The Apparent Murder-Suicide of a Death-With-Dignity Advocate and His Ailing Wife

The Washington Post reports on a heartbreaking story out of Florida:

One gunshot.

Then another.

Within minutes, a prominent death-with-dignity advocate was shot dead along with his ailing wife in an assisted living center in Florida.

Eighty-one-year-old Frank Kavanaugh — who served on the national advisory board for the Final Exit Network, an advocacy organization in the right-to-die debate — was discovered dead in the early morning hours Tuesday alongside his wife, 88-year-old Barbara Kavanaugh.

The couple was found at the Solaris HealthCare Charlotte Harbor center in Port Charlotte, Fla. Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Skip Conroy said the case is being investigated as a murder-suicide.

But those who knew the Kavanaughs said it may have been their only option.

“It was a rational suicide,” Final Exit Network President Janis Landis told The Washington Post. “Both of them made this decision. It was not murder.”

You can keep reading here.

Grieving Father Sues Homeopath ‘Who Said His Son’s Cancer Could Be Cured With Vitamins’

The Independent reports on a heartbreaking story out of Spain that could put renewed pressure on the alternative medicine industry in Spain:

A Spanish father has launched a court case against a homeopath he accuses of telling his son his cancer could be cured with “fungi and alcohol”.

Julián Rodríguez’s son, Mario Rodríguez, died after shunning conventional medical advice to treat his leukaemia in favour of alternative remedies.

The landmark case, which Julián hopes will result in stronger regulation on homeopathic practitioners, is expected to bring renewed pressure on Spain’s burgeoning alternative remedies industry.

The Provincial Court of Valencia, which initially dismissed Julián’s case, has now accepted it on the basis that José Ramón Llorente – who is not a medical doctor – should be held accountable for his claims that he could cure cancer, on the grounds of ‘professional intrusion’.

If convicted, Mr Llorente could face two years in prison, according to La Vanguardia.

You can read the full article here.

What’s Really at Stake in Zubik: “They Want to Prevent Contraception”

Nick Little, legal director of the Center for Inquiry, writes on the organization’s blog Free Thinking regarding what’s at stake in the Supreme Court case Zubik v. Burwell:

What this case involves is a claim by a series of religious nonprofits, personified in yesterday’s protests by the Little Sisters of the Poor (what, you want to take away a nun’s rights? For shame!), who deeply oppose any provision of contraception to their employees. Under the Affordable Care Act, all employers over a certain size must provide insurance to their employees, and that insurance must include all FDA approved methods of contraception, without copay. Recognizing the religious opposition to this, the government put in a pair of opt outs – religious groups such as churches could avoid this provision entirely; religious non-profits, such as the plaintiffs here, on the other hand, could sign a form, and mail it to the government, who would, in turn, require the insurance provider to provide this service to the employees.

Read the entire post here.

Over Half Of Measles Cases In U.S. Outbreaks Are Unvaccinated — Often Intentionally

The Journal of the American Medical Association has found that most of the people who didn’t get vaccinated and then got measles last year had refused those vaccinations, reports Tara Haelle of Forbes:

Even though measles was eliminated from the U.S.—meaning the disease no longer circulated on its own within U.S. borders—16 years ago, outbreaks have continued to result from occasionally imported cases. But the disease can only spread if enough people are not vaccinated against it—and that’s precisely why the U.S. has seen an increase in measles outbreaks. In fact, well over half of people who have caught measles in the past decade and a half were unvaccinated, and most of them had refused the measles vaccine, found a recent study in JAMA.

Read the full article here.

Action Alert: Tell NY State Lawmakers: End Faith-Based Vaccine Exemptions

An action alert from the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy:

New York State Senator Brad Holyman (D-27) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-81) have introduced two bills, S6017 and A8329, that would finally end dangerous and unnecessary non-medical religious vaccine exemptions. The Center for Inquiry (CFI) strongly supports these measures and urges you to tell your state lawmakers to do the same.

You can take action here.

Study: Homeopathic Treatments Useful for None of 61 Illnesses Researched

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recently released a review of 176 studies on homeopathic treatments for 61 illnesses, concluding that homeopathy “should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious.”

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The study was threefold: first, it included an overview of published reviews by an outside, independent contractor; next, it did an independent evaluation of “information provided by homeopathy interest groups and the public”; last, it considered clinical practice guidelines, and how official international governments view homeopathy.

The result? Unsurprising.

“There was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered: no…studies with enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than placebo, or caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment,” the official statement reads. “For some health conditions, studies reported that homeopathy was not more effective than placebo.”

Keep reading here.

Effort to Legalize Assisted Suicide Fails in Maryland Senate

The Washington Post reports that a year-long push to make Maryland the sixth state in the country where physician-assisted suicide is legal has failed:

Sen. Ronald Young (D-Frederick) told reporters that he decided to withdraw the legislation after concluding it did not have the votes to pass out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. A vote had been scheduled for Thursday.

The bill — which would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to patients believed to have less than six months to live — needed six votes to move out of committee and come before the full Senate. It was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and advocates for the disabled.

“Had I thought it still had a chance I would have let it go,” Young said. “But I got word that it wasn’t going to pass.”

You can read the full article here.

Cancer ‘Visionary’ Stanislaw Burzynski Stands Trial for Unprecedented Medical Malfeasance

Writing for Newsweek, Tamar Wilner covers the ongoing trial of Stanislaw Burzynski:

As a young doctor in the 1970s, Burzynski began treating patients with antineoplastons, a collection of peptides, amino acids and amino acid derivatives he originally isolated from blood and urine. Since then, by his reckoning, he’s used the drugs to treat over 2,300 cancer patients—though he isn’t trained as an oncologist. He’s been the subject of laudatory documentaries and promoted by the likes of Dr. Mehmet Oz, the famous surgeon and TV personality, and Suzanne Somers, the actress-turned-naturopathic-medicine-advocate. “No one has worked harder, and no one has been more persecuted for his maverick approach,” Somers wrote in her book Knockout: Interviews With Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer.

But there’s no verifiable evidence antineoplastons work. Nor are they the gentle treatment Burzynski claims them to be. He has run Food and Drug Administration–approved clinical trials on the drugs since the 1990s, during which time at least six study participants died from hypernatremia, or high levels of sodium in the blood—likely due to the sodium-rich antineoplastons. Among the victims was a 6-year-old boy.

Over the years, Burzynski has been the subject of numerous investigations and legal proceedings, brought by grand juries, the FDA and the Texas Medical Board. As it’s become more difficult to continue registering his patients in antineoplaston trials, Burzynski has treated patients in other ways, still outside the medical mainstream. He uses chemotherapy drugs in combinations that have not been scientifically tested—and whose toxicities, according to the medical board, pose an unwarranted threat to patients.

Now the Texas Medical Board has brought yet another case against Burzynski, seeking to revoke his license. As the hearing got underway in Austin in November, some of the doctor’s former patients and admirers gathered to support him and to protest with placards. “I am a naturalist, and I believe that the body can be healed without the use of burning, cutting and poisoning it,” said one woman, whose sister died of lung cancer. “I am for whoever is trying to do their part in saving people from having to go through pain.”

You can read about the Center for Inquiry’s work on this issue here.

Articles Explore Debate on Science Denialism

Two interesting articles have been written in the past several weeks regarding the refusal by some people to accept the benefits of vaccines and other accepted scientific realities.

Robin Lloyd at Scientific American thinks the “war on science” meme doesn’t quite fit when we’re talking about people who are just scared of things beyond their control:

For several years now the popular media has run headlines about “a war on science.” Reporters note that federal funding for research is down, campaigns to undermine climate science attract hundreds of millions of dollars and politicians routinely reject findings that are uniformly accepted by scientists. But a panel of scholars last weekend argued for the most part against calling these aversive movements a war, with two historians even scolding scientists who embrace the idea as out of touch with public concerns.

Keep reading here.

Meanwhile, Maggie Koerth-Baker at Aeon sees the “rationality” of a parent who just wants to protect their kid from what they see as dangerous vaccines, even at the expense of other people:

I don’t think experts intend to ignore what the debate over vaccines is really about. They care deeply about the public health implications of vaccine refusal. They’re worried about the health of their individual patients. But they personally think the trade-off between the small risks of side effects and the big benefit of herd immunity is a fair one. They decided this long ago, and that belief is built into every aspect of their work. For a lot of them – a lot of us, if I’m honest – it’s easy to forget that our perspective on the trade-off is a belief, and not a provable fact. We are uncomfortable with the idea that opinions on scientific topics could be influenced by philosophy, politics and other things that aren’t easily quantifiable.

That’s not surprising. But it is something that has to be acknowledged. If we don’t do that, we can’t ever resolve the conflict.

Keep reading here.

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