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Health Highlights: Nov. 19, 2010

Workers Agree to Settle World Trade Center Dust Lawsuit No Human Cases of Bird Flu in Eastern China: Officials Senate Deal Postpones Doctors' Medicare Payment Cuts 'Octomom' Part of Clinical Trial: Fertility Doctor Many Americans Say Marriage Obsolete: Survey Older Adults Most Likely to Use Hospital ERs: Study

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Workers Agree to Settle World Trade Center Dust Lawsuit

A legal settlement will provide at least $625 million to more than 10,000 workers exposed to toxic dust at the World Trade Center site.

Friday's announcement about the deal will settle the majority of litigation over New York City's failure to provide protective equipment to firefighters, police and construction workers who cleared rubble from the collapsed towers, the Associated Press reported.

The settlement required 95 percent support and just cleared that target, with 95.1 percent. About 500 people turned it down.

Related deals could boost the total amount of the settlement to more than $725 million, the AP reported.


No Human Cases of Bird Flu in Eastern China: Officials

No human cases of bird flu have been detected in eastern China after a Hong Kong woman who recently visited the area was diagnosed with the disease, say health officials.

The Shanghai Health Bureau said investigators have been sent to find people who had contact with the 59-year-old woman, who is in serious condition in an isolation ward at a Hong Kong hospital, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hong Kong officials don't yet know how or where the woman contracted the disease. During her visit to eastern China she visited the cities of Nanjing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

Shanghai health officials said the woman's son, daughter-in-law and other people, including hotel staff in Shanghai, have been checked and did not have bird flu symptoms, AFP reported.


Senate Deal Postpones Doctors' Medicare Payment Cuts

A deal to postpone a huge cut in Medicare payments to physicians was reached by the Senate late Thursday. The agreement will continue current payment levels through the end of the year.

Supporters are urging the House to go along with the plan to delay the 23 percent reduction scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, the Associated Press reported.

Doctors threatened to stop accepting new Medicare patients if the cut went ahead.

Delaying the cut will "give lawmakers time to adopt the yearlong extension that seniors and doctors need," AARP Senior Vice President David Sloane told the AP.

A 12-month extension would give time to create a new way to pay doctors for Medicare services. Many believe the current system is flawed because it focuses on volume rather than quality results.


'Octomom' Part of Clinical Trial: Fertility Doctor

The California fertility doctor for "Octomom" Nadya Suleman told a state medical board hearing Thursday that he implanted her with 12 embryos as part of a study on fertility methods.

Suleman volunteered for the procedure and signed a consent form outlining the risks, Dr. Michael Kamrava said on the witness stand, the Associated Press reported.

A Food and Drug Administration investigator who earlier this year conducted a five-day inspection of Kamrava's equipment and documentation has testified that the doctor used Suleman as part of the experiment.

The medical board alleges that Kamrava was grossly negligent in his treatment of Suleman and two other patients and wants to revoke his medical license, the AP reported.

Closing arguments were presented after Kamrava's testimony Thursday. The administrative law judge overseeing the case will draft an opinion for the state medical board, which will make the final decision on the doctor's medical license.


Many Americans Say Marriage Obsolete: Survey

Four in ten American adults believe marriage is becoming obsolete, but about half of unmarried adults still want to tie the knot, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The finding that many consider marriage less relevant is echoed in U.S. Census data released in September that showed only 52 percent of adults age 18 and over are married, an all-time low, the Associated Press reported.

The Pew survey also found that most Americans agree that a married couple, with or without children, constitutes a family. But 80 percent also said a family can be an unmarried, opposite sex couple with children or a single parent, and 60 percent said a same-sex couple with children is a family.

"Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn't dominate family life like it used to," Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, told the AP. "Now there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them."


Older Adults Most Likely to Use Hospital ERs: Study

Women, low-income, older, and rural adults were most likely to use U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2008, says a federal government study released Thursday.

The analysis of the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample database also showed that adults age 18 and older accounted for 98 million (78 percent) of the nearly 125 emergency departments visits in 2008, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The most frequently seen acute conditions were injuries and abdominal pain, while heart problems and diabetes were among the most common chronic conditions.

The analysis also found that rates of emergency department visits were:

  • 90 percent higher for adults in low-income areas than for those in areas with the highest incomes -- 544 visits versus 287 visits per 1,000 people.
  • 39 percent higher for those in rural areas than for those in urban areas -- 515 vs. 372 visits per 1,000 people.
  • 26 percent higher for women than for men -- 477 vs. 378 visits per 1,000 people.
  • 24 percent higher for adults age 65 and older, compared to those ages 18 to 44 -- 550 visits vs. 444 visits per 1,000 people.


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