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Thursday
May262011

Feds Raid Home of 91-Year-Old Suicide Kit Maker

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(EL CAJON, Calif.) -- On Wednesday morning, 91-year-old Sharlotte Hydorn answered a knock on her door to find nearly a dozen FBI agents outside. The agents reportedly raided the suicide kit maker's home, seizing her computer, sewing machine and kit supplies.

FBI Agent Darrell Foxworth would not confirm the contents of the warrant.

Hydorn, of El Cajon, Calif., was thrown into the spotlight just a few months ago after a 29-year-old Oregonian named Nick Klonoski used one of her kits to end his life in December. Klonoski had ordered the simple kit, which contained a hood and tube, through the mail.

Earlier this month, Oregon senators unanimously voted in favor of passing a bill that would ban the sale or marketing of suicide kits.

Klonoski reportedly was not terminally ill and would not have qualified for lethal prescriptions available to eligible Oregon residents under the Death With Dignity Act. Oregon is one of three states -- Washington and Montana are the others -- in which assisted suicide is legal.

Hydorn said the homemade kits, which she has been selling for four years, are intended to assist the death of those who are terminally ill or in severe chronic pain. But anyone can request the $60 kit, and she does not screen her clients before sending them a kit.

But Hydorn remains unapologetic about Klonoski's death.

Business doubled after Klonoski's death made headlines, according to Hydorn, and she plans on continuing to grow her small company.

Still, Hydorn said she is not in it for the money.

"I get emotional satisfaction out of being able to help people," she said. "My motivation is to help people. If they misunderstand that, then so be it, but I'm not at fault for other people's choices."

If you or someone you know has contemplated suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Healthcare Essential to Young Adults, Yet Nearly Half Cannot Afford It

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Healthcare is something we all need, yet millions of Americans don't have it -- particularly young adults between the ages of 19 and 29. But a new report released by a private, charitable foundation that promotes a quality healthcare system says health reform legislation is making a difference.

Nearly 15 million young adults aged 19 to 29 are uninsured and, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report, almost half of them in 2010 could not afford to go to the doctor, get a prescription filled or get other medical care they needed.  

But that's changing, the authors say, due to the Affordable Care Act.

Since becoming a law in March 2010, the bill helped 600,000 young adults to get coverage by allowing them to stay on their parents health insurance until the age of 26.  By the end of 2013, that number is expected to soar to 1.7 million.

The report says uninsured young adults will reap the biggest benefits of health reform in 2014 when they will gain access to subsidized coverage.  An expanded Medicaid program could open the door for more than seven million to get insurance, while another five million may opt for subsidized private coverage through health insurance exchanges.

The authors conclude that health reform is essential for young adults. And while some strides have been made, the Affordable Care Act will ensure nearly all of them have coverage by 2014.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Man Survives Freak Accident That Inflated Him Like Balloon

Thinkstock/Getty Images(WHAKATANE, New Zealand) -- A New Zealand truck driver survived a freak accident with an air tank that inflated him like a balloon to twice his normal size.

On Saturday, Steven McCormack, 48, ended up in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Whakatane, a town on the North Island's east coast. As McCormack was standing on the rigging between his truck and trailer while working at Waiotahi Contractors, he slipped and fell onto a brass valve that was connecting the truck's brakes to the compressed air supply. The nozzle pierced his left buttock and air rushed into his body at 100 pounds per square inch.

"In a matter of minutes, my body blew to twice its size," McCormack told New Zealand's 3News.

His boss, Robbie Petersen, witnessed the accident and said, "He became more and more distressed and his whole body -- his face, his eyes started to close -- started to swell."

As the air pumped and he began to scream, co-workers struggled to pull him off of the nozzle. They managed to stop the air supply and put him on his side. It was an hour before paramedics arrived.

"I was blowing up like a football," recalled McCormack to 3News. "I had no choice but just to lie there, blowing up like a balloon."

When paramedics tried to insert a needle for a drip, the pressure from the air pushed the needle out. They were also unable to give him air through a tube in his nostrils.

Doctors say the air filled his abdomen and chest, as well as the space around his heart, lungs, and even behind his eyelids. The air separated his fat from his muscles and compressed his heart.

After being rushed to the hospital, a team of doctors put a hose through his ribs to get air to his lungs. Though doctors were able to get fluid out of him, the air had to come out the natural ways, resulting in an enormous case of flatulence. It took McCormack three days to go back to his normal size.

McCormack suffered no broken bones and no bruises, just a hole from where he was punctured. Leaving the hospital, he said, "I really feel like the Michelin Man."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Baby Raised Genderless Is Bad Experiment, Say Experts

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(TORONTO) -- No one knows the sex of Storm Stocker, a four-month-old baby from Toronto. Only his parents, his midwives, and his two older brothers have ever peeked beneath the diaper.

That's because his -- or is it her -- parents, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, want to raise their child genderless.

When Storm came into the world in a birthing pool on New Year's Day, they sent out this email: "We decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime."

Even Storm's brothers, 2-year-old Kio and 5-year-old Jazz, along with one family friend have been sworn to secrecy.

"What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children," Stocker told the Toronto Star. "It's obnoxious."

The newspaper was barraged with critical responses and even Storm's grandparents, though supportive, said they resented explaining their gender-free baby to friends and coworkers.

While child development experts applaud the family's efforts to raise their child free of the constraints of gender stereotypes, they say the parents have embarked on a psychological experiment that could be "potentially disastrous."

"To raise a child not as a boy or a girl is creating, in some sense, a freak," said Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It sets them up for not knowing who they are."

"To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development," he said. "This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating, and marginalization."

"We all have sexual identity," said Beresin. "The mission to have masculine and feminine traits more equalized and more flexible and not judgmental is awesome in a utopian community. But we take pride in our sexual identity."

The family gleaned the idea for unique child-rearing from the 1978 children's book, X: A Fabulous Child's Story, by Lois Gould. The author uses symbolism and allegory to explore gender "creativity."

"Identity formation is really critical for every human being and part of that is gender," Beresin said. "There are many cultural and social forces at play."

Witterick and Stocker have been besieged with phone calls since the media grabbed on to their personal story.

"Thanks for your interest," said Storm's mother on a recorded message when ABC News called for comment. "We are really swamped with calls right now and our first priority is the needs of our family."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Young Children Need Sleep to Reduce Risk of Being Overweight

Jupiterimages/Pixland(DUNEDIN, New Zealand) -- Studies in the past have shown that for adults, a lack of sleep can be associated with an increase in body weight, and new research finds that the same is true in children.

The authors of a study out of New Zealand followed almost 250 children from ages 3 to 7.  At 3, 4, and 5 years of age, the children slept an average of 11 hours per night. But the fewer hours the children slept, the greater their risk was of having a higher body mass index at age seven.

Researchers also calculated that every additional hour of sleep was associated with a 61-percent reduction in the risk of being overweight or obese at seven years old.

The authors suggest that reduced sleep may increase food consumption and could have a negative impact on children’s activity levels.

Their findings can be found in the British Medical Journal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Asperger's Syndrome Set to Lose Its Name

Comstock/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- The American Psychiatric Association formalized the diagnosis of Asperger's -- a syndrome marked by impaired social interaction and sensory overload -- in 1994, 50 years after it was first described by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger.

But the association plans to remove the term "Asperger's" from its new diagnostic manual, set for release in 2013 -- a decision that has sparked criticism from advocacy groups.

"When the term 'Asperger's' started to get used, it was a tremendous relief for families of children and adults with the syndrome.  They finally had a name for what was going on; they could finally understand what the struggle in their lives was about," said Dania Jekel, executive director of the Asperger's Association of New England. "My worry is that we'll go back 16 years to a time when folks with Asperger's syndrome will not be recognized."

But members of the American Psychiatric Association's Neurodevelopment Disorders Workgroup, the group spearheading the change, said removing the term "Asperger's" from its manual and instead refering to it as an autism spectrum disorder will help focus the diagnosis on an individual's special skills and needs at that moment in time.

"The Asperger's distinction is based on early language delay, but many people come in as adults and have difficulty reporting this reliably," said Francesca Happe, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and a member of the workgroup. "We have known for years that autism is a spectrum, which is enormously heterogeneous...There is no good basis to distinguish Asperger's from high-functioning autism. The distinction doesn't make scientific sense."

The term "high-functioning" refers to language and intellectual ability -- skills that set Asperger's apart from other disorders on the spectrum.  But Jekel worries that removing the term "Asperger's" might open the door for misinterpreting it as just a mild form of autism.

"For many, Asperger's is not mild," she said.  "If you have an IQ that's fairly high and you're verbal, people expect you to be like everyone else and get along in the world.  But this is something that really can be very, very difficult for people to live with."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Doctors Call to Stop Chemotherapy Overuse, Cut Cancer Costs

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Annual costs of cancer care are expected to rise to more than $173 billion dollars by 2020, a nearly $70 billion increase since 2006, according to the National Cancer Institute.

But limiting chemotherapy for patients with metastatic or recurrent cancers would not only dramatically cut exorbitant medical costs but would also improve a patient's quality of life, two oncologists suggest in a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While cycles of chemotherapy vary depending on the type of cancer, authors Dr. Thomas Smith and Dr. Bruce Hillner suggest that oncologists limit treatment for patients who are not responding to three cycles of chemotherapy.

This recommendation is one of 10 Smith and Hillner outlined as a response to a challenge posed by a colleague to suggest changes in the practice of medical oncology that could save the nation billions of dollars.

Current guidelines by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists already recommend stopping treatments that do not seem to benefit the patient.  But many oncologists fail to put these guidelines into practice, said Smith, a medical oncologist and palliative care specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center.

Although chemotherapy may no longer be beneficial for end-stage cancer patients, many oncologists choose to continue treatment, said Smith.

Previous studies suggest that as many as 20 percent of patients are getting chemotherapies in their last two weeks of life. Instead, Smith suggests spending the time beforehand to discuss end-of-life care with patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Oregon Baby May Go Blind Because of Faith-Healing Parents

George Doyle/Thinkstock(OREGON, CITY, Ore.) -- Oregon doctors have said that Alayna Wyland, an 18-month-old with a massive growth covering her left eye, may go blind because her parents refused to get her medical treatment on religious grounds.

On Thursday, jury selection continues in the trial of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, who have been charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment of their child, only days after the state House passed a bill to be tougher on faith-healing parents.

The Wylands, who are 43 and 22, respectively, and are members of the Followers of Christ Church, told authorities they believed that prayer and anointing oils would heal their daughter's hemangioma, an abnormal growth of blood vessels that was occluding her vision.

In the past two years, Oregon's Clackamas County has prosecuted two other couples from the same church whose children died from untreated ailments.  One, Jeff and Marci Beagley, were convicted of criminally negligent homicide last year and sentenced to 16 months in prison after their 16-year-old son, Neil, died of complications from an untreated urinary tract blockage.

About 300 children die a year at the expense of their parents' religious beliefs, according to the Iowa-based organization, Children's Healthcare is Legal Duty, a group that advocates for tough penalties against those who seek exemption from child abuse laws.

Under Oregon law, parents have a "legal duty" to provide care for their children, and those who "knowingly withhold physical care or medical attention," can be prosecuted, according to Michael Regan, senior deputy district attorney in Clackamas County.

Child welfare officials reported the Wylands, who said they would not seek medical care for their daughter unless it was court-ordered, according to Regan.  The baby was taken into state custody last July and has been treated with medication.  It is not clear if vision will ever develop in that eye, he said.

If the Oregon House follows the Senate's action earlier this week, religious beliefs "would not be a defense for harm to a child for any crime," according to Regan of the district attorney's office.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Blind Man Uses Bat-Like Echolocation to 'See'

Like a bat, Daniel Kish uses echolocation to create an image of his environment. (The Legooners - World Access for the Blind)(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Daniel Kish was 13 months old when he lost his eyes to cancer, but that didn't stop him from getting around. By making a clicking noise with his tongue and listening for the echo, Kish could figure out where things were around him, a skill that baffled his parents.

"I don't know that they really noticed the clicking right away," said Kish, 45. "I think they just noticed that I was able to find my way around."

Kish has since mastered the skill, known as echolocation. Like a bat, he uses sound to see. Kish said his brain learned to interpret the information contained in the echoes and use it to construct images.

"It's basically a representation of what's taking up space in the environment based on location, dimension and depth of structure," meaning the solidness of objects, Kish said. "The image that you get," which is colorless and has no grayscale, "basically combines those characteristics."

As president of World Access for the Blind, a non-profit organization based in Long Beach, Calif., that image helps blind people learn to "get around more effectively and lead their lives with greater freedom," Kish teaches other blind people how to echolocate. And to better understand how the technique works, he teamed up with Canadian scientists for a brain imaging study.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers studied the pattern of activity in Kish's brain when he was listening to clicks and echoes. Instead of activating his auditory cortex, the area responsible for interpreting sound, the clicks and echoes appeared to activate Kish's visual cortex.

"It was really quite amazing," said Mel Goodale, director of the Centre for Brain and Mind at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and senior author of the study published Wednesday in PLoS One. "It looked like it was recruiting a good chunk of the primary visual cortex in his brain."

Kish said he hopes the study adds credibility to his approach, which could attract the resources needed to deliver it more widely.

"Right now, most of the funding goes toward vision preservation and restoration, which is fine for those individuals for whom it will work, but it won't work for everyone," Kish said. "We can help blind people see their environment now."

Kish and Goodale will reconnect for a follow-up study in June aimed at teasing out how the brain system interpreting the echoes is organized.

"Blind people should realize that this is an opportunity; that you can do quite a bit with echolocation," Goodale said "I think it's important to get it out there. It may not be for everyone, but it's worth a try."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Nanny Cams: Parental Control or Big Brother?

David De Lossy/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- More than one million nannies or professional babysitters work in family homes in the United States, and recent reports of nannies who've treated their charges badly have triggered a growing demand for technology to watch caregivers' every move.

"We're noticing a lot more information is being shared...there's a website where it's possible to post information about nannies," Risa Goldberg, the co-founder of Big City Moms, one of the nation's largest new mom support groups. Goldberg says there's a growing interest among moms to monitor nannies online.

On one blog called I Saw Your Nanny -- which was founded by a former nanny -- moms, nannies, and even total strangers are invited to detail the exploits of nannies behaving badly around the nation. Photos of inattentive caregivers talking on cell phones or speaking harshly to their charges are posted online. Postings describe sitters leaving children unattended in grocery stores, or even slapping children.

But Denyse Kapelus, founder of the 25-year-old Professional Nannies Institute, is troubled by it all. She worries that the tattletale websites are the 21st century's version of Big Brother, and that it may all spin out of control. Kapelus says she does not excuse the actions of bad nannies, but worries about websites that enable people to anonymously post photos of nannies that can be taken out of context. She also worries that the privacy of the nannies' young charges is violated when the photos are posted.

I Saw Your Nanny reports that at least 12 nannies lost their jobs after parents became aware of items posted on the site, and the site hopes to start allowing people to upload videos of nannies in coming months.

Donna Ellenbogen, a social worker who specializes in counseling young mothers, says checking out tattletale nanny blogs is just one of the latest steps parents are taking to take control of their nannies. And with the proliferation of technology, Ellenbogen says she doesn't expect that to change anytime soon.

A growing number of Ellenbogen's clients are now tracking their nannies' movements during the day with GPS technology, she said. These mothers typically place their nannies on a family cell phone plan, and track the nanny through her cell phone, to ensure that nannies are where they say they are supposed to be -- classes, school pick-ups -- at different times of the day.

"It's giving them that sense of, 'I know what's going on,' or it's a false belief of, 'If I can't be there, this is the closest I can be to knowing what's going on,'" she said.

With GPS monitoring -- in addition to the hidden nanny cams that have been on the market for years -- parents have a dizzying array of options to monitor their kids' caregivers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio