skip to Main Content
Weekly Health Digest: Physician Assisted Suicide, Flu, Reviving Pig Brains, And More

A summary of important health news from the past week.

New Jersey will now allow terminally ill patients to end their lives

By: Taylor Romine

New Jersey will become the 9th state to allow physician-assisted suicide in the United States. The Terminally Ill Act will go into effect August 1st and will give terminally ill adults “with a prognosis of six months or less to live” the option to get prescribed life-ending medication. However, patients must first be evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist to determine mental capacity. Many in the Senate voted against it and are still apprehensive but Governor Murphy believes the passed bill to be a humane action towards the terminally ill and their families.

This flu season is the longest in a decade, CDC says

By: Debra Goldschmidt and Susan Scutti

The latest weekly flu report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows this year’s flu season to be record-breaking in duration. The 2018-2019 period has surpassed the previous 10-year high by a week, with 21 weeks of elevated flu activity recorded across the US. Around 36 million cases of influenza have been reported this season; more than 600,000 individuals have been hospitalized with the flu and close to 60,000 deaths have been attributed to flu-related illness. However, this year is described as ‘moderate’ in severity in comparison to last season, which was known as one of the most severe flu seasons in recent decades. The CDC recommends individuals 6 months or greater to obtain vaccinations against the flu and encourages prompt treatment with prescription antivirals for those at high risk of developing complications.

Researchers Restore Some Function to Brains of Dead Pigs, Raising Potential for Human Applications

By: Susan Scutti

Yale researchers successfully reduced cell death and restored blood vessel circulatory function and structure in the brains of dead pigs using the experimental BrainEx system to pump a blood substitution fluid into the brains. The solution contained nutrients, oxygen, stabilizing compounds, and activity blockers to reduce the effects of electrotoxicity (the excess firing of neurons which leads to further cell destruction). While this experiment did not recover brain function, it demonstrates the resilience of brain tissue and raises many new medical and ethical questions, particularly concerning the applicability of these findings to the human brain as well as the treatment of animal subjects who may be in a gray area between life and death.

Cancer-causing chemical taints water after California blaze

By: Associated Press

Last year, 85 people died in Paradise, California during the nation’s worst wildfire in a century. Now, that same area is contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical, benzene. Benzene leads to anemia and leukemia specifically. The November fire created a toxic combination of gases in burning homes mixing into water pipes. Firemen hypothesize that plastic meters and pipes melted in the fire, creating a gateway for benzene contamination as it is naturally created in the flames. Only 1,500 houses are in the safe zone but the town has 27,000 residents. Officials are working together at the local, state and national level to control the public health issue.

Seniors report spending $22 billion from savings to cover health-care costs

By: Michelle Singletary

An analysis by West Health and Gallup showed that seniors have used $22 billion from their long-term savings for health care costs in the past 12 months. The average amount spent was $3,789 per person. Beyond costs, the report found that seniors are skipping treatments, can’t afford their prescription medications, and are worried about their health care choices overall. While Medicare is designed to cover seniors, there are gaps in care. Further, the report found that many Americans are concerned over health care costs and 45% report they would have to file bankruptcy if they encounter major medical costs.