Couple sues fertility clinic after giving birth to baby with different race

DNY59/iStock(LIVINGSTON, N.J.) -- A New Jersey couple is suing the hospital where they went for fertility treatments after the white couple gave birth to an Asian baby.

The couple, who are not being named, filed a lawsuit Aug. 28 against the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at St. Barnabas in Livingston, requesting a host of records from the hospital in order to determine the genetic parents of the child.

The couple went to the hospital for in vitro fertilization treatment in November 2012, and believed the hospital was using the egg and sperm donated by the mother and father.

According to the couple's lawyer, David Mazie, the parents only realized the child wasn't theirs in 2015.

"It wasn't until the child was 2 years old that she started having, they're both Caucasian, she started developing Asian features," Mazie told New York ABC station WABC-TV.

Among other information, the couple is seeking documents identifying employees who were working at IRMS on or about Nov. 7, 2012; electronic or physical log books of male clients; the identities of men who provided specimens on or around that date; information on the lab technicians involved; all Asian clients who donated semen specimens around the date; and all women who had their eggs thawed or fertilized in late November 2012.

According to the lawsuit, the hospital claims it used the clients' sperm for IVF and that either the child is their own or "that an extramarital affair led to the minor Plaintiff's birth."

"The minor Plaintiff is entitled to learn the identity of the actual father (if different from the Plaintiff)," the lawsuit states, referring to the now-6-year-old child. "Among other reasons, the minor Plaintiff has a right to ascertain whether she is vulnerable to any genetic diseases."

"The court has now ordered that the clinic produce to us everybody of Asian decent who donated sperm, was inseminated during the critical times that family was there," said Mazie. "We want to find out who the genetic father is."

The child is still being raised by the couple, unlike a recent, similar case in California, in which the court took custody of the child away.

"She's still their child; they love her. She's 6 years old now," said Mazie.

St. Barnabas said in a statement Thursday saying it is "thoroughly examining the incident."

"We are an organization comprised of passionate, dedicated medical professionals whose singular mission is to help our patients build their families," Ronn Torossian, a spokesperson for IRMS, said in a statement. "The integrity of our treatment processes are paramount and we are taking this matter very seriously. As such, we are thoroughly examining the alleged incident, which is said to have occurred in 2012. As patient privacy is core to what we do, we do not comment specifically on individual patient matters.”

In response to the court order, IRMS said, "The court order has broad implications potentially affecting many more people than the immediate parties involved.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Megachurch pastor, mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson dies by suicide

Kameleon007/iStock(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) -- A popular megachurch pastor who was also an advocate for mental health died by suicide Monday, according to his family and church.

Jarrid Wilson, 30, was an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., and founder of Anthem of Hope, a Christian mental health organization.

Wilson's wife, Juli, with whom he founded Anthem of Hope, shared a video on Instagram of Wilson playing with one of their two sons at a baseball practice Monday night. Just hours later, she wrote in the video's caption, Wilson died.

In another Instagram post, she wrote to Wilson, "No more pain, my jerry, no more struggle. You are made complete and you are finally free. Suicide and depression fed you the worst lies, but you knew the truth of Jesus and I know you're by his side right this very second."

Harvest Christian Fellowship confirmed Wilson's death by suicide, writing in an Instagram post featuring a photo of a smiling Wilson that he took his own life.

"He was vibrant, positive, and was always serving and helping others," a church official wrote of Wilson. "Jarrid also repeatedly dealt with depression and was very open about his ongoing struggles. He wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts."

"Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most," the official wrote.

Wilson himself posted about suicide on the day that he died, writing a tweet that begins with the lines, "Loving Jesus doesn't always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure depression."

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death among people in Wilson's age group, between the ages of 10 and 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The death of Wilson by suicide is particularly painful and relevant because he was someone people looked to as a mental health advocate, according to Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

"When we lose someone like this it devastates everyone and it's easy to say, 'Then what's the point?'," said Kaslow, who did not treat or know Wilson. "The point is we have to reach out to each other and connect more, provide more support to each other and do our best to get people help."

"There is help out there and it can make a difference," she said.

Kaslow points out that Wilson's death is a reminder that mental health affects "everyone and anyone," even those who are aware of their struggle and seek support and help.

"Even when people have a lot of support and skills, for them, the overwhelm may just be too great," she said. "It may just be too much and in that moment it may be that they see no way out."

Warning signs of suicide can include depression, having thought about or talked about suicide, a family history of suicide or violence, substance abuse, stressful events in life and physical ailments, according to Kaslow.

In some cases those warning signs may appear; in other cases they may appear and be missed until after the person dies by suicide, and in other cases there are no warning signs at all, noted Kaslow.

Talking about suicide -- and about mental health more broadly -- can make all the difference in raising awareness and helping to prevent it, experts say.

Here is more information on warning signs for suicide, as well as steps people can take to spread awareness and potentially save lives.

Where is help available?

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call someone, anyone: a friend, neighbor, family member, religious figure, hospital, doctor, mental health specialist, the police department or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

It is important to remember you are not alone and people do want to help you, regardless of what you think.

Who is at risk for suicide?

The strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous attempt at suicide, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Nearly 9 percent of young people in grades nine through 12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months, according to data compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Suicide is often linked to mental disorders, particularly depression and alcohol use disorders.

Certain events and circumstances may increase risk for suicide, such as having a psychiatric illness including, but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

While depression is a contributory factor for most suicides, it does not need to be present for a suicide to be attempted or completed, according to the AFSP.

Other risk factors for suicide include chronic physical illnesses, family history of suicide, history of exposure to trauma or abuse, recent losses or life stressors, military service, feelings of hopelessness and impulsivity, misuse of alcohol and drugs and access to lethal means such as firearms, experts say.

Suicide risk also increases with age.

What warning signs should family and friends look for?

Significant changes in behavior are major warning signs that a person, especially one with depression, may be slipping closer to suicide, Dr. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), told GMA last year.

If someone with depression is acting out of character, it is time to ask more questions, get others involved and take action, he explained.

Other changes in behavior that may be red flags are withdrawal from family, friends, work and social activities, a change in activity level, increased anxiety, restlessness or agitation, and a lack of sleep.

"Look and listen for warning signs, because it is not as if just one morning someone wakes up and says, 'Today is the day I'm going to do this,'" Reidenberg said. "It happens over time and falls on a continuum."

How can you help a suicidal person?

The most important thing loved ones can do is to be available, experts say.

Being available can mean being there to listen, without judgment, and to check in continually to say something as simple as, "'Hi, how are you doing? I'm available and around,'" explained Reidenberg.

"Reassure them that they are important to you, you want them to be around and want them to be well," he said. "The reassurance that people care by statements and words mean a lot to someone who emotionally is drained from the depression."

Being willing to move past the stigma of speaking about depression and ask the person direct questions is also important.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers five steps to help someone who may be considering suicide:

1. Ask: There is a common misconception that asking someone if they have or if they are considering killing themselves puts the idea in their head -- it does not. Do not be afraid to ask.

2. Keep them safe: If someone admits to considering suicide, it is important to seek immediate medical attention, especially if they shared their plan with you or have access to firearms.

3. Be there: Listen without judgment and with empathy. Let them know they have a shoulder to lean on when they need.

4. Help them connect: Help them find a support system to reach out to. Support is very important for someone battling the idea of suicide. Those who have attempted to harm themselves are often at risk of another attempt at suicide.

5. Follow up: Following up could mean preventing thoughts of suicide or another attempt.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Is there a right amount of napping to avoid a heart attack?

sturti/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Could napping help you avoid heart attack and stroke? Researchers thought so -- although a new study published in the British Medical Journal says too many naps per week are a bad idea when it comes to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

More than 3,000 people studied by the University of Lausanne in Switzerland were grouped based on the number of naps they reported taking every week. Most never napped, some said they napped one or two times weekly, and others termed “frequent nappers” took a snooze three or more times per week. Those with the fewest heart attacks? They were the one to two times weekly nappers. Second place went to the group who never took naps. People who napped nearly every day had the most heart attacks and strokes during the study period.

Both heart attack and stroke are caused by cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease, when plaques slowly build up in the vessels supplying blood to the heart, eventually blocking blood flow or causing clots.

But napping research isn’t new. Other studies have revealed that Greeks, who boast some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world, had a lower risk of death from heart attack if they reported napping. Yet research had only compared nappers versus non-nappers, never considering how many naps people were taking each week.

In the new Swiss study, “frequent nappers” were mostly older men with less education, higher body mass, and a greater tendency to smoke. Even when the research took these lifestyle factors into account, people napping once or twice weekly still had less risk of heart attack or stroke.

When it comes to naps, "it might not only be the duration, but also the frequency that matters," Drs. Kristine Yaffe and Yue Leng of the University of California at San Francisco said in an editorial that went with the study.

The authors had cited other research showing naps more than one hour long may actually increase cardiovascular risk, though their own research did not correlate longer naps with higher risk of a cardiac event.

But before requesting naptime at work, remember that the most important risks for heart attack are smoking cigarettes and having untreated high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Jennifer Haythe, a cardiologist at Columbia University, pointed out some limitations of the study, telling ABC News that it “was conducted on a Swiss population and it is unclear if this is a generalizable result.” Dr. Haythe adds that although she wouldn’t give sleep recommendations to patients based only on this study, she does talk to patients about the role of sleep quality in heart health.

Drs. Yaffe and Leng seemed to have a similar perspective in the editorial, adding that “while the exact physiological pathways linking daytime napping to [cardiovascular disease] risk is not clear, [the study] contributes to the ongoing debate on the health implications of napping.”

Even within the limits of this small study, a nap could be worth considering -- just not too often. Naps aside, making healthier lifestyle choices like quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight should be a daily thought for all people as the dangers of heart disease loom.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Vietnam vet found covered with ants in nursing home bed dies after being bitten more than 100 times

imaginima/iStock(ATLANTA) -- A Vietnam War veteran was bitten more than 100 times all over his body by ants while he lay in poor health in his bed on the campus of an Atlanta Veteran Affairs hospital just days before he passed away.

Laquna Ross, the daughter of Air Force veteran Joel Marrable, was visiting her father at the Eagle's Nest Community Living Center, a nursing home for veterans on the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus, where he was being treated for cancer, when she noticed her father's hands were swollen and his body was covered with red bumps.

Ross said she alerted a medical center staffer to her father's new ailments and was "worried and confused because that wasn't how he looked when I saw him the last time," she told ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV

The response she got from the employee shocked her.

"[The staff member] said, 'You know, the ants,'" Ross said. "The staff member says to me, 'When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn't even alive, because the ants were all over him.'"

Marrable died just days later.

"Yes, he had cancer. Yes, he was going to die," Ross said. "If it didn't promote his body to die quicker, what is the protocol within the VA just to manage when something like this happens?"

The Atlanta VA Hospital released a statement in response to Marrable's case describing the actions they had taken including stripping all the bedrooms and inspecting them for ants, removing all open food containers, hiring a pest control company to do an inspection and purchasing plastic containers for the resident's snacks.

"The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted. We would like to express our heartfelt remorse and apology to the Veterans' families and have reached out to them to offer appropriate assistance," the statement read.

After the incident, Ross said that the health center workers bathed Marrable and cleaned his room, but the next day, the ants came back. He was then moved to a new room where he would later die, according to WSB-TV.

"Atlanta VA Health Care System always strives to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don't meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable. That's why we have initiated a fact finding on the nursing and environmental care processes to ensure we are providing safe and effective care," the Atlanta VA Hospital statement concluded.

Ross said her father "deserved better."

"His room had ants, the ceiling, the walls, the beds. They were everywhere," she said. "He served his country in the Air Force, and I think that he deserved better."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'I want to live': Trump decision to end medical care threatens young immigrants

rclassenlayouts/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Two immigrants who say they rely on medical care in the United States to survive made emotional pleas to lawmakers on Wednesday, opposing a Trump administration policy that could result in them and others being deported.

Maria Isabel Bueso, who suffers from a rare genetic disease, told the House Oversight Committee that doctors have told her she wouldn’t live past her teenage years.

"I want to live. I am a human being with hopes and dreams in my life," she said in her opening statement. "I am asking Congress and the administration to come together and right the wrong of this change in policy. This is not a partisan issue. This is a humanitarian issue and our lives depend on it."

She said due to inadequate medical care in her home country of Guatemala, getting care in the United States is crucial. She was invited to participate in a clinical trial with a V2 visa at the University of California at San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital and that treatments developed there to deal with her rare disease have kept her and others alive.

Bueso, 24, and her family have lived in the United States for 16 years under a government program that defers action on deportations in order to seek medical treatment.

She and 16-year-old Johnathan Sanchez, who has cystic fibrosis, both applied for an extension of protections under the deferred action program.

But then the Trump administration, in a statement from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced an abrupt end to the program, denying all noncitizens seeking medical treatment in the U.S.

Bueso and Sanchez both received letters from USCIS stating their applications had been denied and they had 33 days to leave the country

But after the issue gained national attention -- Bueso's story was featured in the New York Times -- their applications to stay in the U.S. for medical treatment were reopened and the Trump administration announced that patients with pending deferred action applications would not immediately face the risk of deportation.

However, USCIS has announced they will no longer accept deferred action applications for noncitizens seeking medical treatment -- except for members of the military.

It's unclear if applicants who have been approved to stay in the U.S. temporarily will be able to reapply for the program. A USCIS official at Wednesday's hearing cited a pending legal challenge from immigrant advocates, saying it prevents the agency from discussing the impact of the policy change going forward.

Democrats at the hearing slammed the Trump administration's decision to end the program, with Chairman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., saying, "The administration decided to cast out some of the most vulnerable and defenseless people on earth and there are families across America whose children would essentially be sentenced to death eventually by this stunningly harsh and cruel policy."

Sanchez and his family came to the U.S. from Honduras to seek treatment for his cystic fibrosis.

"The problem is that in my country there is no treatment for cystic fibrosis ... and the only way that I can still be alive is by staying in the United States, because in my country there is no treatment," he said in a news conference with Democrats before the hearing.

"I would like to end this conversation with the cystic fibrosis mantra: 'You breathe without thinking and the only thing I think about is breathing,'" Sanchez said.

Medical organizations, including the American Lung Association and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, denounced the Trump administration policy change in a joint statement Wednesday.

"This critical program ensures that people who have no other avenue to life-saving medical care can temporarily remain in the United States to receive it," the statement read. "The changes to this program, chaotic manner in which they unfolded, and lingering uncertainty are likely to deter individuals and families in dire need from seeking care, which could have life and death consequences."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Childhood cancer 'affects the entire family' mom writes in viral post

sukanya sitthikongsak/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When a child has cancer, it's not unusual for the family and local community to rally around that child.

But there's often another child, another kind of superhero, somewhere in the background: the sick child's sibling.

Kaitlin Burge's son Beckett was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on April 25, 2018.

"When he was born she wanted nothing to do with him," Burge said of her daughter Aubrey when her brother was born in 2015. "But then they became very close, she always wanted to know where he was, wanted to play with him all the time."

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and the Princeton, Texas, mom of three posted a photo on Facebook of Aubrey comforting Beckett and caring from him while he was sick.

She wrote in the post, "One thing they don’t tell you about childhood cancer is that it affects the entire family."

Aubrey, 5, has had to sacrifice. For example, she and Beckett can't go to a playground or a public pool.

"They [siblings of kids with cancer] often get bounced around while their brother or sister is getting treatment. Their whole worlds are flipped upside down, usually overnight," Burge told ABC News' Good Morning America.

She wrote in her post, "Vomiting between play sessions. Waking up to throw up. Standing by her brothers side and rubbing his back while he gets sick. Going from 30 lbs to 20 lbs. This is childhood cancer. Take it or leave it."

Burge found that by being very open with her daughter about Beckett's condition has helped Aubrey to move away from the resentment she initially felt when Beckett was diagnosed. Now, she wants to be his caretaker and understands when he's not well enough to play.

"By letting her participate she seems to embrace it a bit more. So often the siblings get forgotten," Burge said.

When he is feeling well, the pair love to read together. They play school and do puzzles. They dress up in costumes.

The future looks bright for Beckett. Burge said he is in a "maintenance" phase right now, with two different kinds of chemo -- one weekly and one monthly. She hopes that he will be cancer-free by August of 2021.

By that time, Aubrey will be 7, Beckett will be 6 and their little sister Chandler will be 3.

"I hope they can go to the playground together," Burge said. "And just do all the normal stuff siblings do together."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Trump administration wants to ban flavored e-cigarette products 

tupungato/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump, with the first lady at his side, announced on Wednesday that his administration is moving to ban flavored e-cigarette products after a sixth person recently died from a vaping-related lung illness.

"We are looking at vaping strongly, it's very dangerous, children have died and people have died," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "We're going to have some very strong rules and regulations."

The president said kids are coming home from school and saying, "Mom, I want to vape."

Trump was meeting Wednesday with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administrator Ned Sharpless who joined him and the first lady in the Oval Office, to discuss the proposed regulation, which they said might not be finalized for several weeks.

The FDA said the move would mean "clearing the market of unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products."

Earlier this week, Melania Trump tweeted about vaping, saying she is "deeply concerned about the growing epidemic."

"That's how the first lady got involved," Trump said. "She's got a son ... together, that's beautiful young man and she feels very strongly about it."

The FDA is in charge of regulating e-cigarettes, which have recently gained in popularity. The CDC has advised against people using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping pens. Azar said that the FDA plans to finalize a guidance document to start enforcing flavors other than tobacco to be removed from the market, as children are particularly attracted to those flavors.

"Vaping is becoming a big business as I understand it, like a giant business in a short period of time. We can't allow people to get sick and we can't have our youth be so effected," Trump said.

"A lot of people think vaping is wonderful and it is great. It is not wonderful. That's one thing I think we can say, definitely."

It's unclear how much teeth this announcement would actually have. The FDA has issued warnings already about using flavors to target young people and companies have said they made changes to address the FDA's concerns.

The proposed FDA move drew sharp criticism from the head of the American Vaping Association, a a non-profit that advocates for sensible regulation of vaping products but is not a trade organization or industry spokesperson.

"We are deeply disappointed in the President’s decision to take direction from anti-vaping activists like Mike Bloomberg by attempting to ban the sale of nearly every vaping product on the market. A ban will remove life-changing options from the market that have been used by several million American adults to quit smoking," said Gregory Conley, the AVA president. "In the history of the United States, prohibition has never worked. It didn’t work with alcohol. It hasn’t worked with marijuana. It won’t work with e-cigarettes."

A spokesperson for industry leader JUUL Labs said in a statement to ABC News: "We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products. We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


California woman hospitalized after using face cream with high levels of mercury

ados/iStock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A California woman was hospitalized after using a skin cream that was tainted with mercury and is now in a semi-comatose state.

The Sacramento County Department of Health announced in a release on Tuesday that a woman obtained the topical product "through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico."

"Sacramento County Public Health urges the community to immediately stop using similar skin creams imported from Mexico due to the risk of contamination with methylmercury," Dr. Olivia Kasirye, public health officer with the county's department of health, said in a statement. "Methylmercury is extremely dangerous to adults and children."

The cream in question, according to Sacramento health officials, is "used by consumers as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles."

The 47-year-old Latina woman who was exposed to the cream -- which was labeled as a Pond's product, but had been tainted with mercury -- presented with numbness and slurred speech that progressed to thrashing and non-responsiveness, which required that she be restrained to her bed, Dr. Lauren Kelly, who works for the ABC News medical unit explained.

"The mercury was not added by the Pond’s manufacturer, but by a third party after purchase," the health department said.

The cream she used was believed to be the cause of her symptoms after the California Department of Public Health laboratory analyzed it and found that it contained methylmercury iodide at 12,000 parts per million. It is illegal to sell skin cream products in the USA with 1 ppm or more of mercury.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told ABC News that these levels of toxicity would develop "not immediately, but pretty quickly."

While signs and symptoms vary person to person, Wecht added that in this patient's case "It depends if she was using it every day and how long she was keeping it on."

Sacramento County Public Health said this is the first reported case of methylmercury poisoning of this type linked to a skin cream in the U.S., though multiple cases of mercury poisoning due to tainted skin-lightening creams purchased through informal networks and originating in Mexico have been described and detailed by the California Department of Public Health.

Mercury exposure can occur by including swallowing it, inhaling vapors and absorbing it from the skin; but the most common cause of toxic mercury exposure is by eating mercury-contaminated fish.

"With facial cream, exposure occurs by absorption after application to the skin, inhalation of the vapor and hand-to-mouth behavior leading to ingestion," Kelly explained. "The effects of an exposure depend on many factors including the form of mercury (i.e. organic or inorganic), the amount, the length of time exposed, the mechanism of the exposure and the age and health condition of the exposed person."

In terms of reversibility, Wecht said that depends on "how long the damage had been going on and how quickly it was recognized."

"From [a] neurological standpoint, it's hard to comment on reversibility of her symptoms," he said. "Effects of intoxication have a psychological component as well as a neurologic component. I have seen cases that have resulted in death."

The California Department of Public Health issued a health alert that outlines the full list of signs and symptoms, as well as the prolonged exposure and effects.

Ponds and Unilever, its parent company, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'Sugar Tax' on sweet treats could slim waistlines: Study

dhdezvalle/iStock(NEW YORK) -- People often lose money through taxes but can a new "sugar tax" also help them lose weight? A new study suggests that a tax on sugary snacks could have an impact on weight loss.

The study looked into the potential effects from a 20 percent tax on sweets like chocolate, cookies and cakes. Researchers estimated not only a decrease in consumer purchases of these foods, but a decrease in caloric intake, based on modeling from the effects of the soda tax implemented in the U.K. in 2016.

With such a tax, snackers could lose 0.5 Body Mass Index (BMI) points. That's about three to four pounds for a 6-foot person.

An interesting study, but is the answer to reducing obesity yet another “sin tax”-- taxes levied on products that are bad for your health?

An example of a successful sin tax in the U.S. is the tobacco tax.

"We know that sin taxes are effective in changing behavior. With every increase in tobacco cost, there is a decrease in smoking," said Dr. Lisa Chamberlain, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine.

“The difference between a tobacco tax and snack tax is that you don’t have to smoke to live, you do have to eat to live," she added.

“An important goal of taxes is that a price of a product reflects its cost to society. We know that added sugars in general are linked to cardiovascular disease. Things like cakes and cookies, junk food in general, cost a lot to society, but are cheap to buy,” said Dr. Kristine Madsen, associate professor at the Berkeley School of Public Health to ABC News.

One consideration: Taxes on food items are regressive, as they affect poor communities more than rich communities.

“It is true that a higher percent of their income goes to food in low-income households as compared to high-income households, because low-income households are not making a living wage” said Madsen.

“In the U.S. there are populations that are food insecure," said Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya, professor of medicine and health policy at Stanford University. “If you look at their diets, some are eating junk food. A tax like this may make their lives worse. They may have to make difficult choices about their diet.”

And yet, taxing sweet foods may also prove futile in curbing obesity, some argue.

"When studies that look at what actually happens to BMI after such a tax is imposed, they tend to find smaller changes in BMI than in the simulation studies,” said Bhattacharya.

“The simulation studies don’t account for compensation. People switch to other foods that are [calorie]-dense, or bad for you in other ways once a potential snack tax is imposed," he added.

In 2011, the USDA collected data from one leading retail grocery store that tracked food stamp purchases. According to this data, more than $450 million in food stamps were spent on sweets. A 20% snack tax, like the one proposed in the U.K. study, could potentially raise $90 million dollars based on the USDA's findings.

Could money raised from a snack tax be leveraged into making healthy food cheaper?

“I think people think about snack taxes, but we are still trying to ensure that communities have the ability to enact innovative approaches to promoting healthier diets too. You could certainly use money from a junk food tax to reduce the price of healthier food” said Madsen.

There is a precedent example of using taxes on something "bad" for doing good. For instance, money from the tobacco tax is being used in California to fund First 5, a crucial government program that supports early childhood development.

However, both Madsen and Bhattacharya agree that a broader strategy is needed to address the obesity epidemic. “Unless the approach to the obesity epidemic is comprehensive, it’s hard to push back,” explained Bhattacharya. “If you go with the flow, it’s easy to eat poorly. We have to change that. We have to change it so that you have to think hard to get junk food. It used to be that price would do that, but price doesn’t do that anymore.”

Madsen agrees. “Making healthy food cheap is the solution," she said.

But, Madsen also adds, “Rather than thinking about how to expand WIC and SNAP, I would rather see everyone have a living wage. Having a sustainable wage ensures more dignity. “

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Actor and former 'GMA' contributor Cameron Mathison reveals tumor growing inside his kidney for 10 years or more

FILE photo - choja/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Actor, host and Good Morning America contributor Cameron Mathison revealed earlier this week that doctors found a 4.2 centimeter mass on his right kidney.

In a new interview with GMA, Mathison spoke about his upcoming surgery and how this tumor could have been growing for 10 years or more inside his kidney.

The host said the mass "is consistent with renal cell carcinoma."

"I'm just standing there and thinking to myself, I know this is just one of those dreams," Mathison said about the moment he got the news from his doctor.

But it wasn't a dream and he also admits he didn't know "if this was a death sentence."

"I called my wife," he said of the first thing he did after getting the news. "First thing out of her mouth, which is amazing to me is, 'We got this, we're going to beat it.'"

The MRI results came after years of abdominal pain and doctor visits trying to figure out what was wrong. He now urges everyone to take control of their health.

After the tumor was discovered, doctors also told Mathison they believe the mass was growing inside his kidney for 10 years or possibly longer. Amazingly enough, the tumor hasn't spread.

"I don't drink, eat incredibly healthy, I eat a very low sugar, low carbohydrate diet typically," he explained. "Things that likely in our best guess have have helped it from spreading, and growing even quicker."

Mathison is set to have surgery Thursday to remove the mass.

"We might be taking a kidney outta your body," he says doctors told him, depending on the surgery results.

After the interview, Dr. Jennifer Ashton said in Mathison's case, "Always trust your body."

While insurance and costs might make it hard for a doctor to send you for an MRI or another test right away after your first visit, no one knows your body better than you.

"The key is making the diagnosis as early as possible," she added.

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