Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Life/Impending Death

"When I got the news, I didn't think they were talking about me.It didn't seem like life or death at that point."
"All my symptoms seemed to progress more quickly. It was as if my body had been given permission to fall apart."
"There isn’t a single test for ALS, how it’s diagnosed is the process of elimination. So basically from that point they began testing me over the span of about two months: blood, urine, MRIs, CT scans, trying to rule out any potential tumors or Lyme disease or lead poisoning, HIV, the whole gamut of potential neurological diseases."
"The last 20 years I’ve focused on one sole trade, and that’s metal working. I just loved it from the moment I tried it, from that moment I knew exactly what I’d found and I thought it was the best thing ever, such a good use of your energy."
"Losing all strength in my hands and arms to begin with and not being able to create in a medium that I’m familiar with feels kind of like you’re choking basically. You have stuff you want to get out there but you have no avenue to express it. You have no avenue for output."
"In the 20 years that I’ve been welding, I’ve basically wanted to keep going from one thing to the next. Welding and work was my one true love for sure. Just go, go, go, I loved it. I was making money and I was creating and the shop is right there… And I’m not doing that anymore."
"I’ve let my work speak for me my whole life, and I’ve never wanted to be in the limelight, so I was reluctant of Peter’s initial request but basically, as the video says, I’m in need of some help from my friends and that’s where this real idea of community and rallying around someone seemed so appealing to me."
Alan Gustafson, 38, Ottawa
Video thumbnail for Alan Gustafson: The best and worst news all within one month
Still from video

"[Al] is the most helpful guy you will ever meet. Now, he can't lift a glass of water. It's pretty sad."
"[The fundraising support from the community has been] absolutely incredible. He's not one to ask for a handout."
"He had been keeping this secret for two weeks trying to come to grips and this was the moment where he was like ‘OK I can’t keep it in any longer’ …We basically sat on my front porch and he told me through heavy tears that he’s been diagnosed with ALS and he did not have long to live."
"People dream of a response like $50,000. It is incredible. People heard [about Alan] and they all jumped in. There are local artisans that are donating a percentage of their sales to Al and his family. There are people that don’t have a job right now and they still donated, and there were people who didn’t even know Al and were still moved by the story that they donated. I’m just blown away by how many people care so much about this guy and his family."
Peter Joynt, Gustafson friend, Ottawa

Al Gustafson's imagination could never have foretold in his wildest nightmare, just as he and his wife were expecting their first child, that he would not be around to help to raise the little boy. He will be with him in his early formative years, no longer. So, he is doing what he can, treasuring this brief time that fate has given him to share life with a loving wife and a child their union brought them. That time really is brief. Not for him the reprieve given by nature to the world's most famous ALS sufferer.

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins was diagnosed with the dread amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease (often known as Lou Gehrig's disease) when he was only 21, and the expectation that he had only four more years at most to live was confounded by the reality that he is now 73 years old. His neurological deterioration had been slow. Not so for Alan Gustafson. He was being nagged by an unusual feeling in his neck and his arm which he attributed to a back problem. So he went for a medical diagnosis.

It took six months of tests and verification for the diagnosis to be delivered. And it was a stunner. He was given the facts, that his voluntary muscle movement was impaired by the onset of ALS which would eventually completely paralyse him, resulting in respiratory failure, and he might have between three to five years to live. A month after that diagnosis, he and his wife Jessica had good news; the birth of their child. Meanwhile, his neuron-motor ability to function swiftly deteriorated.

In six months' time from the diagnosis the use of his hands and arms have been denied him. He is only able to shuffle short distances on his own; mobility compromised. And he can no longer work. His wife is self-employed as a consultant, with no benefits. The expenses for home modification, electric wheelchair and an accessible van created vast difficulties for the young family. And this is where his lifelong friend Peter stepped in.

To create a fundraising on behalf of his old friend. A website to raise funds for the family which was initiated in September with the hope that $20,000 might be donated over a six month period. To their amazement it took two days to achieve that hoped-for amount. In two months' time the total had risen to $100,000 and the total now stands over that, while the revised hoped-for final total is now $150,000. 

Alan Gustafson and his son Harvey. Photo by Ellen Bond
Alan Gustafson and his son Harvey. Photo by Ellen Bond

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Confusing Right-Left Directionally

"[In medicine], laterality errors have the potential to lead to devastating consequences. Some of the most infamous errors in medicine have been wrong-sided surgery -- the wrong kidney taken out, or the wrong side of the brain operated on."
"I want to reassure you, it doesn't happen that often. But this [right-to-left confusion] is seen to be one of the many potential contributing issues for these pretty catastrophic events happening."
Dr. Gerard Gormley, academic, Queen's University, Belfast
Dr Gerard Gormley, of Queen's University Belfast, says almost a fifth of college professors and more than a quarter of college students have difficulty quickly identifying right from left
Dr Gerard Gormley, of Queen's University Belfast, says almost a fifth of college professors and more than a quarter of college students have difficulty quickly identifying right from left
"The [driving] instructor says, 'Make a right turn here', and they immediately get confused."
"Difficulties in telling right from left can impact how children learn and pick up different skills."
"When you look at a chest X-ray, you still have to mentally rotate it from one side to the other. The fluid can be on the left side of the X-ray, but it's actually on the patient's right side."
"We don't have all the answers. But it's a ripe research area."
Neuroscientist Eric Chudler, University of Washington
Previous research found when medical students were distracted by the noise of a ward and clinical questions, their ability to make right-left judgments was thrown off
Previous research found when medical students were distracted by the noise of a ward and clinical questions, their ability to make right-left judgments was thrown off

Dr. Gormley, considered a leading figure in the research into right-left confusion, is often cited by researchers studying a phenomenon affecting up to twenty percent of people who are normal neurologically in all other respects. From his research he has ascertained that left-handed people seem more prone than those who are right-handed, to right-left confusion, as are women, from the frequency of their reporting the problem affecting them.

It is not just people of average intelligence who are affected by this dysfunction, but Mensa members known for their elevated intelligence quotients as well also report "right-left directional sense" to be poor, or below average. The events alluding to medical mishaps of grave dimensions mentioned by Dr. Gormley occur frequently enough that hospitals routinely have surgeons go through "checklists" before an incision.

Anyone who has been on an operating gurney lately may be familiar with the routine; the doctor accompanied by a nurse asks questions of the patient while consulting the patient's chart and his own notes in a patient-folder, to ensure that they know which eye or  which shoulder is to be operated on. And then they take the further precaution of marking the correct side directly with marker on the correct hip, leg or other body part.

Children, pointed out Dr. Chudler, who have the problem will experience difficulty in picking up rules of games, as well as how to follow directions, or learning how to tie their shoelaces. A new study by Dr. Gormley was reported involving medical students with reference made to an online right/left confusion test which Dr. Chudler had created. The site experienced so many hits it crashed; 38,483 people took the test.

The disorder is described as a "complex, neuropsychological process" which involves memory and the capacity to process visual information. Spatial awareness and mental rotation; the ability to rotate three-dimensional objects in space mentally is part of the higher brain function involved. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association focused on a procedure to drain fluid from around the lungs; viewed by a specialist it requires a mental right-left reversal.

It is similar to facing someone and identifying the fact that your right is their left and vice versa.

Some of the studies in the field lead to brain symmetry; where most people have a level of asymmetry, one brain hemisphere being slightly larger than the other. The greater the symmetry, however, the greater the likelihood of right-left confusion, suggests some brain imaging studies. And though there is yet to be a consensus on whether women are more susceptible than men, women do tend to have more symmetrical brains than men.

A study published by Dr. Gormley with 290 first-year medical students concluded that male students were superior at distinguishing right from left than female students, while other studies found no significant connection between gender and directional confusion "We still haven't got to the bottom of it", admits Dr. Gormley whose latest research indicates that when people are distracted, the opportunity of making a right-left error is enhanced.

Some people resort to wearing their watch on their left wrist to remind themselves which wrist is left, which is right; little tricks of this nature can be useful to people who need constant reminding.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Right Place, Wrong Time

"About a month ago, I fainted when I stood up in a hot bath, fell and hit my head leading to another brain injury. I'm getting a tiny bit better ever day but it's been a slow go."
"I'm on indefinite bed rest and I admit it was frightening for me to have to cancel everything. It's hard to hear that lying in bed is somehow going to help in the long run when you know your family needs you now."
"But my body has slowed me down against my wishes and this time instead of pushing against it, I took a leap of faith. I am resting and my family and friends have been my saviours."
Kellylee Evans, Ottawa jazz singer, Juno Award winner
Kellylee Evans
Ottawa jazz singer Kellylee Evans is the focus of a gofundme fundraiser after a head injury left her bedridden and unable to perform. (Ottawa Sun File photo)
This entertainer's tours abroad are on hold for now. Her role as mother to three young children has been placed in abeyance. Her professional career will wait. She has suffered an experience whose outcome has been to outline how fragile we are in our oblivion respecting the harm that may be done when ordinary, everyday events intersect with phenomenona whose impact on us we rarely suspect could be capable of sidelining our lives for significant periods.

In June of 2013 Kellylee Evans was busy at her kitchen sink. Holding a wet sponge, standing at the sink while an electrical storm raged outside her kitchen window, and she standing directly before it. The wet sponge touched the kitchen sink, like many such sinks, a metal one. Lightning struck, probing its route through the plumbing of her house, and it sought her out, a heedless victim.

"There was a flash, I could feel a surge go through me, you could feel this energy, everything seemed to stop. The rumbling thunder was immediate . . . I knew I had been hit."  Who might begin to guess that a bolt of lightning could invade a home and search out a link, transforming someone's life? "It was just bang, this huge jolt. Like the biggest carpet shock you've ever had. I screamed and everyone came running."

Her husband, her children, all responded. But there was no visible sign that she had been harmed. And after the initial shock had passed, it was assumed that there was no harm done. She slept that night a straight twelve hours. And then she felt a "fluttering or racing" of her heart accompanied by a loss of sensation on the left side of her body. And her memory seemed impacted; she experienced difficulty forming sentences, was slightly dizzy with laboured breathing and found it difficult to speak.

"A singer needs her breathing . . . she needs her voice. That’s all there is to it", she said shortly after the event. All these symptoms mandated a trip to hospital. An MRI disclosed nothing awry. Her "breath issues", said the doctors, likely resulted from her chest muscles tightening in reaction to the lightning shock. She went from using a wheelchair to the use of a cane to get around. And then the symptoms gradually dissipated.  And she resumed her normal lifestyle. 

Until three months ago when she suffered a concussion when she fainted getting out of a hot bath. And that is when her doctor stepped in to inform her that she would be best off voluntarily bedridden until she fully recuperated. "Her doctor insisted she cancel all tour dates and has instructed her to be on bed rest indefinitely. She's been told to keep her eyes closed and not look at a computer, so working from her bed is not an option for proper healing", explained her friend, Toronto singer Amanda Martinez.

Who started a crowdfunding webpage on Ms. Evans's behalf, with a goal of raising $30,000 to enable the now-single-mother to cover expenses for groceries, shelter and medical requirements. As of this day the goal has almost been achieved.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

With Profound and Fond Regrets

Celebrants at St. Matthias together in the church chancel for the Reverend Canon John Wilker-Blakley's homily on Christmas Day.
Celebrants at St. Matthias cozied together in the church chancel for the Reverend Canon John Wilker-Blakley’s homily on Christmas Day

 With Profound and Fond Regrets

"There's an aging infrastructure here that needs work. You can hear the gurgling in the heating system that needs attention, and there's water seepage in the basement that needs attention. We're not handicapped-accessible, and that needs attention."
"We could fix all of that, or we could choose to worship with our brothers and sisters down the street, and instead put that money into ministry."
"For a parish that was looking at the end of its own existence, to take that on because we believed it was the right thing to do, in spite of our troubles, is a strong testament to the courage and faith that lives in this community."
"The one that causes real heartache is in some way we may be betraying our forebears [by leaving]. How can we let it go? But the answer is simply, they would have done the same."
Reverend Canon John Wilker-Blakley, St.Matthias Anglican Church
Three of the church buildings that the congregation of St. Matthias has called home throughout the years. Due to declining numbers, the congregation will merge with a Westboro parish in the new year.
Three of the church buildings that the congregation of St. Matthias has called home throughout the years. Due to declining numbers, the congregation will merge with a Westboro parish in the new year. (St. Matthias Anglican Parish)

"It takes me 20 minutes to walk here from home, 25 minutes to walk to All Saints Westboro, and 30 minutes to walk to the cathedral. So that tells you how over-churched we are  [in the community]."
"I mean, I have three churches -- three Anglican churches -- within a half-hour's walk."
Sylvia Shortliffe, area resident, Parkdale, Ottawa

"...We were married here, so we return on special occasions [though the family lives in another parish]. "
"It's sad to see it close. It's a beautiful building, and the wonderful people here have always been welcoming."
Todd Overtveld, Orleans
st matthias anglican church closing
St. Matthias Anglican Church will be closing in the new year as the congregation merges with another church in Westboro. (Google Street View)

The church has been operating for some time at a deficit. Despite which the decision could have been made to allow it to continue for another five or even ten years. Instead, the decision was taken that its ministry operations were more vital to the spirit of the faith. And so, the the church is set to close and instead funding will be diverted to supporting food programs, lunch clubs, refugee sponsorships, shelters and other similar enterprises reflecting Church values.

St. Matthias Anglican Church on Parkdale Avenue is lamentably but willingly prepared to shutter its doors. Because of steeply declining attendance it has been decided that its final service is to take place on February 7. On March 2nd, the building is scheduled for deconsecration. St. Matthias's members have been cordially invited to attend services at All Saints Anglican church on Richmond Road, a veritable stone's throw away.

The church is large, built to accommodate at least six hundred congregants. St. Matthias has been the spiritual home of area residents for the past 127 years. So it will be with sorrow that it is destined to disappear from the area. The future of the site on which it stands is unknown, but the area Anglican diocese will make the determination of what will replace it. Whether it can be turned to use as an arts and community centre, or destroying the building and erecting in its stead, a residence for seniors.

It is a painful issue that has bemused and troubled other congregations elsewhere in the near past, and one which will continue to raise the attention of those who lament the passage of time and a dwindling church attendance from among the larger population.  On Friday, parishioner attendance was so sparse that people took their seats in the chancel, where the choir is accustomed to being accommodated; a mere few dozen of the faithful.

Christmas Eve service brought out a tad over two hundred people. An additional 80 arrived for an earlier service on Thursday. The 8:00 p.m. service was attended by a larger group than the Reverend Canon John Wilker-Blakley has greeted in two years. There is little doubt that regret and wistful memories brought out a few more congregants than had bothered attending in the last decade. Attendance tends to average around 75, noted the pastor.

The last song whose melody floated throughout St. Matthias in its final Christmas Day service happened to be Joy to the World. And that is how the congregants preferred to look on the decision that has stirred their memories of earlier times of familial church attendance during this one signal time of the year.

Bryan Bondy preaches to about two dozen parishioners at St. Matthias' Anglican church on Parkdale Ave. Friday's was the final Christmas Day service at the church, which is slated to be closed in the new year. Bruce Deachman / Ottawa Citizen

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Friday, December 25, 2015

A Life Enhanced by Medical Science

"He was hiding in his apartment with heavy blankets over his window. He was afraid to look outside. The world didn't look like it was supposed to."
"It's a pretty amazing thing to do. To give someone sight after 60 years, then leave him on his own.  It was fascinating to watch him learn to see. He was on another planet."
Dave Brown, Columnist, December 26, 1996

"I prayed for years and years. God sent me a miracle. He knew it would take time for me to get used to it [having eyesight]. It's OK now. It's His Christmas present to me."
Donald "Red" Wellington, Ottawa

"He kind of latched on to me. He said he wanted to meet all the guys from the ball team."
"He'd tell me stories and I'd wonder, 'How did you do all this, Red [without eyesight]?" But I'd check them out and they'd be true [stories]."
"It was a miracle. It [lens implants] gave him back 15 years of enjoyment and getting around."
"[Up to then] he only knew me by my voice."
Mike Meehan, friend
Mike Meehan first met Red Wellington who had been legally blind from birth, at a charity event that took place on New Year's Day of 1986. It was a softball game played to raise funds for the Shepherds of Good Hope, an Ottawa non-profit organization whose singular mission is to give service and hope to those in need.

Donald “Red” Wellington went blind at the age of five and remained that way for 61 years 
until artificial lens implants regained his sight at the age of 66. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN
Donald "Red" Wellington, was born in 1929 to a family of five children. Back then his blindness was an impediment that ensured he could go no further than Grade 8. But he found employment doing odd jobs for people who saw the quality in the man and had trust in his ability and willingness to work for a living. He was also a fan of competitive sports.

The sight he was born with enabled him, if he held something inches from his face, to make out what they were; his own hands, for example. He was born with elongated eyeballs, able to see outlines without colour, let alone any detail. And in 1996 eye surgeon Dr. Steven Gilberg implanted plastic lenses for Mr. Wellington to enable him, after a lifetime of blindness, to finally see.

This was no ordinary type of plastic, it was a type called PMMA, material that had been used for windscreens of the Spitfire fighter plane. Pilots of those Spitfires during the Second World War sometimes had shards from the shattered windscreens embedded in their eyes, surprising doctors who could see how well eyes tolerated the presence of the plastic. And a brave new world of sight was born.

To celebrate his newfound eyesight, friends of Red Wellington threw a party. His surgery became news, and the media arrived at the party. They were informed that if they couldn't take photographs without camera flashes, they were off limits, since the powerful light affected his vision for days after exposure to those bright flashes.

It took him quite a while to become accustomed to sight. For one thing, blind from birth, his imagination supplied him with images of how places and people looked, based on what he felt in tactile touching and what he heard in voices speaking. He was surprised at how different familiar places and familiar faces looked, compared to how he had imagined them to be.

After a lifetime of visual darkness, the sudden exposure to a world of light, colour, movement, form and details, overwhelmed him. "My eyes are too powerful", he explained.

Mr. Wellington died at age 86, on November 9 at a seniors' residence he had moved to a few years earlier. His health had begun to deteriorate. His old friend Mr. Meehan, who continues his visits to seniors' homes to entertain residents, once had promised his friend Red that at Red's own memorial service he would sing the gospel song It's No Secret (What God Can Do.

And he did precisely that.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Most Despicable Bachelor in the World?

"If there was a company that was selling an Aston Martin at the price of a bicycle, and we buy that company and we ask to charge Toyota prices, I don't think that that should be a crime."
"This drug was doing $5 million in revenue. And I don't think you can find a drug company on this planet that can make money on $5 million in revenue. Most costs are much higher than that."
Martin Shkreli, CEO, Turing Pharmaceuticals
Martin Shkreli, seen here in an August Twitter post, had aggressively answered critics
He considers himself a cool, hip, genius entrepreneur, bold and authentic, his skills honed to increase capital at an astounding rate. At the tender age of 32 his clever manipulations have allowed him to stand out in an era of hedge fund investment riches, with his aura of unstoppable success. He hasn't been averse to applauding his talents and his persona on Twitter, promoting himself as "the world's most eligible bachelor".

Obviously, he has never heard that old adage that pride goeth before a fall, and if he had by chance, he would never, clearly make the connection with his particular type of hubris and the rare possibility that he might fail in any enterprise he undertook to be involved in. But then, there's the little matter of going afoul of the law, and while arousing anger in a public averse to outstanding examples of preying on the helpless is one thing, illicit enterprise is another altogether, calling on the law to bite.

The world's most eligible bachelor who also happens coincidentally to be a contemptible figure of greed, has pleaded not guilty to charges  involving illegal activities at pharmaceutical company Retrophin Inc. where he was the chief operating officer until a year ago. He is accused of running a "Ponzi-like scheme", losing investors' money through a series of bad trades, compensating by raiding the company to the tune of $11-million in cash and stock, thus paying back his clients.

Martin Shkreli, chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, exits federal court in New York, US, on Thursday, December 17, 2015. Shkreli was arrested on alleged securities fraud related to Retrophin Inc., a biotech firm he founded in 2011.  Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hubris goeth before bail set at $5-million. No problem, readily accessible. Validating, however, his exalted status.

Charged with securities fraud and conspiracy, he is accused of having "engaged in multiple schemes to ensnare investors through a web of lies and deceit", a statement by U.S. attorney Robert Capers stated. He has a partner in this crime, charged with conspiracy, who also pleaded not guilty. Each of these sterling members of elite corporate society could face up to twenty years in prison. But they're not likely to.

Wealth and connections equal leverage.

What has left a foul odour in the nostrils of people who follow this man's investment adventuring is a drug price hike that left the medical community gasping in disbelief, and which made him a subject of grim humour as a heartless money-grubber. Ridicule and threats came his way in equal measure. There are just some cold-hearted choices people make that turn observers' stomachs, and this man certainly made his share of enemies.

Several months back people were outraged to learn that his company had acquired the rights to a drug that has been around for over half a century. That drug, Daraprim, has proven to be the most successful treatment for a fairly rare parasitic infection, toxoplasmosis. Those with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients, rely on the drug whose modest cost was $13.50 a dose.

And then As CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, with the rights to produce the drug, he decided to raise its price to $750 each pill, representing an increase stratospherically of 5000%, making it virtually unaffordable for the only people who require its use. Those people? Pregnant women, cancer and AIDS patients. He argued that the original price did nothing to account for production costs for a highly specialized drug.

Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Daraprim in August

After a public outcry and pressure from politicians who condemned the decision on Daraprim, and after his explanations for his reasons to raise the price of the drug had failed to still the outrage, Mr. Shkreli backtracked, assuring his critics that the company was prepared to cut the price of Daraprim. What he did do is reduce the price charged to hospitals by up to fifty percent, which still left the drug unaffordable.

Named as chairman and CEO of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, a cancer drug developer, that pharmaceutical's stock fell by over half before trading in the already-struggling company was suspended on news of criminal fraud charges and his arrest.

How now for the most eligible bachelor in the world?

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Eat To Live : Do Not Live To Eat

"Unfit normal-weight individuals had a 30 percent lower risk of death from any cause than did fit obese individuals."
"These results suggest low BMI [body mass index] early in life is more important than high physical fitness, with regard to reducing the risk of early death."
Professor Peter Nordstrom, Umea University, Sweden

"This is something that really shouldn't be a debate of one versus the other."
"It's clear that both fitness and fatness are important. It's definitely good to be as fit as possible no matter what your body weight. But it's also clear that it is optimum to be both lean and fit. It shouldn't be a question of one or the other."
Walter Willett, nutrition and health expert, Harvard School of Public Health

Contestants from "The Biggest Loser," episode 801 (NBC Photo: Dave Bjerke)

When it comes to science, there is rarely complete agreement. For every theory which has not been incontestably proven, there are always counter-theories. And the agreement among some scientists and fitness experts that overweight people can still be fit through exercise may give comfort to the obese and the overweight -- and they are legion in all societies now -- but the idea most certainly has its detractors, and Professor Nordstrom quite qualifies as one.

New research appears to have put 'finis' to the theory of "fat but fit". That new research has demonstrated that the obese who regularly exercise are even so more likely to die before people who are unfit, yet slim. Even with high levels of aerobic fitness, people who are categorized as obese are 30 percent likelier to die a premature death in comparison with people who are slender, yet performed little exercise. Data that resulted from a study of 1.3-million subjects point the way.

Before reaching that conclusion researchers had a 30-year tracking record that led them to the certainty that the right weight is the most vital determinant of longevity and long-term health. So scrub the belief that obesity could be compensated for by being 'fit'. If you are obese, you simply are not 'fit', exercising aside. Although there is nothing to say that those who are morbidly overweight and who can exercise will still be doing themselves a favour; not as much as losing weight, but helping themselves nonetheless.

This largest study of its kind whose results were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, had been based on 18-year-old Swedish military conscripts, tested by having them cycle until utter exhaustion, establishing their level of aerobic fitness. This was followed up by health researchers keeping tabs on the men for an average of 29 years. The findings, according to Professor Nordstrom laid waste to the idea that the obese could compensate their mortality risk by exercising.

It follows on the 2012 study by a team of researchers from the United States and Europe, published in the European Heart Journal. That research team posited with confidence that overweight and obese people were at no greater risk of heart disease or cancer than people of normal weight -- as long as they were "metabolically fit."  According to that earlier study their obese, exercising subjects were not overwhelmingly seen to have insulin resistance, high triglycerides or high blood pressure; their cholesterol levels were seen to be acceptable.

Close to half of the 43,000 obese subjects on whom data were had were considered to rank as fit according to these criteria. And the researchers concluded that when compared against healthy normal-weight subjects the obese but fit participants harboured no higher risk of premature death.

The researchers tracked men for 30 years, before coming to the conclusion that being the right weight is the most important factor for long-term health.
GETTY IMAGES/THINKSTOCK The researchers tracked men for 30 years, before coming to the conclusion that being the right weight is the most important factor for long-term health. 
With the new study results, however, men in the highest fifth of aerobic fitness had a 48 percent lower risk of death from any cause in comparison with the lowest fifth, it was found. Those men had an 80 percent lower death occurrence associated with alcohol or drug abuse, with a 59 percent reduced chance of suicide, while showing a 45 percent drop in heart disease deaths. But with all these indices in place and adding obesity, they were much more likely to die at an earlier age than men who were slim.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In Search of Enlightenment and Immortality

"Oliver Boldizar died from living life his own damn way. He lived about as far from the mainstream as it's possible to go, free from the bonds of 21st Century self-repression, a man from a different age and time."
"At 38, he died too young, but he spent more than half of that travelling and lived far more than double that in intensity, as his liver attested during the autopsy. He didn't drink alcohol, but he did experiment with various forms of biohacking in his search for knowledge and immortality."

Paul and Darina Boldizar were informed at 11:11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2015 that the younger of their two sons, the habitual traveller, the searcher-for-truth, for the meaning of life and what lies beyond in the Universe, was dead. He was one day away from his 38th birthday. They were devastated, understandably, as parents hearing that their beloved child was no longer among the living, would be, but perhaps not quite as surprised by that rude intrusion by the Angel of Death as most parents would be.

Their son was born on November 12, 1977 in Boldice, communist-era Czechoslovakia, and when Oliver was a year-and-a-half old, the family, including his older brother Alexander, fled to freedom from Communism. They were penniless, but not without hope for the future. After living for six months in an Austrian refugee camp, they were accepted as refugees seeking haven to become future Canadian permanent residents. Immigration officials would never know that in the two young boys resided extraordinary minds.

The boys both excelled academically, as they did as well in sports activities. As news of Oliver's death spread among those who had known him, a Facebook tribute written by a former classmate at high school remembered him by writing: "You made high school look like preschool. In science and math you were unequalled". Summing up the cerebral success in academics that reflected the minds of both Alexander and Oliver Boldizar. But it was only Oliver who was destined to search for a deep philosophical spiritual meaning in existence.

Alexander, his older brother graduated from Harvard Law School, while Oliver dropped out of  university and instead chose to travel to Calgary to study with a guru, an Indian mystic, on an ashram. Later, his brother arranged an introduction to a Tibetan who had been one of his Harvard class colleagues, a man who is now Tibet's prime minister in exile, Lobsang Sangay. Oliver lived for six months with Lobsang's family in the Indian Himalaya, in Dharmsala.

Facebook photos of Oliver Boldizar
Facebook photo of Oliver Boldizar

"That was the foundation of him studying Buddhism. But he found that too restrictive after awhile and started researching his own path and getting more and more into esoteric things", his brother Alex explained to a journalist. "Oliver didn't like conservatism of any sort. Even within the Buddhist tradition he felt most of the teachings were too conservative. He felt there was something more there, he just had to look a little harder, a little further, in a little more out-of-the-way place. I don't know what he was seeking. I honestly don't. I wish I could answer that."

Oliver did not come from a family of spiritual believers; the rest of his family are atheists, and he was, it seems, a born mystic. "He'd get into a philosophy or teachings and he didn't have that skeptical side that he had for corporations or the military industrial complex. He didn't apply that skepticism to whatever he was following in the moment. He would go in extremely deeply and come out the other side and see that it had flaws ... then he'd go on to something else. He was searching his whole life."

Searching for the unattainable. Nothing seemed to answer his queries to his satisfaction. And since nothing did, he simply continued the search. That search obviously gave purpose and direction to his life. It was what animated him. It created value in his life; his aspiration to find a definitive answer to his penetrating questions; the answer to which always eluded him and stirred him on to continue his search. That search took him to many exotic places in the world, and in those places to isolated areas where folk wisdom steered him toward the use of strange plants as medicaments.

Eventually his spoken Tibetan was fluent to the point that he could ply the professional trade of a translator, co-authoring a publication with the title Gongchig -- the Singular Intent, the Sacred Dharma. At times he would spend months as a spiritual hermit, living in a cave, meditating, his survival if not his nutritional needs met by a single daily bowl of rice brought to him as a tribute by villagers respecting holy men.

His mother was concerned over his welfare, a concern that lingered on his seemingly strange persona and interests. So much so that she persuaded her son on one occasion to allow her to accompany him to a hospital, for him to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. The outcome was that the doctors interviewing him felt there was nothing intrinsically awry with his mind. "Oliver talked circles around them", she concluded. Which could be interpreted as (a) a mother's pride; (b) his level of intelligence simply surpassing theirs; or (c) that he was able to conceal from his interlocutors the depth of his fascination for and singular devotion to his search.

When he was in high school, apart from his extraordinary level of academic excellence, he was interested in dating. And many years later in Brazil he had forged a serious relationship with a woman, which he eventually discarded. "Most of his life he was on his own. At the very end he was trying to transcend sexuality and gender", he brother explained. "I think he felt he should be celibate. But it wasn't in the Christian way of resisting temptation, it was more in terms of transcending biology."

When he was discovered, dead, in the room he had rented in Santiniketan, India, where he had been studying, his body was badly decomposed. An autopsy did manage to reveal that Oliver's liver was in a state of advanced cirrhosis. "He basically destroyed his liver by trying to make himself live forever", his brother said. The theory has been advanced that his liver poisoned his body, and stopped his heart from beating.

Facebook photos of Oliver Boldizar
Facebook photo of Oliver Boldizar in childhood
Oliver passed away in Santiniketan, India, at 11:11 AM on 11-11-15 from complications resulting from living life his own damn way. He lived about as far from the mainstream as it's possible to go, free from the bonds of 21st century self-repression, a man from a different age and time. At 38, he died too young, but he spent more than half of that travelling and lived far more than double that in intensity, as his liver attested during the autopsy. He didn't drink alcohol, but he did experiment with various forms of biohacking in his search for knowledge and immortality.

He had no patience for organized structures of any sort, including school, but would have no problem doing 200,000 prostrations to get to the next stage in some Tantric teaching. He gave himself the equivalent of a PhD in several subjects, including ancient Tibetan texts, chemistry and eastern religions. He spoke English, Slovak, German, French, Spanish, Tibetan, Bengali, Hindi, Pali and possibly other languages he learned while living in caves, meditating for months at a time while villagers in India, Nepal, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, California, or any of the other odd places he lived, brought him one bowl of rice a day.

He had a beautiful mind and generous soul, and was loved as a son, brother, uncle, cousin, nephew, friend, but he would come back and haunt all of us if we gave him a mainstream funeral. In his honour, we have decided not to hold a standard memorial ceremony. Instead, we will plant him illegally under a tree in the Spring, so he can laugh at the Man one last time and his body can reincarnate along with his soul. - See more at:

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Monday, December 21, 2015


"It accelerated, and it just plowed through the group of people, and we were in shock. Then it kind of hopped off the curb, and there was a lady that was stuck under the car, and when it hopped back on the curb, she was laying between the curb and the street, and she wasn't moving at all."
"There was another guy who was right next to her passenger window, banging on the door to get it to stop, and then the car accelerated again, and that guy flew off the car. Then it made a right onto Flamingo road, and that was the last we saw of the car."
Witness, Los Angeles resident Michal Jackson

Only someone in the venomous throes of dementia or a pathologically twisted mind could possibly deliberately place the lives of people -- men, women and children -- in danger, and nominate themselves to become the weapon that with malice aforethought would kill a human being, giving that human being no opportunity to react to save herself, then reprising the act once again, then yet again, maiming innocent people as a punishment for being in the right place at the wrong time.

A woman? A woman in her early twenties? A woman with a three-year-old child in the vehicle she was using as a weapon of mass destruction? Yes, to each of those questions.

Lakeisha Holloway, a suspect who drove into pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip, killing one person, is shown in this Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department booking photo released on December 21, 2015.
Police say suspect Lakeisha Holloway had been living out of her car -- Reuters

And in the week leading to the season of joy and goodwill with Christmas on the cusp of thrilling young children who have enjoyed the preliminaries to the arrival of December 25: coloured lights and the music of the holiday, there is now one eleven-year-old boy in critical condition in hospital. Fully 36 people were injured, some of them critically, while one person is dead.

The woman who wrought such an mind-boggling atrocity was living a life of hopelessness. Living, as it happens, far from her home in Oregon, in the very car she used to destroy the lives of others. Perhaps when people find themselves in such a mentally precarious state, the bitterness that may overwhelm them places no value on anything, and in fact extends the vitriol of that bitterness to strangers.

Compelling the mentally deranged to cause boundless grief, suffering and pain to others. The ripple effect of one woman dead, 36 people injured, some of whom may not completely recover their former bodily functions will reach out to others around them who care for their welfare and who will despair with them that they just happened to be on the alluring, vibrant, colourfull Las Vegas Strip on December 20, 2015.

Las Vegas police investigate following a traffic accident near the hotel and casino where the Miss Universe pageant was being held in Las Vegas

Reuters -- Las Vegas police at the scene of the crash 

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bureaucratic Straitjackets

"He's getting big now. He needs his mom for all the playing, activities and learning."
"It's difficult for them [her parents-in-law] to take him out, to take him to parks."
"It's so frustrating."
"We relied on the legal advice of the immigration consultant who told us that we could sponsor him once we settle down in Canada. We had the plan to sponsor him as soon as we get a place to stay and start working. We thought it would take a couple of months before we could sponsor him." 
Bhavna Bajaj, East Indian permanent resident, Canada

"It was only when she arrived in Canada in January 2013, and was interviewed by an officer, that she revealed that she had a son."
"It appears that the child never resided with his parents and has continuously resided with his grandparents... [and is] living in an environment which was culturally and linguistically familiar to him, among people who had cared for him since birth."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman Mary Jago.
immigration Bhavna Bajaj Daksh
Citizenship and Immigration Canada says Bhavna Bajaj repeatedly failed to disclose she had a son, Daksh, until she arrived in Canada in January 2013. (Courtesy of the Bhavna Bajaj-Aman Sood family)
This is an issue that has been outstanding for a year, of a young immigrant couple coming to Canada to take up employment and to become landed immigrants. At the time they made their visa application, the young wife, Bhavna Bajaj and her husband Aman Sood, made no mention of having a child. It seems apparent that they felt it best to leave the child behind with Mr. Sood's parents until they were established in Canada, and then apply to have him join them, rather than complicate their move by arriving with him.

When they landed in Montreal in January of 2013, Canada Border Service agents are claimed to have pressured the couple to choose one of two options available to them. To either state their intention of sponsoring the child and to do so they would have to return to India and initiate the sponsorship from there -- or to sign a declaration that they had no intention of ever sponsoring their son to join them in Canada. This is obviously the result of a bureaucratic confusion in family-class sponsorship.

It's hard to think who might have been more confused, the family who felt they had to make a decision then and there, and were reluctant to return to India before even having made their way into Canada and their prospective employment opportunities in Canada, or the Border Service agents who might have read immigration guidelines to astoundingly interpret them in a way that it might seem normal and natural for parents of a young child to leave him for good in the hands of elderly family members.

The couple decided to sign the declaration that they had no intention of sponsoring their three-year-old to join them to become a family unit in Canada. They said they felt pressured into making that decision, although the implications of signing such a declaration cannot have been entirely lost on an intelligent pair of aspiring professionals eager to make a new life for themselves. Or a mother who might have been expected to want to raise her child herself through his vital early years.

With the aid of immigration lawyers they proceeded to make applications to be reunited with their son, when he was three, to have him admitted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Any half-thinking, sane human being might feel that request to be entirely justified, but it seems that Immigration officers at the Delhi consulate refused two applications, misinterpreting the visa request for a work visa or a business visitor's visa, not a temporary resident permit.

Illogical professional ineptitude simply has prolonged the unhappiness of a mother who wants to be able to be with her child physically other than occasional visits back to India, and not be satisfied with seeing him and speaking to him over the Internet. Moreover, the father's parents who are caring for the little boy, now four, are not in the best of health. This understandably concerns the parents of the child.

An online petition was started by a Good Samaritan, a petition signed by close to 12,000 Canadians, urging the government to relax its tendentious guidelines on immigration in an absurd case such as this, to permit the child to travel to Canada to be reunited with his parents. One might imagine that the new government with its spanking fresh "people" smiley-face prime minister would be only too happy to oblige.

After all, if the previous government failed to respond to the parents' pleas to intercede on their behalf with the Immigration department, one might think this would spur the new government on to do just that, since the new Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has bent itself into pretzel mis-shape trying to undo everything, irrationally unjustified or not, that the previous Conservative government undertook.

In this particular instance, where the government is congratulating itself left, right and centre for pulling out all stops to bring Syrian refugees into Canada, as a bright haven for their future and that of their children, how could it be justified in keeping a little boy from living a life with his parents in Canada? The absurd notion, 'politically correct' and perhaps applicable in other situations, that he would be more comfortable where he is culturally and linguistically, is limp and absurd.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Parents' Dilemma

"This sad story is that of a young boy submerged by the messages of violence, of vengeance and of war issued by the Islamic State."
"By alerting the authorities, his parents probably saved his life."
"How many others out there are dreaming of leaving Canada for the ranks of Islamic State like the accused?"
Judge Dominique Wilhelmy, Quebec Court youth division

"I said, 'Why are you doing that? It is not a battle. ... It is terrorism. ... You're not going to go to paradise by dying there. You are going to kill innocent people. You will commit crimes there."
"He doesn't answer. He doesn't answer."
Father of jihadi teen, Montreal

"We have to promote his rehabilitation, his re-entry into society, all the while maintaining the protection of the public in the case of terrorist infractions."
"We'll wait for the results of the report to be able to evaluate what's appropriate [in recommending a sentence], considering it's a youth who was convicted today." 
Marie-Eve Moore, federal prosecutor
Montreal courthouse

It's a sad thing when parents understand that their children in their teens for one reason or another become alienated, difficult to interact with, demanding and dismissive at one and the same time, and pose a risk to harming themselves through developing unhealthy interests and engaging in dangerous pursuits. Parents of a thirteen-year-old boy who had emigrated from Algeria when their son was four, to live in Canada, would have had no idea that their son's future would be so problematic.

He had been an outstanding student, winning a bursary to attend an elite private Montreal high school. And then his studies began to suffer and his school grades plummeted and he no longer had any interest in engaging with his parents. At the age of 15 the boy -- who under Canadian youth-protection laws remains unnamed as do his parents -- robbed a convenience store, threatening harm with a knife in the process.

The money he stole was to be set aside for use to allow him to travel to Syria, where he would fulfill his obligation as a faithful Muslim, to engage in jihad. He had faulted his parents for not being sufficiently involved in the kind of activities that drew his attention, to the point where several times he used his parents' credit card data to try to send funding to an unnamed group in Lebanon in support of the conflict against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

That would, needless to say, be Hezbollah. And while striking a blow against the Syrian tyrant who is slaughtering his own people may not sound horrendous, supporting a terrorist group on Canada's list can certainly be classified as criminal action. When he once again attempted to use his parents' credit cards; on this occasion to attempt to arrange a one-way ticket to Gaziantep, Turkey near the Syrian border, his father was alarmed.

The parents had discovered that their son had been diligently accessing jihadi propaganda via the Internet since the age of 13. Parental computer-Internet-access controls were no hindrance; he managed to evade them. A later police search of the boy's hard drive discovered ten issues of the al-Qaeda propaganda magazine Inspire there, as well as other jihadi-self-help publications.

Last year, the parents found a telephone number they couldn't identify on a piece of paper in their son's pocket. They began to fear he might "commit an attack because of his interest in the Islamic State", as the judge put it. That telephone number was Martin Couture-Rouleau's, the jihadist who killed a member of the Canadian Armed Forces reserves standing guard at the National Cenotaph last November, and who sprinted into the Parliament buildings, with the same rifle that killed Corporal Vincent Cirillo.

When, during interrogation after he was taken into police custody, the-then 16-year-old was informed that his contact had killed a Canadian soldier, he expressed satisfaction: "well done". The Muslim RCMP officer that led his interrogation was labelled by the youth a "traitor" and "apostate". Canada, he asserted was "a land [house] of war", which in Islam simply means any non-Muslim country which is meant to be attacked by the "land [house] of peace", which is Islam.

The teen's father was convinced his son had laid plans to reach Syria to dedicate himself to fighting for either ISIL or Jabhat al-Nusra. Once his parents discovered hidden in their backyard their son's backpack with the knife and the money he had stolen from the convenience store, they questioned him further. His response was: "Give me back my bag and I will leave for good." Which was when they felt they had little option but to contact authorities.

He was subsequently convicted of committing a crime in the armed robbery, in association with a terrorist group. And convicted as well of the illegal act of attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activity. The Crown is considering requesting that the teen be sentenced as an adult, awaiting the results of a pre-sentencing report and psychological assessment.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Living A Life

"They [operating surgeons] did as well as they possibly could."
"It [TTFields therapy] has allowed me to prioritize what makes me happy. If I am in a happy place, it allows me to prioritize what makes me happy in the short term as opposed to the long term."
"In the school, I am extremely open to talking about it [brain cancer/electromagnetic field therapy]. What a learning opportunity to not only meet someone with cancer, but someone who is doing very well with cancer."
"I feel wonderful. I am very active. I am working."
"I have a great relationship with the staff [at Blyth Academy] and other colleagues and a great relationship with the students. Life could probably not be any better than it is now."
Denis Raymond, Ottawa teacher
Teacher Denis Raymond was 26 when he was diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer. He says he was fortunate to get in on a clinical trial involving electromagnetic field therapy.
Teacher Denis Raymond was 26 when he was diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer. He says he was fortunate to get in on a clinical trial involving electromagnetic field therapy. Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen

Results of a unique research protocol were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. With the study results was an editorial explaining that additional research must be conducted for a fuller understanding of the scientific basis for the therapy known as TTFields. A clinical trial had taken place out of which the conclusions were assessed and published. It was a trial of a type of electromagnetic field therapy.

Basically, tumour-treating fields disrupt the division of cancer cells through their delivery of low-intensity, intermediate-frequency alternating electric fields, delivered through "transducer arrays" that are attached to the shaven scalp of a patient-subject. One of the patients involved with this trial was Denis Raymond, who had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable form of brain cancer.

When he presented at hospital as a result of dreadful migraines, his diagnosis was swift and the surgery that followed just as swift, taking place within 36 hours of his having been diagnosed. The tumour that was pressing on Denis Raymond's brain was removed at The Ottawa Hospital. Approximately 99 percent of the mass had been removed, and the surgery was considered a success.

Then came a regimen familiar to cancer patients; radiation followed by chemotherapy. Patients with glioblastoma multiforme have a survival time of roughly a year-and-a-half following diagnosis. And despite the surgery and the follow-up regime  to try to reduce what was left of the tumour, Denis Raymond's prognosis remained stark. Dr. Garth Nicholas, oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa delivered the devastating prognosis.

Which led Mr. Raymond to involve himself in perusing everything he felt could possibly help him understand his medical condition. Eventually he read information about a clinical trial involving electromagnetic field therapy. It was a randomized control trial that he was interested in taking part in. He called the closest American city where the trial was taking place, hoping to be accepted into the trial.

And he was informed that Ottawa was included in the trial proceedings, given the name of the very oncologist who had looked after him in hospital, Dr. Nicholas. Dr. Nicholas was leading the Canadian arm of the trial, and soon after consulting with him, Mr. Raymond began wearing the device in the fall of 2013, his progress closely monitored. A year later the trial was terminated because the results were positive.

Of those associated with the randomized trial, 210 patients used the electric field device while receiving chemotherapy, while 105 patients received chemotherapy without the use of the device. The median overall survival rate after 38 months for those with the device along with chemotherapy drug temozolomide, was 20.5 months, while the median overall survival rate for those using the drug in isolation turned out to be 15.6 months.

In other words, 43 percent of those receiving the experimental therapy alongside standard therapy remained alive after two years, in comparison to 29 percent who had standard therapy alone. The company that manufactures the device funded the study. Despite its success, the device is not available in Canada for clinical use, though Mr. Raymond has been permitted its continued use.

He feels great regret that the device is not available generally for others diagnosed with this form of cancer: "It is a real shame". But wearing the device daily has made a tremendous difference for him. Dr. Nicholas points out that Mr. Raymond has beaten the odds and is able to enjoy quality of life: "This is the first study of this kind on a device in the first line of treatment. In a way, Denis is in the vanguard", he commented.

(Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)
(Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)  Denis Raymond is a teacher at Blythe Academy who has incurable brain cancer. His life has been prolonged by wearing an electronic device on his head that sends a mild electrical current through his brain

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tempest In An Eyeball

"I think the whole thing needs to be taken extremely seriously. We believe there is a group of individuals, about 15% of all of those who take vitamins for AMD [age-related macular degeneration], who are actually experiencing a doubling of their risk ... doubled risk of going blind, or of having the condition associated with blindness."
Dr. Brent Zanke, medical oncologist, geneticist, chair, Arctic DX

"If they're right and we are harming people, that's a concern for me, because I don't want to be harming patients."
But we could not replicate anything that they did [in research findings]."
Dr. Emily Chew, deputy director, National Eye Institute, Washington

Two quite different medical entities are at odds over a supplement that one insists is useful to prevent or minimize AMD, and the other declared, as a result of their research, may in fact hasten AMD for some genetically predisposed people. Vitamin-zinc pills are being used to protect against the onset of AMD, a serious eye affliction leading to blindness which hits the elderly disproportionately as all bodily functions experience fatigue and changes as we age.

One of the entities is a small Canadian company, the other a large American government research agency, with a commercial interest in the ongoing use of the supplement hailed for its anti-blindness properties. Arctic DX, located in Toronto, claims their own DNA research indicates that the supplement increases the risk of vision loss for North Americans with a certain genetic profile, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

This is a company that has made its name as an expert genetic-testing company. Their warning about the continued use of the zinc supplement has been largely set aside by doctors because of the opposition from the National Eye Institute in Washington which itself was responsible for a study leading to the widespread use of the vitamin-zinc pill.

Despite what the scientists at Arctic DX claim in their warning about the use of the supplement and its deleterious effects for a sizeable demographic, the Washington-based institute insists it has done its due diligence which confirms their confidence in the ongoing use of the vitamins, their brand names Preservision and Vitalux, as being perfectly safe for patients with AMD.

The product, manufactured by the Bausch and Lomb division of Valeant Pharmaceuticals out of Quebec, is reliable, claims Dr. Chew, and the decision to continue its use, she stresses owes nothing whatever to the fact that self-interested commercial interests are involved. And nor is Dr. James Whelan, president of the Canadian Retina Society impressed with the arguments put forward by Arctic DX.

Dr. Whelen remains unconvinced that patients with any genetic profile could be at risk with the use of the supplement. "It's been a very hot topic at all the national and international meetings", he commented. The National Eye Institute's study released in 2001 suggested that a high-dose anti-oxidant vitamins E and C, Zinc and copper supplement would cut risks of AMD advancement.

Arctic DX has developed a genetic test to identify the AMD patients most potentially at risk through DNA samples they obtained of almost one thousand of the people in the NEI's Age-related Eye Disease Study, with the intention of discovering more useful data relating to the effects of the supplement. Their analysis concluded that 13% of those people increased their risks taking vitamins.

Since 2013, the Arctic DX researchers published two studies giving details of their work leading to the conclusion of doubling the risks for vulnerable patients with the use of the supplement.  A Nashville, Tennessee ophthalmologist who does consulting work for the Toronto company, and who co-authored the studies, points out that the NEI scientist uses all opportunities to debunk the Arctic DX research.

What is most telling is the discovery of the Actic DX team that Dr. Frederick Ferris [Dr. Chew's superior] of the NEI has himself earned $1.8-million from the Bausch and Lomb patent.

Rafal Nustra a biostatistician at the University of Toronto scrutinized an editorial in the journal Ophthalmology written by two scientists who worked with Dr. Chew, leading him to conclude that the raw data in the NEI's study supported the contention by Arctic DX that 19% of patients had the genotypes that auger they will not fare well given the supplement.

Moreover, Dr. Nustra charged, the institute's article was replete with statistical inconsistencies. Harvard University biostatistician Bernard Rosner, hired by Arctic DX, confirmed Dr. Nustra's conclusion. And just to round out the accusations and denials, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reached their own conclusion that genetic testing for macular degeneration patients was not justified.

Hitting Arctic DX squarely where it would draw their fixed attention; the anticipation that their genetic testing firm would see an uptick in demand for genetic testing with the final acceptance of their findings that mitigate against the continued use of the vitamin-zinc supplement.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is 'Assisted Death' Legalized Murder?

"A five-year-old? A seven-year-old? They would never be seen as having the capacity or competence of making these decisions."
"I could definitely see 12-year-olds having that capacity [to exhibit maturity and mental competence], and I could see 16-year-olds not have that capacity."
"We [nine-member advisory committee] just didn't feel that to make an arbitrary decision that, at 17 years and 364 days you wouldn't meet the criteria [as an adult], but the next day you would. We felt that wasn't the way to go." 
"We heard from stakeholders on both sides who agreed with each other that there shouldn't be a list of conditions set out -- don't list cancer and don't list Lou Gehrig's disease' -- because that list will always change. What is incurable today might become curable tomorrow. Everybody said don't come up with a list, it wouldn't be workable."
Maureen Taylor, physician assistant, assisted-death advocate

"That's already well established in our system [the 'mature minor' making their own medical decisions including discontinuing life support]."
"The idea of an arbitrary age limit, and people suffering intolerably and waiting days, weeks or months to die because they haven't reached that limit, seems morally unacceptable."
"End-of-life decisions are being made every day in Canada by mature minors. Doctors make decisions about competence and capacity all the time."
"I'm asking readers to imagine a patient with metastatic cancer that has spread throughout her body, who has received the best possible care but who is suffering intolerably and is almost certain to be dead in two weeks, and who requests assistance to hasten her dying." 
Arthur Schafer, ethicist, panel member, director of Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of Manitoba
02_13_FE0107_Euthanasia_07 The Levenseindekliniek, an 'end-of-life clinic' opened in 2012 in Amsterdam, offering services to patients whose doctors refuse to cooperate with requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide. The suitcase with necessities the GP of the End-of-life clinic' uses when the life of a patient is terminated. Jean Pierre JANS/REA/Redux

The nine-member expert panel assigned to produce a report on euthanasia in Canada came up with a number of recommendations, the most controversial of which is that there should be no "arbitrary age limits" for assisted death. Eligibility, in their considered opinion, should logically be based on maturity and mental competence, and not age. The criteria by which maturity and mental competence would be based in any such instance presumably would be a matter for the consulting physician to judge augmented by the parents' assurances should they agree.

Last February the Supreme Court of Canada granted the right of mentally competent adults suffering from "grievous and irremediable" conditions the constitutional right to request a doctor-assisted death. The federal government was given a year in which to see an appropriate law drafted. The advisory panel's purpose was to give guidance to the provinces and territories to come to terms with the prospect of legalizing assisted death. On the issue of who might be age-eligible, the Supreme Court did not specify any age limit, speaking only of "adult" competence; the age of maturity in most provinces being 18.

The panel's argument hinges on the issue of the "mature minor" concept, where minors are held capable, if they comprehend the full nature of their illness and the repercussions of their decisions, to make a life-ending decision to discontinue life support. No age restriction currently mandates when someone can decide to discontinue the often-terminal use of a respirator or ventilator, or to refuse an antibiotic or to halt kidney dialysis, goes the panel's argument. Why should it be any different for requesting an end to suffering by doctor-assisted suicide, since decisions as noted above also lead to death.

In a 2009 case, the Supreme Court had ruled that children under 16 who were capable of demonstrating sufficient intellectual maturity should have their wishes respected with relation to their medical treatment. Experts and organizations across Canada were consulted by the advisory panel. The end result was a final report listing 43 recommendations ranging from qualification criteria for lethal injection or doctor-prescribed drug-overdose, to the ethical obligation of doctors objecting on religious or moral grounds to become involved other than referring a patient to another doctor.

Belgium became the first country in the world, in 2014, to legalize euthanasia by lethal injection for children. Belgium's Parliament approved the law passed previously by its Senate. Under this law young children are permitted to end their lives with the assistance of a doctor. In 2015 the Netherlands sought to follow Belgium's example:
"We feel that an arbitrary age limit such as 12 should be changed and that each child’s ability to ask to die should be evaluated in a case-by-case basis", said Eduard Verhagen, paediatrics professor at Groningen University.

Assisted suicide deaths and euthanasia has doubled in the Netherlands in five years. In Belgium the increase has been over 150-percent in the same time-frame. Most Belgian patients suffered from cancer, but people were also euthanized who were suffering from autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic-fatigue syndrome, partial paralysis, blindness and deafness, and manic depression. One 44-year-old man was euthanized as a result of being devastated by the failure of his sex-change surgeries.

In 2014, 13 percent of Belgians euthanized had no terminal health condition; about three percent suffered from psychiatric disorders. Euthanasia accounts for close to five percent of all deaths in Flanders.  Last year, De Standaard, a Flemish newspaper, saw fit to publish a human-interest story as a tribute to a depressed mother who was euthanized after having been abandoned by her boyfriend and becoming disillusioned by the psychiatric care she was given.

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