Health and medicine on the Web: This week’s top picks

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Every week, KHN reporter Jessica Marcy selects interesting reads from around the Web.

Time: Study: Autistic Children Have More Brain Cells

PET scan by Jens Langner

There’s growing evidence that the brains of autistic children are very different from the brains of other youngsters.

Now a new study that found an excess of brain cells in children with autism comes closer to pinpointing the origins of the condition: in utero versus in toddlerhood.

In research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), scientists at the University of California, San Diego, found that autistic children have about 67% more nerve cells in a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex than children without autism.

The prefrontal cortex is involved in processing social skills, communication, cognitive functions and language — all areas in which autistic children often show abnormal development (Alice Park, 11/9).

The Atlantic: A Conservative Icon Upholds The Affordable Health Care Act

U.S. Supreme Court

Photo: Franz Jantzen

Just in time for Thursday’s Supreme Court conference, the Affordable Care Act … was upheld Tuesday in an opinion by one of America’s most feared conservative judges — Judge Laurence Silberman of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, a jurist so gruff he is rumored to make some lawyers cry just by agreeing with them.

Silberman is also a conservative icon — Ronald Reagan appointee, friend and sometime mentor to Clarence Thomas, co-chair of the Iraq Intelligence Committee, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Second Amendment hard-liner. … the opinion removes one reason why the Supreme Court might have wanted to delay responding to the government’s petition for review of Eleventh Circuit’s decision striking down the act.

But the D.C. Circuit’s decision reminds us that, if a majority of this conservative Court does decide to scuttle the ACA, it will almost certainly have to scuttle or vitiate that century of precedent — the legal basis upon which regulation of the national economy depends (Garrett Epps, 11/9).

Mother Jones: Why Mississippi’s Personhood Measure Failed

Mississippi voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have granted full rights to a fertilized egg on Tuesday, with 58 percent of the state voting against the amendment.

Activists on both sides of the battle were watching the state as a test case for other state-level initiatives that would outlaw all forms of abortion. Perhaps it’s worth looking, then, at why it didn’t pass in one of the most conservative states in the country.

The primary reason for the measure’s failure was overreach. In recent weeks, opponents of the measure made the case to the public that it wasn’t really just about abortion, but could also have far-reaching impacts on birth control, in vitro fertilization, and a doctor’s ability to provide care for pregnant women (Kate Sheppard, 11/9).

American Medical News: Jumping To A Nonclinical Career

For all kinds of reasons, some new — like opportunities in the health information technology industry — and some old — like burnout — occasionally physicians decide to leave clinical practice.

But how can doctors tell the difference between needing a vacation from clinical work or a permanent break from it? And how do those who don’t have a plan B identify a fulfilling second career? Career coaches and former physicians, who are sometimes one and the same, say there is no limit to the new careers physicians can take on.

But they also advise careful planning before making the leap. The transition to a new career isn’t always quick (Emily Berry, 11/7).

The Atlantic: Do Nonprofit Hospitals Make Too Much Money?

Sign for an emergency room.For years, nonprofit hospitals have shied away from quantifying the amount of charitable care they provide communities. Hospital officials argue that it’s almost impossible to put a dollar value on charity and that doing so would take valuable time and resources away from actually serving the needy.The charity question is significant because nonprofit hospitals get major tax breaks. Also, because of loopholes in state laws, nonprofit hospitals are often permitted to make huge profits. …

Recent economic downturns, however, have shined a detective’s spotlight on the amount of charity care hospitals provide. … The thinking goes: if nonprofit hospitals are making money and unwilling to prove how much charity care they provide, why do they deserve nonprofit tax breaks?  (Matt Stroud, 11/9).

 

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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