Consumer Health Digest #11-31

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 22, 2011

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

De-licensed surgeon peddling questionable theories. Dwight C. Lundell, M.D., who lost his Arizona medical license in 2008, has been promoting books that clash with scientific knowledge of health disease and prevention. His central premise is coronary heart disease is caused by inflammation and that lowering cholesterol levels will not lower the risk of heart attacks or strokes. Instead, he advocates a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, low-dose aspirin, and fish oil and conjugated linoleic acid supplements for everyone. Lundell's offerings are promoted with the statement that he has performed more than 5,000 operations during 25 years of cardiothoracic surgical practice. But they fail to mention that between 2000 and 2008, he was subjected to five regulatory actions by the Arizona Medical Board and in 2004 he was also convicted of wilful failure to file federal income tax returns for the years 1992 though 1996.

From 2007 through May 2010, Lundell was listed as an advisor to NourishLife, a company that markets vitamins, fish oil supplements, and conjugated linoleic acid supplements as "pharmaceutical grade" products claimed to help children with speech problems. The Truth About Heart Disease Web site, which promotes his book, The Great Cholesterol Lie, invites people to become "members" by paying $47, $77, or $245 per month for access to additional information. The highest membership category is said to include access to private consultations with Lundell, but the site is not currently taking new members. Quackwatch has additional information about Lundell's background and activities.

Excellent advice available online for advance directives. People 18 years or older who wish to invoke the right to refuse medical treatment should prepare an advance medical directive, which may be a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, or a combination of the two. A living will—also called a health-care directive—is a document in which a person states whether artificial life-support procedures such as a respirator or intravenous feeding should be used if the person becomes terminally ill (as defined by state law) or is too sick (e.g., in a coma) to communicate treatment preferences. A durable power of attorney—also known as a health-care power of attorney or health-care proxy—designates another individual (proxy), usually a family member or intimate friend, to make treatment decisions when the patient cannot.

State-specific forms and instructions can be obtained from downloaded free from Caring Connections or Compassion & Choices. The Center for Practical Bioethics's Caring Conversations workbook provides a helpful step-by-step guide to preparing advance directives. Consultation with an attorney may be advisable to ensure that the implications of alternative choices are clearly understood. The documents must be witnessed, and many states require that they be notarized. To be on the safe side, both procedures are advisable. The completed documents should be easily accessible, and photocopies should be given to everyone named in the documents, and possibly one's attorney and primary-care physician. The documents will stay in effect unless cancelled or replaced, so it is important to review them periodically.

Michele Bachmann blasted for "vaccine hogwash." Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, has laid bare the irresponsible statements made by Michele Bachmann during and after the September 12 Republican presidential candidate debate on September 12. [Offit P. Michele Bachmann's HPV hogwash: Her comments on Perry's Gardasil mandate are irresponsible. New York Daily News, Sept 15, 2011] Bachmann was upset because Texas Governor Rick Perry had ordered Texas's sixth-grade schoolgirls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus unless a parent objected. The order was overridden by the state legislature and did not take effect, but Bachmann, knowing that the vaccine's manufacturer had contributed $5,000 to Perry's campaign, implied that Perry's order had been bought. After the debate, Bachmann reported on NBC's "Today Show" that a woman had told her that her daughter was given the HPV vaccine and suffered mental retardation as a result. Commenting on the situation, Offit said:

HPV vaccination is an important public health measure because it prevents most cases of cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all recommend administering it to girls around age 11 or 12 so they are protected well before sexual activity is expected to begin. The AAP and many prominent physicians have criticized Bachmann.

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This page was revised on September 24, 2011.