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Shamefaced Australian police drop charges against MD terror suspect

Dr Mohamed Haneef, arrested in Australia in connection with a failed car bomb attack in Glasgow earlier this month, .

"On my view of this matter, a mistake has been made," public prosecutor Damian Bugg told reporters.

Dr Haneef is a second cousin of two of the other suspects, Kafeel Ahmed and his brother Dr Sabeel Ahmed. Kafeel, who is alleged to have driven a bomb-laden Jeep into Glasgow's international airport, remains in hospital with severe burns.

The Australian government of putting political pressure on investigators. Police originally charged Dr Haneef with recklessly supporting terrorism because he supposedly provided the attackers with his cell phone SIM card. In fact, the SIM card had been left with Sabeel in Liverpool when Dr Haneef left the UK to practise in Australia, where the card wouldn't have worked.

Photo of Dr Mohamed Haneef: Associated Press

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Indian MD accused of faking immigration medical records

A physician who is under investigation, reports the Vancouver Sun.

The doctor - based in Dehli, India - is a Designated Medical Professional, which means he is accredited by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to perform medical checks on immigration applicants. Patients with some chronic health conditions or with certain infectious diseases can have their immigration applications denied on the grounds that they could endanger Canadians or be an undue burden on our healthcare system.

The investigation stems from the cases of two sick immigrants who were admitted to Canada and found to have obtained false medical records. The Sun claims it is likely that both immigrants are living in British Columbia or the Yukon.

Online DCA peddler shut down

After months of controversy, American FDA officials have finally shut down , a California website operated that sold the drug dichloroacetate (DCA) to cancer patients -- even though its safety or effectiveness have yet to be tested.

Jim Tassano*, a pest-control specialist and the owner of the site, recounts the visit he received from the FDA , which is dedicated to DCA information and discussion:

"Chris [one of the FDA officials]... got to the point and said that we were manufacturing DCA as a cancer cure...
"I explained that we made no claims on the site, no advertising, made no mention that we were offering DCA to treat cancer. Our site does state that it was the same material used in the , but that was all.
"However, they stated what counted was our 'intent.' Since DCA is not an FDA-approved cancer drug, if our intent was to sell it as such, despite the lack of claims or statements, we were in violation."

Kate Law, clinical trial director of Cancer Research UK, couldn't be happier:
"It is important that all new treatments are carefully investigated to make sure they are effective and safe for use in patients. DCA is no exception so we are pleased that the FDA has taken the decisive action to limit the sale of DCA over the internet."

But some of The DCA Site's users are :
"The gestapo tactics used by these "officials" are a crime."
"may karma bite their arses----this isnt nice but i hope they experience the effect of cancer...perhaps then attitudes will change...i wish my illness upon all FDA staff. how dare these {Bleep} take away my hope and personal choice????"
"Has anyone considered contacting the President of the United States?"

Meanwhile, Drs Akbar and Humaira Khan at Medicor Cancer Centres in Toronto . (NRM first covered DCA in April: ".")

*Update -- July 30, 2007: about the FDA shut-down: "I’d hoped they’d ask us to modify it, not close it... Terminally ill people don’t believe the government should be dictating what they put in their bodies."

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Mummified baby baffles Toronto coroner

in the attic of a Toronto home has Ontario's deputy chief coroner Jim Cairns immersing himself in local history. The baby was found wrapped in a copy of the Globe dated September 15, 1925 by a contractor working on the house. A search of property records from that time links ownership of the house to a certain Llewellyn and Della Emily Russell. The Globe and Mail reports that Mrs Russell was in a psychiatric hospital when the house was sold in the forties.

Mummified baby remains are certainly rare, but surprisingly they're not unheard of. "This is the third one I've seen since 1979," Dr Cairns told the Globe. (The last incident was the strange case of , whose baby's mummified remains were found in a locker after Ms Patterson died of cancer -- in 2001.) Dr Cairns went on to explain that bacteria hasn't had time to accumulate in their bowel of babies who die very soon after birth, which reduces the likelihood the body will decompose.

An autopsy is being performed today by forensic pathologist Toby Rose to try to determine the mysterious infant's cause of death.

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RateMDs suicide drama

John Swapceinski, founder of, recently . He was alerted to the threat that appeared on the RateMDs online forum by his erstwhile archenemy, London, Ontario FP Keith Thompson, via the RateMDs forum that had previously served as the venue for .

Dr Keith (July 12, 4:15pm): John: It seems someone named brandylynn has posted a suicide threat here on the forum...Can you trace in anyway or anything you can do to notify the Police...PS this is hopefully not a Troll Joke because if it is its not funny Please help it you can? Dr Keith

Ms77Doodlebug (July 12, 5:09pm): Please respond John!!!

Naly (July 12, 7:34pm): THANK YOU DR. KEITH!!!! I have always learned to take these threats seriously. You may have just saved a life!!! I'm praying you did!

RateMDs John (July 13, 11:14am): I just checked the forum now and am contacting the police. John

RateMDs John (July 13, 1:43pm): The police just called me and said she is alive and well. Good news. John

Ms77Doodlebug (July 13, 1:54pm): Thank you Jesus!! And thank you too John!!

CL (July 13, 2:23pm): I wonder if the press will get a hold of this lol.

Dr Keith (July 13, 6:36pm): John..good for you!Thank you for taking care of this and I hope Brandlynn is OK!Maybe you should leave an emergency pager number in future...just kidding, but honestly that is a little to surreal for me! Dr Keith
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Experts rap about SiCKO; BC woman killed by fake internet meds

Hot off the presses, NRM's contains a compelling . The popular film, an indictment of the American healthcare industry, paints a rosy picture of Canada's universal medicare. Find out if luminaries from both sides of the border buy his claim.

Here's a sample:

What can Canadians learn from SiCKO?
Michael McBane: SiCKO's a wake-up call for Canadians to get real about how private healthcare works. The notion that the private sector is the solution to our wait times is totally blown out of the water in the film.

David Gratzer: Unfortunately, Moore's analysis is so superficial that I don't think Canadians can learn much of substance. As a country lawyer once wrote, people who like this sort of thing will like this sort of thing.

Also in this issue , the BC woman who died from aluminum toxicity after ingesting dodgy meds she bought online.
RCMP and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials cracked the case when they took a look at Ms Bergeron's computer in March. She had been visiting websites that sold unlicensed pharmaceuticals — the kind you often see advertised in spam emails.
Read about like MRSA and E Coli using an old osteoporosis drug.

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Sick & hungry? Go to jail

After the Ontario government raised spending on meals for longterm care residents by $0.11 , the with those in other publicly-run institutions - namely, the province's jails. Here's what they found:

Amount spent daily on food per Ontario inmate

  • Metro Toronto West Detention Centre = $11.02
Amount spent daily on food per Ontario long-term care resident
  • $5.57 (after the $0.11 increase announced July 1)*
Amount spent daily on food per Ontario inpatient
  • St. Michael's Hospital = $8.07
  • University Health Network hospitals = $6.50
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centres = $7.00
The Sun also looked at what's on the menus:


- Tomato soup
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Raw vegetables
- Fruit
- Milk


- 60 grams of hot sliced roast beef
- 200 ml of potato salad
- 250 ml of spinach salad
- Two slices of bread with margarine
- A piece of fruit
- A beverage

*Update -- July 30, 2007: The Ontario government announced yesterday that long-term care residents' food allowances will increase to $7.00 as of September 1, . PC health critic Elizabeth Witmer called the move a "desperate attempt... to buy votes just before an election."

Doctors: See SiCKO free through Thursday!

Tickets to Michael Moore's new healthcare documentary are free for health workers through this Thursday. Just bring your practice permit, licence or registration card with you to a Cineplex, Landmark or Empire theatre and the film's Canadian distributor will cover the cost. ()

“We’re pleased to be able to both give the opportunity for more people to see this remarkable movie and to say thank you to the healthcare community for their important contribution to the well-being of all Canadians,” said Jim Sherry, Executive Managing Director of Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution.

Check out NRM's discussion of the film with banter from Canada's favourite private health renegade Jacques Chaoulli, Ontario health minister George Smitherman's righthand man Adalsteinn "Steini" Brown and others.

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EU ransoms Libyan-accused MD, nurses

The European Union has paid Libya .

The six were sentenced to death in 2004 for deliberately infecting 400 Libyan children with HIV. They deny the charges. The EU compensation package amounts to $1 million for the family of each child.

Libyan leader (pictured left with French president Nicholas Sarkozy) is said to have agreed to the deal to improve economic relations with Europe.

. "There's no doubt that the children were infected because of inadequate hospital sterilization," testified Dr Luc Montagnier, the co-discoverer of the HIV virus.

Photo from

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The decrepitude of modern geriatrics

Canada's elderly population is growing, but geriatricians remain few and far between. There are only 200 geriatricians in the country, and applications to geriatrics training programs are dwindling. “Now this is a problem because that is the future of health care in Canada. And so there is a bit of dichotomy between what students want to do and what the needs of our society are,” .

Where have all the geriatricians gone?

The New Yorker's Dr Atul Gawande . His explanation applies equally well to Canada:

Applications to training programs in adult primary-care medicine are plummeting, while fields like plastic surgery and radiology receive applications in record numbers. Partly, this has to do with money—incomes in geriatrics and adult primary care are among the lowest in medicine. And partly, whether we admit it or not, most doctors don’t like taking care of the elderly.

“Mainstream doctors are turned off by geriatrics, and that’s because they do not have the faculties to cope with the Old Crock,” Felix Silverstone, the geriatrician, explained to me. “The Old Crock is deaf. The Old Crock has poor vision. The Old Crock’s memory might be somewhat impaired. With the Old Crock, you have to slow down, because he asks you to repeat what you are saying or asking. And the Old Crock doesn’t just have a chief complaint—the Old Crock has fifteen chief complaints. How in the world are you going to cope with all of them? You’re overwhelmed. Besides, he’s had a number of these things for fifty years or so. You’re not going to cure something he’s had for fifty years. He has high blood pressure. He has diabetes. He has arthritis. There’s nothing glamorous about taking care of any of those things.”

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Docs dis Dr Hershberg's EMR

Dr Melissa Hershberg’s , a "web-based patient record created by doctors for doctors," is receiving :

  • "She's a 29-year-old physician in Toronto who has already published a diet book and now has written a web-based EMR that she wants to give away for free. I'm feeling a little inadequate."
  • "Exciting. A new EMR. Canadian at that. Fatal flaw for the doctor -- no visit templating! OUCH!"
  • "The amount of work to keep this up precludes its use. The labs would need to be keyed in manually. The idea here is the slave family doctor is supposed to maintain this online CPP [cumulative patient profile]. That aint going to happen."

  • "Patients reading their own summary? I'm not a fan. At a minimum I need to diagnose patients with things they don't want to hear. When I have 'Query OCD' in your chart, that is important to me. The patients have no business knowing I think they may have OCD. It is not helpful for them to know."

  • "I really don't like the name. It sounds like something you stick your feet in, not an EMR."

. Here's what she had to say:
"My incentive for creating it is it will be free for physicians to use. Right now lots of FPs are pressured to go to e-charting, and they'll have to put thousands of dollars into it. I don't think it's fair to make doctors pay all this money to have a better practice management tool. [...]

"The initial goal was to create something for the patient — they don't remember all their meds, they don't carry copies of EKGs, they don't remember their whole past medical history — but I think that is sort of creative thinking to incentivize GPs. Doctors need to be rewarded rather than told to spend $25,000 to get a system — that's backward."

Are you ready for Robodoc?

The CBC recently ran an .

(: "You mean my family physician ISN'T a robot? He is so rude and cold, I thought for certain... ")

The article includes a mention of Halifax's Dr Ivar Mendez, whose use of a remote-control robot for patient care was :

"It was just like regular rounds," he beams. "I was on the other side of the Atlantic and controlling the robot in real time. It was wonderful to be able to see my patients while I was away, and my patients were happy to see me." [...]

The robot makes friends wherever it goes, it seems. "There is a total acceptance of the robot by the nurses, for example," says Dr Mendez. "The robot doesn't get any special attention. It walks through the wards and people have gotten completely used to it."

Background checks worsen MD shortage

Tightened, post-9/11 immigration and work visa regulations .

"The consensus seems to be that if you have a first name like Mohammed, you can forget it," Indian-born New Orleans internist Dr Sanjay Chaube told the Associated Press.

Could the same thing happen in Canada, especially in light of the allegedly carried out by physicians?

Mayor high, reporters smokin' after pipe program nixed

He came, he saw, he mothballed.

Ottawa's new mayor
Larry O'Brien vowed to scrap the city's crack kit distribution program when he was elected last November. .

"I don't mind being the mayor of a city [that] draws a line in the sand -- this has got to stop," he told reporters. "Even the crack addicts themselves are laughing us [sic]."

The program, which had been running since 2005, distributed crack pipe kits (which included heat-resistant glass pipes, filters and condoms) to addicts in the city. Proponents say it's reduced needle use in Ottawa and is therefore an effective way to prevent the spread of diseases like AIDS and hepatitis C. Similar programs exist in other Canadian cities including Vancouver, home of the even more controversial InSite safe injection site.

No one would deny that this story deals with a very serious public health and safety issue: drug addiction. But it is, after all, the silly season in terms of news coverage. The crack teams that people the nation's newsrooms took inspiration from the plight of Ottawa's substance abusers to engender an array of sparkling, UK tabloid-esque headlines.

Or maybe they just let the summer interns loose at the copy desk...

At any rate, here are our picks for the Top 3 crack pipe program headlines of the summer of 2007:

The Winnipeg Sun wins hands down with this puntastic double whammy.

2. (tie)

CTV and the CBC get a 10 for wordplay but a big fat 0 for originality.


Local Ottawa talk radio station CFRA gets top marks for this nice concise header that doesn't take up much air time.

Not to be outdone, we at NRM felt moved to pen our own punful headlines. Here's what we came up with:

Safe crack program nixed, no solution in the pipeline

Addicts fall through the cracks after pipe program cancelled

Ottawa mayor exhales with relief as crack pipe program scrapped

Think you've got a better headline? Add yours in the 'Comments' for this post.

Or, do you think journalists are addicted to puns and should stop making light of serious public health issues? Let us know.