Terminal Baby at Center of Treatment Battle Returns to Canada

Photodisc/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- After receiving a tracheotomy at a St. Louis hospital that his native Canadian government denied him, Baby Joseph, the 15-month-old terminally ill infant at the center of an end-of-life debate, has returned to his Ontario home where he is set to spend his remaining days with family.

"The tracheotomy was successful," said the Rev. Frank Pavone of New York City-based Priests for Life, Joseph's medical care at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis. Priests for Life is an organization which lobbies against abortion rights and euthanasia and was active in advocating for Baby Joseph's further treatment in the U.S.

"We were anticipating that he would need to go to an intermediate facility after the procedure but he responded so well that he's been off the machines and breathing tubes completely for a week. He's breathing on his own," he says.

Joseph Maraachli, who has come to be known as "Baby Joseph," was thrust into the forefront of the end-of-life debate in February, when Canadian doctors told his parents, Moe and Nader Maraachli, that their baby's degenerative disease was so bad that no treatment would bring him out of a persistent vegetative state. Joseph suffers from a progressive neurological disease called Leigh Syndrome -- the same disorder that claimed the life of Joseph's then 18-month-old brother eight years ago.

Though health care professionals presented Joseph's parents with a consent form that would allow doctors to take him off life support, the Maraachlis refused to sign the waiver and fought for their son to receive a tracheotomy -- a procedure that would allow them to care for their baby in his final days at home.

For months Baby Joseph's life was literally in negotiations as pro-life advocacy groups fought the Canadian government to allow him the procedure, underscoring the sensitive balance many parents may face between keeping their babies alive as long as possible and pouring money and medical resources into a losing battle.

The case was brought to the Consent and Capacity Board, an independent body created by the government of Ontario, and then a supreme court judge. Both entities ruled that Baby Joseph's breathing tube should be removed. It was only after Priests For Life offered to pay for Baby Joseph's medical costs that the infant was able to get the tracheotomy on March 21. The cost of the jet to the hospital, chartered with Kalitta Air, was donated to the family.

Felicia Cohn, Ph.D., director of medical ethics at the University of California at Irvine, told ABC News that she has been involved in similar conflicts, and an ethical process must be under way to assist both parties.

If conflict arises, a clinical ethicist or an ethics committee may assist in the decision making process. The court is a last resort and is a sign of persistent conflict.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Being Bipolar: Hollywood's Hot New Trend?

Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) -- Addiction is for amateurs. The truly trendy are bipolar. That's meant to be facetious, of course. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that approximately 5.7 million Americans live with according to the National Institute of Mental Health, but one could be forgiven for thinking that the disease wandered onto spring's list of must-haves along with maxi skirts, bellbottoms and the iPad 2.

This week, the teen star Demi Lovato revealed she suffers from bipolar disorder. Last week, the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones announced she recently sought treatment for the condition. Charlie Sheen, who dubbed himself "bi-winning," not bipolar, during his March media spree -- organized a walk for bipolar awareness.

It could be called Hollywood's mental illness. The disease had a hold on actors, singers, writers and artists long before it hit its latest star sufferers. Carrie Fisher, Mel Gibson, and Richard Dreyfuss are a few of the many celebrities who've talked about being bipolar.

"There is such a thing as artistic temperament, and it is related to bipolar disorder," Dr. Igor Galynker, director of New York City's Family Center for Bipolar Disorder, told ABC News. "When people are on the manic side, they can be very creative, productive, sparkling, the center of attention -- a lot of celebrities have that. But the reverse is they are difficult, irritable, they make bad decisions."

Galynker gave Hollywood credit for raising the profile of the disease.

"Bipolar disorder and specifically bipolar II disorder is becoming an almost fashionable diagnosis, and that is not a bad thing at all," he said. "You cannot treat bipolar disorder unless you diagnose it and you cannot diagnose it unless people know about it."

"I think it's a good thing," Kaj Korvela, executive director of Canada's Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorders, told ABC News. But he has reservations.

"We just want to be seen in the best light, and I don't think that march was seen in the greatest light. Especially when Charlie was wearing a hat that said 'I'm Not Bipolar' and standing on a car -- it's suggesting that he's above people with very serious mental health concerns."

"It's people like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Carrie Fisher, who can really address the experience," Korvela said. "Those are the people that express integrity and elegance. We need people like that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sunlight Allergy 'Like Pouring Hot Wax On Your Skin'

Courtesy Craig Leppert(NEW YORK) -- Many people are preparing to spend some time in the spring sunshine. But for one Syracuse University student, it's all fun and games until the sun comes out. Craig Leppert, 20, has a rare genetic disorder, called erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), that makes him allergic to sunlight.

"When I get burned by the sun, it feels a lot like pouring hot wax on your skin, or having your hand cut with a knife and put over a stove," Leppert explained. "It's probably the worst feeling of pain I've ever felt. And I've broken a bone before, and I'd rather break a bone than get burned by the sun."

This week marks National EPP Awareness Week, a time of the year that Leppert often uses to spread the word about the effects of this disease.

"I met a ton of people through Facebook and e-mail who have EPP who see me and my family on TV and they reach out," he said. "They didn't know they had it 'til they saw similar symptoms of what I went through with EPP. So that's kind of a cool thing and to meet people and bounce ideas about EPP off of each other."

EPP is a rare disease. According to the American Porphyria Foundation, an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people suffer from EPP in the United States.

It's so uncommon, in fact, it took Leppert and his family a few years before they discovered his diagnosis. He said he first started exhibiting symptoms when he was 18 months old.

EPP is caused by the body's genetic defect in the enzyme responsible for metabolizing protoporphyrin, a precursor of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transport oxygen. Since people with EPP cannot metabolize protoporphyrin properly, it gets excreted from the red blood cells and ends up in the skin.

"And that's what reacts with sunlight when he goes out into the sun," said Dr. Micheline Mathews-Roth, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. "That [enzyme defect] causes these local reactions of itching and burning. And some people do get skin lesions looking as if they have burned skin.”

Dr. Mathews-Roth has completed a number of studies on EPP throughout the years and said there is not a cure for the disease just yet, although doctors have made some headway in recent years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boy Who Saved Sister With CPR Congratulated by Movie Producer

ABC News(MESA, Ariz.) -- Nine-year-old Tristin Saghin became a hero Sunday when he saved his two-year-old sister using CPR he learned watching the movie Black Hawk Down. The movie's producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, sent Tristin a message Friday via Twitter:

"Very courageous Tristin. All the best to your sister, hope for quick recovery #BlackHawkDown," Bruckheimer wrote.

Tristin's sister, Brooke, is most likely alive today because of her quick-thinking brother. Tristin was visiting his grandmother in Mesa, Ariz., with his family when his sister was found floating in the backyard pool.

"My mom went running outside and saw her floating in the pool," Tristin said.

Brooke had been in the water a couple minutes but was not breathing when she was pulled onto the patio. While his mother and grandmother called for help, Tristin performed CPR on her, and minutes later she was breathing.

In Black Hawk Down, Tristin told ABC News, "they were like pushing on your chest and giving rescue breaths" and that's the technique he used.

Tristin's father, Chris, said they had tried to prevent Tristin from watching the R-rated movie.

"We've tried to turn this movie off 100 times," he said. "He watches these scenes over and over. He dresses up like a medic and he runs around doing these things. We always thought it was so silly but ... that silly movie that cost a few dollars saved our daughter's life."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC Finds Smoke-Free Laws on the Rise in the US

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Smoke-free laws have spread across the U.S. over the past decade and could be adopted throughout the entire country in less than 10 years, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report found that 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted the smoke-free laws -- which apply to all workplaces, bars and restaurants -- within the last 10 years.  Based on the progression, the CDC predicts that by 2020 or sooner, the entire U.S. could be protected by such laws.

Despite the progress, the CDC notes that about 88 million non-smoking Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke annually.

According to the report, seven states -- Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming -- have not adopted any statewide smoking restrictions of any kind.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bayer Responds to Studies Linking Birth Control Pills to Blood Clots

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WAYNE, N.J.) -- Following two studies that claim hormones used in newer birth control pills could put women at a greater risk of developing blood clots, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Inc. -- who had three drugs put into question -- has come out with its response.

In a statement released Thursday after the studies were published, the pharmaceutical company said it "re-affirms that the overall body of available scientific evidence continues to provide support that the risk of developing venous thromboembolism, or blood clots, in women using drospirenone-containing combination oral contraceptives is comparable to other combination birth control pills studied."

The studies found that women who take drospirenone-containing pills, like Bayer's Yazmine, Yaz and Ocella, had a two-to-three-fold increased risk of developing clots compared to levonorgestrel-containing pills.

Bayer contended "that the manner in which the authors applied the study methodology reported in these two publications and the databases used provide less reliable conclusions than are available from existing scientific evidence."

The company also said the findings "do not change the overall assessment about the safety of Bayer's oral contraceptives."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Washington Teen Fakes Pregnancy As Social Experiment

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(TOPPENSIH, Wash.) -- Gaby Rodriguez, 17, shocked her friends, teachers and family when she said she was pregnant.  She surprised them even more when she revealed this week that for six months, she had faked the pregnancy.

"Everybody was just shocked, like speechless," Rodriguez said.

Gaby decided to make her senior year project at Toppenish High School in Washington a social experiment where she pretended to be pregnant.

The straight-A student got the approval of her principal, her mother, her boyfriend and best friend.  They were the handful of people in on the secret.  Six of Gaby's seven siblings didn't know and neither did her boyfriend's parents.

Gaby began the elaborate hoax following Homecoming last October.  She convinced school principal Trevor Greene to let her pursue the project, which she's titled "Stereotypes, Rumors and Statistics."

Gaby started with baggy clothes and eventually fashioned a fake belly out of wire mesh and cotton quilt batting.  The aspiring social worker started taking notes on everything that was said about her.

"A lot of rumors were just that I was irresponsible.  No was bound to happen.  I knew she would get pregnant.  Doesn't she know she just ruined her life," she said.

The struggles of being a teenager with a baby are well documented and they have gotten a lot of attention lately because of the controversial MTV shows Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant.

Gaby had her own dramatic moment more powerful than any TV drama when she revealed the truth to the entire school at an assembly Wednesday.

She passed out notecards with the things that had been said about her and had students read them.

Gaby began by revealing that for months some students had left her feeling alone and ashamed.  Then, she pulled out the stuffing from under her shirt and left an entire gymnasium stunned.

Gaby plans to present her findings to community leaders to help other young women fight stereotypes and find the same quality she discovered along the way -- courage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Research Probes the Safety of Birth Control Pills

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- New forms of birth control may present greater risk of blood clots than earlier types, researchers say.

Two new studies add to the emerging evidence that oral contraceptive pills with a new type of progestin hormone, drospirenone (e.g. Yasmine, Yaz, Ocella), have a greater risk of blood clots than pills containing an older progestogen hormone, levonorgestrel (e.g. Levlite, Levlen). 

Both studies, published online in the British Medical Journal, found a two-to-three-fold increased risk of clots in women who take drospirenone-containing pills as compared to levonorgestrel-containing pills.

Bayer Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Yazmine, Yaz and Ocella, have come under fire in recent years for the safety of the pills.  The company is also facing several lawsuits because of the incidence of blood clots associated with the pills. 

The authors of the studies feel that now is the time for a systematic review on this topic.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Top 15 Least Contaminated Fruits, Vegetables

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to fruits and vegetables, do you know which ones are safe to eat and which ones should be purchased organic because of heavy pesticides?

The Environmental Working Group has done the work for you by compiling a list of the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, called the "Dirty Dozen," and the top 15 least contaminated, or the "Clean 15."

According to EWG, people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the "Dirty Dozen" list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day.

EWG analysts developed this "Guide to Pesticides" based on data from nearly 89,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted from 2000-08 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

'Dirty Dozen'

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell peppers
8. Spinach
9. Cherries
10. Kale/Collard greens
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes (imported)

'Clean 15'

1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mangoes
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potato
15. Honeydew melon

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brewery Introduces Viagra Beer for Royal Wedding Night

Ablestock dot com/Thinkstoc(FRASERBERG, Scotland) -- Scotland's largest independent brewery, BrewDog, has unveiled a limited-edition beer containing herbal Viagra to mark the forthcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29. The beer is called "The Royal Virility Performance."

From vomit bags to Haribo candy, there is certainly no shortage of strange royal wedding memorabilia. But so far, it's possible nothing has come out that will make the queen blush quite like what Scottish brewing company Brew Dog introduced Thursday.

Known for its eccentric brews, Brew Dog has announced a creation made specifically for the royal wedding. It's called "Royal Virility Performance," and it's an India Pale Ale containing herbal Viagra, chocolate, goat weed and a "healthy dose of sarcasm."

There will only be 1,000 bottles of the limited-edition beer available through Brew Dog's website, costing around $16.55 per 330 milliliter bottle.

With three beers creating the same effect as one Viagra pill, the celebration could add up to a pretty penny. Fortunately, a fifth of the proceeds will go to Centrepoint, a charity aiding homeless youth that is supported by Prince William.

In an effort to distinguish itself from other breweries that might be creating special edition beers for the very special occasion, Brew Dog has laced "Royal Virility Performance" with aphrodisiacs to "give the happy couple something extra on their big day," according to the company's website.

The beer ships strictly the day before the royal wedding. To further commemorate the big day, albeit in raunchy fashion, the label of the bottle is decorated with phrases like "Celebrate Big Willy Style," and "Arise Prince Willy."

Brew Dog even went as far as sending Prince William a bottle, according to Metro UK, so that he can appropriately celebrate his big day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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