Daily Rounds: Medical Errors Rising; Cancer Stem Cells Unveiled; Gluten-Free Nation; Romney Likes Israel (And Its Governmnent-Heavy Health Care)

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More Treatment, More Mistakes (The New York Times) — "In a recent anonymous survey, orthopedic surgeons said 24 percent of the tests they ordered were medically unnecessary. This kind of treatment is a form of defensive medicine, meant less to protect the patient than to protect the doctor or hospital against potential lawsuits. Herein lies a stunning irony. Defensive medicine is rooted in the goal of avoiding mistakes. But each additional procedure or test, no matter how cautiously performed, injects a fresh possibility of error. CT and M.R.I. scans can lead to false positives and unnecessary operations, which carry the risk of complications like infections and bleeding. The more medications patients are prescribed, the more likely they are to accidentally overdose or suffer an allergic reaction. Even routine operations like gallbladder removals require anesthesia, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke."

New Evidence That Stem Cells Spur Cancer Growth (The Boston Globe) — "Three independent teams of researchers, working in mice with different types of cancers or precancerous tumors, have used new genetic techniques to find populations of stem cells that cause tumors to grow. In one case, researchers were able to show that treating glioblastoma, a deadly brain tumor, with a commonly-given chemotherapy leaves behind those rare cells, which spark regrowth of the tumor. “What these three papers have done, through elegant strategies, is demonstrate, indeed there are cancer stem cells,” said Robert Weinberg, a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge and a biology professor at MIT who was not involved in the new studies. “It makes it more and more dificult for people to doubt the existence of cancer stem cells.”

Gluten Danger Puts Schools To Test (The Wall Street Journal) — "Colleges and universities are expanding their efforts to meet the dietary needs of a small but growing number of students who can't tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. Like many restaurants and packaged-food makers, schools are accommodating people with gluten allergies by having chefs use separate cookware or swap out problematic ingredients. But it isn't just a matter of retooling menus: Some institutions are also investing thousands of dollars to revamp dining halls, adding separate eating areas as well as special storage and cooking facilities."

Romney praises health care in Israel, where research says ‘strong government influence’ has driven down costs (Wonkblog) — "He praised Israel for spending just 8 percent of its GDP on health care and still remaining a “pretty healthy nation:” When our health care costs are completely out of control. Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? 8 percent. You spend 8 percent of GDP on health care. And you’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care. 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, let me compare that with the size of our military. Our military budget is 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of GDP. We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to finally manage our health care costs. Romney’s point about Israel’s success in controlling health care costs is spot on: Its health care system has seen health care costs grow much slower than other industrialized nations.
How it has gotten there, however, may not be to the Republican candidate’s liking: Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system."

This program aired on August 2, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.