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Popular Ontario doctor killed in fire

Dr Lee Brown, of Windsor, Ontario (pictured right), in a fire at his home, after he reentered the house just as he and his wife were leaving.

Dr Brown was a 79-year-old family physician who worked both at his own practice and at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital, and still provided house calls to elderly patients.

His family said they believe he turned back in order to get dressed.

Dr Brown's colleagues had nothing but kind words for him, :

"He was the epitome of hard work and dedication," said [Dr. Anthony Glanz, the new president of the Essex County Medical Society], a cardiologist who worked with Brown at Hotel-Dieu. "He never seemed down. He was one of those doctors who always had a cheerful disposition. No matter what was going wrong, he always looked at the bright side."

[Dr. John] Greenaway said Brown would work 12 hours or more on weekdays and seven or eight hours on Saturday and Sunday,

"He never complained about the things that bothered most of us," said Greenaway, an on-call partner with Brown at Hotel-Dieu for the last decade. "He worked hard but always with good humour. He always did a good job and was always reliable. He was a wonderful guy. He was an inspiration to me and others younger than him."

He said Brown's passing will leave many patients without a doctor.

"It's going to take two people to replace him," said Greenaway. "Our problems are getting worse now. He was an amazing man. We've lost a real star."
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Vancouver Island plans clean crack pipe program after new study shows need

Coinciding with the release of from the University of Victoria that found hepatitis C can be transmitted on shared crack pipes, the Vancouver Island Health Authority it will provide clean crack pipe mouthpieces and filters to addicts at needle exchange sites beginning April 1, 2008.

The pipe components will be available in Victoria, Nanaimo (whose town council an identical program), Campbell River and Courtenay, and elsewhere around the Island through the use of mobile units, medical officer of health Dr Murray Fyfe told CanWest News.

The decision is tantamount to a rejection of the recent trend in Canada that has seen Vancouver's Insite safe-injection site under threat of being shut down and Ottawa's mayor's July move to end that city's clean crack pipe program -- not to mention Prime Minister Stephen Harper's persistent denialism of the benefits of harm reduction. I wrote about the Prime Minister's opinion of harm reduction in September.

Stephen Harper's attitude about how society should treat drug addicts was outlined in a 2003 essay he wrote about the Left called "Rediscovering the Right Agenda," published in Report magazine:

"This descent into nihilism... leads to silliness such as moral neutrality on the use of marijuana or harder drugs mixed with its random moral crusades on tobacco. It explains the lack of moral censure on personal foibles of all kinds, extenuating even criminal behaviour with moral outrage at bourgeois society, which is then tangentially blamed for deviant behaviour."

[Dr Keith Martin, a Liberal MP from BC] says Mr Harper's position on substance abuse was the reason he opted not to join the newly formed Conservative Party, though he had been a member of the Canadian Alliance. "I suspect they see [substance abuse] as some kind of personal weakness — that people have a choice," says Dr Martin.
You can read the rest of Mr Harper's article online .


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Nuclear plant to resume producing isotopes

The temporary closure for repairs of the nuclear power plant at Chalk River, Ontario, has been put to an end with the Canadian Parliament's emergency legislation, Bill C-38.

Because the plant is responsible for producing the vast majority of radioisotopes used in diagnostic imaging around the world, the government has decided to permit the reopening of the plant despite the unfinished safety repairs.

Medical tests were already being cancelled in the thousands by the time the Parliament passed Bill C-38 on Tuesday. The Senate ratified it today.

Here's :

News Release

December 13, 2007
For immediate release

Government Emergency Legislation Swiftly Ends Medical Isotope Crisis

OTTAWA - Cancer and cardiovascular patients across Canada and around the world received very good news as the Government's Bill C-38 was approved by the Senate and then received Royal Assent by the Governor General.

This Bill, introduced Tuesday by Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn and Health Minister Tony Clement and approved by the House of Commons, legislates the safe re-opening of the Chalk River nuclear plant. The Chalk River facility, which belongs to Atomic Energy Canada Limited, supplies more than half of the medical radioactive isotopes used around the globe in testing and treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The unexpected extension of the shutdown of the Chalk River plant caused concern amongst medical professionals and patients who required this medical substance.

"Passage of this Bill into law is wonderful news for patients, their families and loved ones," said Health Minister Tony Clement. "Chalk River will be back up and running, producing medical isotopes, in seven to eight days instead of seven to eight weeks."

"The government responded to this situation with action that balanced safety issues at the Chalk River plant with the urgent need to resume the production of medical isotopes." said the Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn. "With the swift adoption of Bill C-38, we have taken decisive and balanced action to protect the health and safety of Canadians."

You can read Bill C-38 online .

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Why you might want to vote for your doctor

Number of physicians in Paul Martin's Liberal minority government, 2003-2006: 4

Average rate of growth of the share of total federal funding represented by science and technology, in budgets 2004 and 2005: 3.85%

Number of physicians in Stephen Harper's Conservative minority government, 2006-2007: zero

Average rate of growth of the share of total federal funding represented by science and technology, in budgets 2006 and 2007: 0.5%

Sources: (PDF); Parliament of Canada; (Liberal MPs/physicians: Keith Martin, Hedy Fry, Carolyn Bennett, Bernard Patry)

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The Rock goes digital

The Rock is going digital.

No, not that Rock (actor Dwayne Johnson, left, who is known mostly for his preening professional wrestling character).

Today's news, rather, concerns The Rock better known to Canadians as Newfoundland & Labrador.

The provincial government it has reached a rate of 95% of diagnostic images available digitally through a province-wide computerized diagnostic imaging system.

Plans for the province's Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) were announced last year. The system cost about $23 million, split by the province's Ministry of Health and the federal agency Canada Health Infoway. The system, according to today's press release, "allows diagnostic images such as X-rays, MRI, ultrasounds and CT scans to be captured, transmitted and stored digitally, and made available to clinicians regardless of where they are located or where the test was conducted."

The press release quotes Canada Health Infoway president Richard Alvarez:

"Achieving such widespread use of electronic digital imaging throughout Newfoundland and Labrador is an incredible achievement benefiting clinicians and especially their patients. Today's announcement means patients from remote areas can benefit from the advice of specialists located far away without the usual delays geography create. This is about increasing access, uncovering efficiencies, and improving access to quality care - regardless of where patiens live."
The Newfoundland release identifies the province as the second in Canada to adopt a province-wide PACS, but it inexplicably fails to mention which province was first: Prince Edward Island.

A couple of years ago, PEI officials were :
"We said, Maybe we can put together a province-wide project'," [Herman McQuaid, director of health informatics for the Department of Health and Social Services of Prince Edward Island] recalls. "The other Atlantic provinces had received some funding, too, but they were not able to complete the agenda."
It seems Newfoundland was up to the challenge, after all -- and PEI will have to stop boasting about its unique success in implementing a digital imaging system.

One aspect of the news that went without mention in today's Newfoundland announcement was the recent turmoil in the province's Eastern Health authority after several high-profile radiological imaging scandals were exposed over the course of the last year. ( about those in NRM's June 15 issue.) In PEI's case, part of the impetus behind the PACS initiative a few years back was to try to retain radiologists in the province and perhaps to attract new ones there. Those are ideas that likely seem very attractive to Newfoundland's health human resources department these days, given the problems the province has experienced in the field lately.

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BC woman files wait times lawsuit

Yet another Chaoulli-inspired lawsuit , this time in British Columbia.

Shirley Healey's legal action, as I reported , has been a long time in the making. When I spoke to some of the people involved in her case there was speculation the complaint might be resolved outside the courts, but that obviously hasn't come to pass.

I can still recall a despondent-sounding Kelowna, BC surgeon named Robert Ellett telling me about Ms Healey's mesenteric ischemia case: "Anyone with blocked arteries is not meant to wait six months to a year. I suggested that with the way things are in Canada, I would go to the States as well."

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Alberta passes Bill 41 despite doctors' pleas

In an last week, the Alberta legislature passed Bill 41, the dreaded legislation that empowers the Alberta government to take over some of the responsibilities of self-regulating professions' governing bodies in an emergency.

Physicians, nurses and pharmacists all opposed Bill 41 vehemently, as did both opposition parties. And although their protestations failed to kill the legislation, several amendments were passed to water down some of the powers granted to the government by the bill. They managed to eliminate the government's power to change professional bodies' codes of ethics, and they gained a stipulation that the Minister of Health must "consult" with the body before taking over its powers.

The Minister of Health, Dave Hancock, with the Edmonton Journal the day before the legislation was voted on.

The is available on the Alberta Legislative Assembly's website, as are the three amendments.

You can read about the events leading up to last week's decision to pass the bill by checking out the articles we've published on the subject over the past couple of months: "," and "Alberta pols take up doctors' cause against Bill 41."

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WHO punishes Times for embargo breach

The World Health Organization has suspended New York Times reporters' privileges to access embargoed media releases for two weeks after the newspaper mistakenly published a short note on an embargoed WHO release in late November.

The offending story, "," reads in full:

Improved routine immunization programs and huge national drives to give children a second dose of the inexpensive measles vaccine have contributed to a stunning 91 percent reduction in measles mortality across Africa, with deaths plunging to 36,000 last year from 396,000 in 2000, the World Health Organization and Unicef reported. Globally in that period, measles deaths fell 68 percent, to 242,000.
In response, the WHO sent out the following email to notify media of the Times' punishment:
Note for the Media WHO/36

30 November 2007


Please note that the New York Times has been suspended from the World Health Organization media distribution list for a period of two weeks, effective immediately, after breaking the embargo yesterday on a story from WHO and other partners.

The story in question, "Sharp drop in deaths from measles reported," appeared on the New York Times website after the reporter participated in an embargoed telebriefing.

After speaking to the reporter and assessing the circumstances surrounding the breach, WHO has decided that a two-week exclusion from our email list is a proportionate sanction. WHO communications staff have been asked not to brief any New York Times reporters during this period on any stories that are scheduled to be released through the WHO email distribution list.

WHO takes embargoes very seriously. Breaches are a violation of this code of honour among journalists and between reporters and their sources. The Organization will determine appropriate sanctions on a case-by-case basis.
Slate magazine's media critic, Jack Shafer, as "silly" and petty.

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Health news update

We here at Canadian Medicine have rounded up some of the most interesting recent health news. Keep reading for updates on schadenfreude, frog eating, the plague, noisy airports and more.

Web of lies
Youtube is rife with anti-vaccination messages, says .

"The green-eyed monster"
(Borat's cousin) on the brain correlates for schadenfreude and gloating. , published in Brain, has a wonderful title:
"The green-eyed monster and malicious joy: The neuroanatomical bases of envy and gloating (schadenfreude)."

Don't let it get you down
We knew severe depression was associated with bone damage and osteoporosis, but a new study found .

A heart-wrenching moral debate
The British allowing lesbian couples to have IVF, with no father. A new proposal would remove wording that requires fertility doctors to consider "the need of that child for a father." During the debate, one Lord had a heart attack and needed resuscitation from a fellow Lord surgeon.

Fundraiser extraordinaire
Liberal MP Belinda Stronach, recently treated for breast cancer herself, for breast cancer reconstructive surgery for the University Health Network.

Say what?
The noise people are exposed to from living near airports .

The straight dope, maybe
One marijuana joint is the equivalent -- in terms of lung damage -- of a whole pack of cigarettes, according to one . One blogger, at Med Journal Watch, , from New Zealand, that estimates the damage at about three to six cigarettes' worth.

Yum yum
A Chinese man solves his intestinal problems by . (Can this possibly be true? Another story, from China, ... Don't miss the photos.)

Gimme a (tax) break
The Canadian GST tax discriminates against publicly funded hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities, .

Killed by a dead mountain lion
An American biologist in early November in Arizona; he apparently contracted it from a mountain lion carcass.

Still hunting
Nazi doctor Aribert Heim , say authorities.

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