased risk because they are spending more leisure time outdoors.

Activity risks
SUDDEN bursts of moderate to intense physical activity — such as jogging or having sex — significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack, especially in people who do not get regular exercise, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Doctors have long known that physical activity can cause serious heart problems, but a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association helps to quantify that risk. It found people are 3.5 times more likely to have a heart attack or sudden cardiac death when they are exercising compared to when they are not and 2.7 times more likely to have a heart attack when they are having sex or immediately afterward compared with when they are not.

Bitter taste
A NEW US study suggests eating bitter or unpleasant food can make you more judgemental, ninemsn reports. The study, published in Psychological Science, involved 57 participants who were split into three groups and asked to drink a bitter herbal tonic, a sweet-tasting berry punch or water. Participants were asked to rate behaviours from 0 to 100 — 0 being “not at all morally wrong” and 100 “extremely morally wrong”. Results showed that taste perception significantly affected moral judgements, such that physical disgust (induced via a bitter taste) elicited feelings of moral disgust. This effect was more pronounced in participants with politically conservative views than in those with liberal views.

Posted 28 March 2011

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