Category : Health & Medicine

(Local paper front page) MUSC nurses say they’re ‘drowning’ during COVID surge and patient safety is compromised

In a prepared statement, MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine acknowledged that the pandemic has put stress on health care institutions.

“The sudden increase in overall patients, and particularly very sick patients needing intensive care, is challenging,” she said, and explained it takes time to hire more medical professionals to meet this new need. “Our clinical team also must significantly modify how they take care of patients yet remain safe and provide high quality care. All of this is quite stressful to the care team. We recognize this is occurring as we attempt to care for as many patients as possible across the state. The courage and dedication that our MUSC Health nursing team continues to demonstrate despite these challenges does not go unnoticed and our appreciation for their incredible work is heartfelt.”

MUSC employs more than 3,000 nurses across its facilities, Woolwine said, and the hospital system has already directed millions of dollars to support nursing retention since the start of the pandemic.

Still, some nurses who spoke with the newspaper say measures implemented by the hospital haven’t been enough. And they are scared that the ratio of nurses to patients has become dangerous as the hospital is overwhelmed once again by COVID-19. They say their co-workers are leaving in large numbers for positions with more money and the ones left behind are depressed and exhausted, fearful that the shortage at MUSC has reached a critical tipping point with more than 600 openings for nurses unfilled across the hospital system, according to the hospital’s human resources website.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine

The Church of England’s adviser on medical ethics responds to calls for ‘[so-called] doctor assisted dying’

The authors speak of ‘safeguards’ to ensure that vulnerable people are not put at risk and reference the provisions of the ‘Meacher Bill’. Safeguards on paper, however, are worthless unless they can be consistently, universally and comprehensively translated into practice.

It is a tragic irony that on the day the authors’ article was published, news headlines were dominated by the deaths of three vulnerable adults in Care. In spite of every written policy, protocol, and approved practice, their reality was tragically different.

These were not isolated incidents; we have only to think of the hundreds of avoidable deaths in the Mid-Staffs hospital scandal, abuse of residents with learning disabilities in Eldertree Lodge and ‘systemic biases contributing to unequal mortality outcomes in ethnic minority women and women facing multiple problems and deprivation’.

We can add to this, the recent experience of many elderly care home residents in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic who were given DNACPR notices without proper protocols being followed.

Human lapses and failings build upon one another until catastrophic outcomes ensue…a process that, in too many instances, no amount of assumed monitoring or paper safeguards has been able to capture, never mind stop.

What can possibly give us confidence that similar safeguards will provide a better outcome if the law on assisted suicide were to be changed?

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Theology

(Live 5 News) The City of Charleston passes the first reading of a proposed expansive mask ordinance

The Charleston City Council has passed the first reading of a wide-ranging mask ordinance that would impact everyone in the city, including public and private schools.

City leaders passed the ordinance Tuesday night with a 10 to 3 vote. The ordinance still needs two more readings before going into effect.

The ordinance would require almost everyone over the age of two to wear a mask in public and private settings. In addition, there are built-in exceptions for certain medical conditions, eating, drinking, smoking and in situations where it is not feasible – like while exercising.

It’s the most expansive local ordinance and it applies to anyone regardless of vaccination status. The mandate would apply indoor building – both public and private – as well as permitted gathering like protests and concerts

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Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Urban/City Life and Issues

(AP) Key Parts of America see COVID-19 cases climbing, wiping out months of progress

COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to levels not seen since last winter, erasing months of progress and potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for his sweeping new vaccination requirements.

The cases — driven by the delta variant combined with resistance among some Americans to getting the vaccine — are concentrated mostly in the South.

While one-time hot spots like Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children now back in school, loose mask restrictions and low vaccination levels.

The dire situation in some hospitals is starting to sound like January’s infection peak: Surgeries canceled in hospitals in Washington state and Utah. Severe staff shortages in Kentucky and Alabama. A lack of beds in Tennessee. Intensive care units at or over capacity in Texas.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(Bloomberg) What the Next Six Months of the Pandemic May Bring

“The end process is not going to be uniform,” Charters said. The pandemic “is a biological phenomenon, but it’s also a political and social phenomenon.”

“Even now we have different approaches to it.”

It’s likely to be messy, leaving a lasting legacy for years to come. Until then, most of us will need to brace for many more months in the pandemic’s grip.

“We have to approach it with our eyes wide open and with a great deal of humility,”…[Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis,] said. “Anybody that thinks we’re going to be over this in the next few days or a few months is sorely mistaken.”

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Posted in Globalization, Health & Medicine

(Local Paper Yesterday’s front page) Inside DHEC, where workers fight anxiety, frustration, fatigue amid crush of pandemic

Microbiologist John Bonaparte can count on one hand the days he has taken off from work since South Carolina recorded its first cases of the coronavirus in March 2020.

One of his co-workers in the state’s public health laboratory, Kendra Rembold, has missed three seasons of her children’s soccer games while pulling 12-hour shifts to keep up with the state’s unprecedented demand for COVID-19 testing.

And one of their supervisors in the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s cramped lab in Columbia, Christy Greenwood, decided she couldn’t adequately juggle the demands of the pandemic and her responsibilities as a single parent. So she took her 5- and 7-year-old children to stay at their grandmother’s house until things calmed down at work.

More than 550 days since the coronavirus took hold in South Carolina, that respite still hasn’t come for the hundreds of public health workers who toil in the background of the state’s response.

Instead, they say, COVID-19 has proven to be an unending nightmare, serving up 12- and 15-hour shifts, seven-day workweeks and a buffet of anxiety, frustration and fatigue.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Science News) Predicting possible Alzheimer’s with nearly 100 percent accuracy

Researchers from Kaunas universities, Lithuania developed a deep learning-based method that can predict the possible onset of Alzheimer’s disease from brain images with an accuracy of over 99 per cent. The method was developed while analysing functional MRI images obtained from 138 subjects and performed better in terms of accuracy, sensitivity and specificity than previously developed methods.

According to World Health Organisation, Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent cause of dementia, contributing to up to 70 per cent of dementia cases. Worldwide, approximately 24 million people are affected, and this number is expected to double every 20 years. Owing to societal ageing, the disease will become a costly public health burden in the years to come.

“Medical professionals all over the world attempt to raise awareness of an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which provides the affected with a better chance of benefiting from treatment. This was one of the most important issues for choosing a topic for Modupe Odusami, a PhD student from Nigeria,” says Rytis Maskelinas, a researcher at the Department of Multimedia Engineering, Faculty of Informatics, Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Odusami’s PhD supervisor.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the the Martyrs of Memphis (also called Constance and her Companions)

We give thee thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of the Martyrs of Memphis, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death; Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Spirituality/Prayer

(Local Paper) COVID19 rate in South Carolina remains highest in US; DHEC reports more than 20,000 new cases

Even as COVID-19 cases start to level off in some Southern states, the virus is showing no signs of slowing down in South Carolina, where more than 20,000 confirmed and probable cases were recorded by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control over the Labor Day weekend.

Compared with the rest of the country, COVID-19 rates are very high in South Carolina. The New York Times calculated Sept. 7 that, once again, the rate of new cases in the Palmetto State is higher than anywhere else in the U.S….

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, said on PBS Newshour on Sept. 6 that a South Carolina resident who is fully vaccinated now runs the same risk of catching COVID-19 as does a New York state resident who is unvaccinated.

“And that is simply because there is so much more virus circulating right now in South Carolina,” Gounder said, “that even with the protection of the vaccine, you could still get infected.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Education, Health & Medicine, State Government

(NYT) For a Second Year, Jews Mark the High Holy Days in the Shadow of Covid

The leadership at Central Synagogue in Manhattan had big plans this year for the Jewish High Holy Days: After celebrating via livestream during the pandemic last fall, they rented out Radio City Music Hall for a grand celebration.

But the spread of the Delta variant has upended those plans. Now, they’ll still use the 5,500-seat music hall, but only at 30 percent capacity. And everyone must show proof of vaccination and wear masks.

“In some ways, last year was easier to plan because it was so absolutely clear we would be gathering virtually,” said Angela W. Buchdahl, the synagogue’s senior rabbi. “This year we certainly expected all the way until early July that we would be able to be in person for this year’s High Holy Days.”

Many congregations plan their celebrations for the High Holy Days, which are among the most important dates in the Jewish calendar, months in advance. But the recent surge of coronavirus cases has driven synagogues across the New York region — home to the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel — and around the country to address safety concerns they had thought had been rendered moot by the arrival of the vaccines.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Judaism, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CNBC) U.S. heads into Labor Day with Covid vaccines but a substantially worse outbreak than this time last year

The U.S. is heading into Labor Day weekend with just over four times as many Covid-19 cases and more than twice as many hospitalizations as at this time last year — despite having vaccinated 62% of the American population with at least one dose.

The U.S. and the world are nowhere near where health officials hoped, and thought, we would be 20 months into the pandemic — and more than eight months after vaccines that boasted efficacy rates around 95% were rolled out.

Though the outbreak is significantly worse by most measures than 2020, setting the U.S. up for a tough fall season, the delta variant, vaccines and open schools make it hard to predict how the pandemic will unfold, doctors and scientists say.

“There is a lot more uncertainty right now. The dynamic interplay between variants and vaccine and particularly people unvaccinated, and the sort of game changer of the delta variant leads to a lot of uncertainty in terms of what the fall holds,” said Dr. Barbara Taylor, an assistant dean and infectious disease specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(America) ‘When does it end?’ Parents on the most stressful back-to-school season of the pandemic

In my sister’s case, as in many others, the school board delayed its decision about mask wearing until the very last minute. It also reversed course: After saying two weeks ago masks would be encouraged but optional, the board held a 4.5 hour public meeting this week, which ended with the announcement that they would require them.

And then, said my sister, “People flipped out.” Those opposed to masks are now promising boycotts, walkouts and protests in front of the school. Threats being made online suggest even worse. My sister looks on, feeling helpless as she thinks about her three children, two of whom have had to endure this seemingly endless combat for most of high school. “It’s just, when does it end?” she said to me.

The question is particularly acute for parents of younger children. They have spent most of the last 18 months trying to negotiate the changing needs of their children’s education and well-being while also managing their own jobs and health. And while teenagers and adults have been able to enjoy much greater freedom since getting vaccinated, there is no vaccine yet for children under 12.

I spoke to 10 parents from across the country to hear how they are doing in the midst of it all. While their situations varied greatly—sometimes to the point that it seemed like they lived in different countries—what I found were people wanting to be hopeful, trying to keep perspective and yet also in many cases anxious, frustrated and exhausted by their schools, states, fellow parents and our current reality….

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Posted in Children, Education, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(NYT) Houses of Worship Struggle Back, and Tread Lightly on Vaccines

The weekly rhythms of Catholic life have started to return at Our Lady of Lourdes in Harlem. The pews are packed on Sunday mornings, prayer groups meet after work and the collection plate is almost as full as it was before the coronavirus pandemic began.

But parishioners are starting to worry about the virus again.

“For a little while everyone felt more free, not using masks and things like that,” said the Rev. Gilberto Ángel-Neri, the pastor. “But now that we hear all the news about the Delta variant, everyone is using masks again.”

The progress made at Father Ángel-Neri’s church, and at houses of worship across New York City, may be threatened by a rise in virus cases in the past month and by an uneven patchwork of rules governing vaccination that can differ from one place to another.

New rules that have been enacted in recent weeks to curb the spread of the virus’s more contagious Delta variant require New Yorkers to show proof of vaccination to participate in many indoor activities, including sitting inside restaurants or bars, going to a gym or nightclub and visiting a museum or zoo. But they do not apply to religious services.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Call To Prayer From Archbishop Foley Beach Regarding The Situation In Afghanistan, Haiti, And The Ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Like many of you, I have been soberly watching the situation unfolding in Afghanistan. I know it has surfaced many emotions for people across the world, especially those who have personal connections with Afghanistan and the Afghan people. Whether justified or unjustified, war is always a tragic consequence of the Fall. While in war we can witness the greatness of human courage and selflessness, we also realize the depths of human sinfulness, as poet Robert Burns wrote, “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Please join me in prayer for the people of Afghanistan, those Afghans and Americans seeking safe passage out of the country, and those on the ground continuing to help. Pray for wisdom for leaders at all levels who face very difficult decisions. Pray for the ever-growing underground Church in Afghanistan. Even more, pray that all Afghanis, especially those in power, are met by the Holy Spirit and come to personally know the risen Christ. Please join me in prayer and fasting with special prayers in our worship services this coming Sunday.

I want to send a personal message to all the military, foreign service, civil service, contractors, missionaries, and aid workers, and their families, who have given so much of their blood, sweat, and tears in service to their nations and for the welfare of the Afghan people. Know that your efforts are not in vain.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Health & Medicine, Spirituality/Prayer

(Business Standard) Africa ‘not on track’ to 10% Covid-19 vaccination target by year end: WHO

Only 1.5 per cent of the whole population of Africa has been vaccinated against Covid-19, and the continent might not even reach 10 per cent coverage by December 2021, although the World Health Organization (WHO) wanted to cross that threshold by September of this year, WHO officials warned on Friday.

“Right now, we are not on track to hit 10 per cent coverage in Africa by the end of this year,” said Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO director general, at a press conference here on Friday.

“That should be a scar on all of our conscience, quite frankly,” he added, pointing out that the number of coronavirus-related deaths has increased by 80 per cent on the African continent, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Only a fraction of the globally available vaccine doses have been administered in Africa, less than two per cent of the 4.07 billion doses used worldwide, according to the WHO.

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Posted in Africa, Health & Medicine

(Local Paper front page) As South Carolina and US grapple with home care shortage, Charleston caregiver wins prestigious honor

Several hours each week, Bill Glover visits Jean-Marc Bollag at the apartment he and his wife share on Daniel Island.

He works on exercises with Jean-Marc and they take walks. They spend time together on the computer, answering emails, a lot of time talking. Sometimes Glover drives Bollag to Shem Creek or to Starbucks or to run errands.

“He is a very good teacher. And I’m a very bad student,” Jean-Marc, 86, said with a smile.

Glover is a 67-year-old professional caregiver — one of relatively few men in the industry — who launched a second career in 2014 after retiring as a clinical mental health counselor. These days, he works almost exclusively with clients like Jean-Marc Bollag who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Nearly 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that number is expected to triple in the next 30 years.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine

(NWE Mail) Barrow MP supports Church of England project for carers

The Diocese of Carlisle is partnering with a Christian charity to provide free retreats for people who were frontline carers during the Covid pandemic.

Barrow and Furness MP, Simon Fell has put his support behind the scheme and is asking the public to get behind the Crowdfunder that is hoping to raise £20,000.

This project is hoped to achieve some much-needed respite for carers.

Mr Fell said “This is a fantastic project which will help some of the people who have had a harder job than others over the past year.

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Posted in Church of England, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

MUSC Dr Michael Sweat–“it’s going to be very tough to put the genie back in the bottle”

“Because of the global burden of infection that’s out there, it’s going to be very tough to put the genie back in the bottle,” Sweat said. “This idea that…well it will eventually go away or it’s gone away, everything is back to normal…is just not going to happen. So, we need to think about our public health strategies, work on getting people vaccinated. We may likely need boosters in the future. So, I believe we are into an endemic stage, and it’s hard to take that in a way. It’s kind of like we were hoping we could get rid of this. Doesn’t mean we can’t manage it and get back to our lives though.”

Sweat suggested the focus should now be on managing COVID-19 infections, especially as schools prepare to reopen next month.

“One of the big issues on the horizon right now facing us, next month schools reconvene,” Sweat said. “The state government has limited mandating masks in schools.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine

(Local paper editorial) COVID19 is on the rise in South Carolina again: what can we do?

Actually, there’s a good bit to worry about, and it’s everybody’s business. This is particularly true in South Carolina, where the high number of willing hosts — just 50% of the eligible population had received one shot and only 44% were fully vaccinated as of Monday — combined with the emergence of the much more transmissible delta variant is driving infection rates back up to numbers we haven’t seen since the vaccine was still being rationed.

After remaining under the CDC’s “safe” 5% threshold for months, the rate of positive tests in South Carolina is on the rise: up to 10.8% Tuesday. Daily deaths and infections remain low, but as we learned last year, when the number of hospitalized and dead people hovered at low numbers until suddenly they didn’t, there’s a lag time between infection, serious illness and death.

Why should the vaccinated care? Beyond human compassion, there are at least three reasons it’s in everybody’s interest to get our vaccination numbers up….

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Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, State Government

(RNS) With more than a million children orphaned by COVID19, faith-based groups look to mobilize support

More than a million children around the world may have been orphaned by COVID-19, losing one or both parents to the disease or related causes.

Another estimated 500,000 lost a grandparent or another relative who cared for them.

The numbers are from a new study by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others that highlight another grim reality in the sweeping devastation caused by the ongoing pandemic.

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Care

(Nature) How the Covid19 Delta variant achieves its ultrafast spread

Since first appearing in India in late 2020, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has become the predominant strain in much of the world. Researchers might now know why Delta has been so successful: people infected with it produce far more virus than do those infected with the original version of SARS-CoV-2, making it very easy to spread.

According to current estimates, the Delta variant could be more than twice as transmissible as the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. To find out why, epidemiologist Jing Lu at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Guangzhou, China, and his colleagues tracked 62 people who were quarantined after exposure to COVID-19 and who were some of the first people in mainland China to become infected with the Delta strain.

The team tested study participants’ ‘viral load’ — a measure of the density of viral particles in the body — every day throughout the course of infection to see how it changed over time. Researchers then compared participants’ infection patterns with those of 63 people who contracted the original SARS-CoV-2 strain in 2020.

In a preprint posted 12 July1, the researchers report that virus was first detectable in people with the Delta variant four days after exposure,compared with an average of six days among people with the original strain, suggesting that Delta replicates much faster. Individuals infected with Delta also had viral loads up to 1,260 times higher than those in people infected with the original strain.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(AP) US life expectancy in 2020 saw the biggest drop since WWII

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years.

The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not tracked Hispanic life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine

(NYT) Americans’ Medical Debts Are Bigger Than Was Known, Totaling $140 Billion

Americans owe nearly twice as much medical debt as was previously known, and the amount owed has become increasingly concentrated in states that do not participate in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program.

New research published Tuesday in JAMA finds that collection agencies held $140 billion in unpaid medical bills last year,. An earlier study, examining debts in 2016, estimated that Americans held $81 billion in medical debt.

This new paper took a more complete look at which patients have outstanding medical debts, including individuals who do not have credit cards or bank accounts. Using 10 percent of all credit reports from the credit rating agency TransUnion, the paper finds that about 18 percent of Americans hold medical debt that is in collections.

The researchers found that, between 2009 and 2020, unpaid medical bills became the largest source of debt that Americans owe collections agencies. Overall debt, both from medical bills and other sources, declined during that period as the economy recovered from the Great Recession.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing

(MIT News) A noninvasive test to detect cancer cells and pinpoint their location

Most of the tests that doctors use to diagnose cancer — such as mammography, colonoscopy, and CT scans — are based on imaging. More recently, researchers have also developed molecular diagnostics that can detect specific cancer-associated molecules that circulate in bodily fluids like blood or urine.

MIT engineers have now created a new diagnostic nanoparticle that combines both of these features: It can reveal the presence of cancerous proteins through a urine test, and it functions as an imaging agent, pinpointing the tumor location. In principle, this diagnostic could be used to detect cancer anywhere in the body, including tumors that have metastasized from their original locations.

“This is a really broad sensor intended to respond to both primary tumors and their metastases. It can trigger a urinary signal and also allow us to visualize where the tumors are,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.

In a new study, Bhatia and her colleagues showed that the diagnostic could be used to monitor the progression of colon cancer, including the spread of metastatic tumors to the lung and the liver. Eventually, they hope it could be developed into a routine cancer test that could be performed annually.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Deseret News) These churches are done with buildings. Here’s why

In September 2020, the Rev. Mike Whang and his wife, Lisa, sat in their home in Houston wrestling with one of the most important decisions of their lives. As she cradled their 1-month-old baby and their 3-year-old daughter slept in another room, they debated leaving the safety net of their large, wealthy church to strike out on their own.

At the time, the Rev. Whang led an ethnically and racially diverse small group ministry for the church. It was going well enough that other pastors wanted to absorb the group’s members into the main worship service.

The Rev. Whang, who is Korean American, felt torn about the consolidation plan. Part of the dilemma boiled down to a question of “Do we want to raise our two daughters in a community where they would be the only nonwhite (children) or do we want to create a new community?” he said.

The alternative — using the ministry group as the starting point for a new church — seemed crazy, especially with a baby, especially in the middle of a pandemic, especially when they had no church building to call their own.

But that’s what the Rev. Whang and his wife decided to do. With the blessing of the area bishop, Oikon United Methodist Church was born.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecclesiology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) The Pandemic Has a New Epicenter: Indonesia

By the thousands, they sleep in hallways, tents and cars, gasping for air as they wait for beds in overcrowded hospitals that may not have oxygen to give them. Others see hospitals as hopeless, even dangerous, and take their chances at home.

Wherever they lie, as Covid-19 steals their breath away, their families engage in a frantic, daily hunt for scarce supplies of life-giving oxygen.

Indonesia has become the new epicenter of the pandemic, surpassing India and Brazil to become the country with the world’s highest count of new infections. ​ The surge is part of a wave across Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low but countries had until recently contained the virus relatively well​. Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand are also facing their largest outbreaks yet and have imposed new restrictions, including lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

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Posted in Globalization, Health & Medicine, Indonesia

(Church Times) Latest church Covid advice: proceed with caution

Congregationl singing and the common cup at the eucharist will be allowed in England once again from Monday, church authorities have confirmed, despite the sharp rise in coronavirus cases. It will be up to clergy and PCCs to decide whether to retain precautions such as face coverings, social distancing, and communion in one kind.

The latest Church of England guidance was published late on Friday afternoon, in preparation for Monday’s removal of restrictions in England. The move coincided with the news that reported daily cases in the UK had passed 50,000, and a warning by the Government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, that hospital admissions could reach “scary numbers”. Different timetables for relaxing Covid restrictions have been set by the governments of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who heads the Church’s Covid recovery group, welcomed the relaxation of restrictions, including what she described as the “long-awaited return of congregational and amateur choir singing”, but she also urged caution.

“This is a difficult point in the course of the pandemic. Despite vaccination rates, cases are up, hospital admissions are up, and long Covid remains an ongoing concern. Therefore our approach needs to be cautious and careful,” she said.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry

(Neolife) A Portrait of a professional baby maker

When it comes to stories about prolific gamete donors, it’s typically sperm donors and sperm banks who get the attention for producing donor siblings families in the dozens—and sometimes in the hundreds. In recent years, stories have surfaced about donor siblings connecting through private Facebook groups, and often finding their donors through DNA tests. Who can forget the 2013 Vince Vaughn comedy, Delivery Man, about a childless man having a midlife crisis who discovers that he had fathered over 500 kids conceived with sperm he donated in his youth. These are the extreme consequences of the age of “collaborative reproduction,” a term coined by the late John Robertson, a law professor and bioethicist at the University of Texas at Austin, to describe the expanded array of civil rights for LGBTQ+ families, lifestyle choices, and medically assisted methods of reproduction available to 21st century families. A large and growing component of collaborative reproduction is the increasingly open roles that surrogates and gamete donors often play in these modern families.

It’s less common, however, to hear stories of such prolific egg donors like Tyra. At a time when so many Millennials like her have become less interested in marriage and children and are also delaying having children for their careers, she is a new kind of female fertility archetype: nurturing and distant at the same time. She fulfills her sense of altruism and her desire to procreate, but in a directly transactional way, selling access to her body and body parts for her own financial gain and freedom. “I’d say it’s 50 percent business, 50 percent having a purpose,” she says. “I never fall into a career. I always thought I’d be a professional athlete between volleyball and golf. And I got my pilot’s license at a young age, but I never fell into my niche. I feel like maybe procreating for others is it.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

Tim Farron interviewed by the English Churchmen

Farron also believes that honesty and integrity in public office holders are key factors that have been largely missing in much of public life both in government and the church. He said, “we’ve almost got to the point where there’s little accountability”. He went on, “All lead by example—either good or bad”.

He thinks JKA Smith’s book, ‘Awaiting the King’ offers a pretty good explanation of the current situation. Farron said in one portion, “King refers to ‘western liberal democracies bearing the crater marks of the gospel’ and agreeing explained; “even though we may not largely be a Christian country today, our values, norms and institutions are nevertheless based on a Christian world view: justice, grace, personal responsibility, care for the needy, the knowledge that if people are sinners then you don’t want power concentrated in the hands of too few of them! The ‘crater marks’ point is more that as we move away from Christianity, then those marks will become fainter and fainter until such point that integrity may matter less and less”.

When asked about what he sees as the next big moral issues facing the nation he was quick and to the point: 1.) “the effort to decriminalise all abortion up to the point of birth”; and, 2.) “assisted dying”. He does not believe that the former will find the support necessary to be approved by parliament and that assisted dying will be a big battle.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

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