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Entries in Massachusetts (7)

Monday
Nov122012

Advocates for Assisted Dying Deflated by Massachusetts Defeat

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More than 1.5 million Massachusetts voters said "no" to a ballot measure last week that would have allowed doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, clinching a 51 percent majority.

Jim Carberry might have been one of them, had he not watched his cancer-stricken wife starve herself to death.

Margie Carberry had four surgeries and 44 doses of radiation for a rare spinal tumor before doctors said "there was nothing more they could do."

"By that point, she was just existing," said Jim Carberry of Natick, Mass., recalling the 16-year cancer battle that left his wife unable to walk, talk, eat and even breathe on her own.  "She started seeing the palliative care team at Mass General, as well as a social worker and her minister.  And she told them all on numerous occasions that after our youngest daughter's graduation, she wanted to die."

Margie made it to the graduation ceremony, a milestone she imagined at the time of her diagnosis when her daughters were 2 and 5 years old.  A week later, she decided to die by removing her feeding tube.

"She exercised the only option she had," said Jim of the agonizing process that spanned five weeks in the summer of 2011.  "It was horrendous watching her waste away, having my children watch her waste away.  I decided that if there was anything I could do to help another family avoid this, I would do it."

Jim became a voice for Death With Dignity, a national campaign to let doctors prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients.  Assisted dying laws have already been passed in Oregon and Washington.  And on Nov. 6, the issue was on the Massachusetts ballot as "Question 2."  The measure was met with fierce opposition by religious, medical and disability rights groups.

"I honestly thought we would win," said Jim, who was devastated by the narrow defeat.  "The fact that we lost by such a close margin, and the fact that the other side was funded by some outside groups who really didn't have a dog in this fight, I won't lie, I'm really angry."

One of the groups, the Committee Against Assisted Suicide, argued Question 2 was "poorly written, confusing and flawed," opening the door for depressed patients to take their lives before getting mental health counseling or seeking hospice care.

Assisted dying advocates argue data from Oregon, where the Death With Dignity Act was passed in 1994, refutes concerns about safeguards, and they plan to push for the ballot measure again in 2014.

"The foundation for support has been built, and we'll keep working to make sure voters in Massachusetts and other states get the facts they need for an open and honest debate about Death with Dignity," Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center, said in a statement.

Jim Carberry admits his position on Question 2 was undoubtedly influenced by his personal experience, which he did his best to share in advance of the vote.

"If someone could watch what my family went through all the way to the end and say, 'That's how I want my loved one to pass away,' then there's nothing I can do," he said.  "But anyone who has an iota of compassion in the heart, I can't see them saying that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May082012

The End of the School Bake Sale in Massachusetts?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- When the PTA needs money, when the team needs new gear, when the band needs train fare, many schools turn to brownies and cookies and whatever else parents are willing to bake and sell. 

But a new law in Massachusetts may change that -- it limits access to junk food during the school day, and health officials want it expanded to cover all school activities from bake sales to the football game concession stand.  

Officials say healthy options are needed in a state where a third of school kids are overweight.

Some parents say bake sales fund what taxpayers don't.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov162011

Mass. Passes Transgender Rights Bill

Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- A bill that protects transgender people in Massachusetts from discrimination and hate crimes has been passed in both houses of the state legislature. It's not yet known exactly when Gov. Deval Patrick, who supports the bill, will sign it.

The bill amends the state's nondiscrimination statute and existing hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression. Thirteen other states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar bills.

"Transgender individuals in Massachusetts face unacceptably high levels of violence and discrimination in their daily lives," said state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., a Medford Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. "This bill will extend our statutory civil rights and hate crime protections to the transgender community."

The bill, which was first filed in 2007, drew strong opposition from such groups as the Massachusetts Family Institute -- which "strongly opposes any efforts by political activists to normalize homosexual behavior and all attempts to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics such as skin color," according to its website.

Roughly 33,000 people in Massachusetts identify themselves as transgender, according to an April 2011 study by the Williams Institute.

A 2009 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 97 percent of transgender people reported they were harassed or mistreated at work because of their gender identity or expression. And 47 percent reported they were denied a job or promotion or fired.

Fifteen percent of transgender people reported living on $10,000 or less per year and 19 percent said they have been homeless, according to the survey.

Hate crime statistics suggest transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence than other members of the LGBT community.

The vote came in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week, a statewide event hosted by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. The week closes Nov. 20 with Transgender Day of Remembrance -- a memorial to victims of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov152011

Mass. Transgender Rights Bill Headed for Vote

Steven Errico/Photographer's Choice RF(BOSTON) -- A bill that would protect transgender people in Massachusetts from discrimination and hate crimes could face crucial votes Tuesday in both houses of the state legislature.

The bill would amend the state's non-discrimination statute and existing hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression. Thirteen other states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar bills.

"Transgender individuals in Massachusetts face unacceptably high levels of violence and discrimination in their daily lives," said state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., a Medford Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. "This bill will extend our statutory civil rights and hate crime protections to the transgender community."

The bill, which was first filed in 2007, has drawn strong opposition from groups like the Massachusetts Family Institute -- a non-profit that "strongly opposes any efforts by political activists to normalize homosexual behavior and all attempts to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics such as skin color," according to its website.

Roughly 33,000 people in Massachusetts identify themselves as transgender, according to an April 2011 study by the Williams Institute.

A 2009 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 97 percent of transgender people reported being harassed or mistreated at work because of their gender identity or expression. And 47 percent reported being denied a job or promotion, or being fired.

Fifteen percent of transgender people reported living on $10,000 or less per year and 19 percent said they have been homeless, according to the survey.

Hate crime statistics suggest transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence than other members of the LGBT community. If the bill is passed, perpetrators that target people based on gender identity would face the same penalties as those who target people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.

The vote comes in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week, a statewide event hosted by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. The week closes Nov. 20 with Transgender Day of Remembrance -- a memorial to victims of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep232011

Alarm Fatigue Blamed in Second Death at Boston Hospital

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The death of a 60-year-old patient at UMass Memorial Medical Center raised the alarm on a problem plaguing hospitals nationwide: the many medical machines that beep for attention.

The man, whose name has not been released, died in August 2010 after alarms signaling possible heart and breathing problems went unanswered for nearly an hour, the Boston Globe reported.  His death is the second blamed on so-called alarm fatigue at the Worcester, Mass., hospital in four years.

"Simply adding alarms doesn't make the system safer," said Dr. Richard Cook, a critical care physician and safety expert at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  "In fact, it can make it less safe because there are so many false alarms that people end up not being able to figure out which ones are important."

Alarm fatigue, also dubbed the "cry wolf" phenomenon, is a growing problem in a health care system increasingly reliant on machines.  A stroll down a typical hospital hallway offers a chorus of beeps and buzzers, most of which require no action by hospital staff.

"Each box, each device, each program is claiming the attention of the human operator.  The result is people are confronted with many, many alarms, only a few of which are meaningful or important," Cook said.  "The function of the human becomes to ignore alarms.  And inevitably some get ignored that would have been important to pay attention to."

Cases such as the one at UMass often evoke a wave a finger-pointing.  But Cook said nurses and doctors can't be blamed for missing alarms.

"The current approach is to immediately try to figure out who goofed," he said.  "But it's a pervasive problem in the health care system and it's only getting worse."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug052011

Belief in God May Lower Stress, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BELMONT, Mass.) -- Researchers have found that believing in God may help ward off anxiety, according to HealthDay.

The findings, which were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, were based on two studies conducted at McClean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. The first looked at a group of 332 Christians and Jews who placed trust in a benevolent God and therefore were more at peace with the uncertainties of life.

The second study involved a two-week program intended to raise trust in God among 125 Jews. Researchers found the participants were less worried at the end of the course.

The research was presented at the American Psychological Association in Washington on Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

Children Become Sick After Eating Melatonin-Laced Brownies

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW BEDFORD, Mass.) -- Two Massachusetts towns want to ban Lazy Cakes, brownies that contain melatonin, following reports that they made children sick.

A 2-year-old boy from Arizona had to be hospitalized after he took a few bites of a relative's Lazy Cakes, and fell into a deep sleep.

Melatonin is a brain hormone that controls the body's sleep-wake cycle.  It's relatively safe for adults, but if children consume too much of it they can fall into a sleep so deep that it's difficult to wake them.

Lazy Cakes contain about eight milligrams of melatonin, and experts say a typical dose for many children is about .3 milligrams, and adults don't generally consume nearly the amount present in the brownies.

The mayors of the Massachusetts towns of Fall River and nearby New Bedford want to ban sales of Lazy Cakes, saying the product's packaging -- which includes a cartoon brownie lounging on a bright-purple background -- is too appealing to children.  Baked World/HBB, the Memphis maker of Lazy Cakes, emphasizes that the label states the product is for adults only.

"Most melatonin overdoses in children are not necessarily life-threatening, but they are associated with not only deep sleep but also with nausea, gastrointestinal problems, changes in mood, headaches and other effects," said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, executive dean for children's health at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

Children consuming too much melatonin is a documented problem.  According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, melatonin accounts for more calls to poison centers than any other herb or supplement, and most of the calls involve children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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