Thursday, February 15, 2007

Don't get old in Britain

Many doctors discriminate against older patients, giving them poorer advice and worse treatment than younger people with the same symptoms. A study has found that elderly patients with angina are less likely to be prescribed a statin to lower their cholesterol, given appropriate tests or to be offered surgical treatments. Instead they were often given a minor change in prescription and told to come back later, in spite of studies that show that all patients, regardless of age, benefit from modern treatments.

The survey, published in the journal Quality and Safety in Health Care, found that patients over 65 were given different care from those who were younger. Twenty-eight general practitioners, 28 elderly care specialists and 29 cardiologists from across southern England and the Midlands were questioned. A total of 72 fictional patients with angina were presented to the doctors as part of a computer programme, and the doctors were interviewed. The fictional patients were aged between 45 and 92, with varying degrees of heart problems.

Overall, the study found that older patients were less likely to be referred to a cardiologist and given an angiogram or exercise tolerance tests compared with middle-aged patients. They were also less likely to be offered revascularisation (opening up of blood vessels). The authors, led by Professor Ann Bowling, from University College London, found that the doctors who were influenced by age were on average five years older than those who were not.



An email from Joel Schwartz

You may have heard about a recent story in the British newspaper the Guardian insinuating that scholars from the American Enterprise Institute attempted to bribe climate scientists to lie about climate change with money supplied by ExxonMobil. The Guardian's false accusations, which appear to have been planted by Greenpeace and/or the Public Interest Research Group, are quickly unraveling. Here are the latest developments, as well as background information on the false allegations:

1. Steve Hayward and Ken Green, the AEI scholars accused by the Guardian, write about their experience and place it in the larger context of the climate debate in "Scenes from the Climate Inquisition" in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard.

2. Joe Nocera of the New York Times called the bribery charge "ridiculous" in an article on ExxonMobil a couple of days ago.

3. The British newspaper the Independent has retracted its charge that Exxon tried to bribe climate scientists, as reported in this blog (I confirmed the quote from the Independent with a Nexis search)

4. I've been told that National Public Radio also corrected its story, but I haven't been able to track down an actual transcript or audio file yet. If you have a link, or know when the retraction ran, please let me know.

5. Several senators sent AEI an "are you now or have you ever been a climate skeptic"-style letter reiterating the bribery insinuation. Chris DeMuth, AEI's president, sent a reply. The reply includes the senators' original letter. It also includes Hayward and Green's original letters to climate scientists and economists inviting them to participate in the AEI project that was the subject of the Guardian's hit piece.

Something to keep in mind as you review these materials is that these same senators all voted to repudiate the Kyoto treaty in the Byrd-Hagel resolution (vote: 95-0). The Senate is also free to vote to ratify Kyoto at any time, but has so far chosen not to do so, despite senators' claimed worries over climate change and U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Senator Bernie Sanders's press release on the senators' letter described above. As of this writing, the press release is still posted on the Senator's web site.

7. The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on the Guardian's smear story last Friday. See here

8. The New York Sun ran an editorial on the smear today. See here

9. AEI's David Frum wrote about the Guardian's tactics here. AEI has a web page devoted to the Guardian affair here.

UK: Archbishop battles final Anglican split: "The Archbishop of Canterbury's hopes this week of preventing the 78 million-strong worldwide Anglican communion from finally sliding into schism over the issue of homosexuality appeared slim yesterday as he prepared to fly to Tanzania for a meeting of the church's primates. Conservative archbishops, mainly from the developing world, have gathered in Dar es Salaam for a separate two-day conference in advance of a formal meeting on Wednesday to plot tactics and agree a strategy before Rowan Williams arrives tomorrow. ... Archbishops from the developing world have told Dr Williams privately that they are opposed to his invitation to Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church, to attend the meeting because she supported its election of the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, in 2003. Presiding Bishop Schori is the first female primate of a leading Christian denomination in church history and some Africans have threatened that they will not sit down in the same room with her or recognise her authority."

UK: Woman goes to court in historic euthanasia case: "A 30-year-old woman who is terminally ill has launched a campaign to overturn Britain's euthanasia laws by compelling her doctors to increase her dose of morphine and let her die. Kelly Taylor lives in constant pain with a congenital heart defect and a spinal disorder. She says she has struggled with her condition all her life and wants release. She has been told she has a year to live but doctors have been unable to control her pain. 'Enough is enough,' she said yesterday. 'I don't want to suffer any more. I'm not depressed -- I've never been depressed. I am a happy person. But my illness is now at the point where I don't want to deal with it any more.' Her case is believed to be unique in launching a double-pronged challenge to the law that forbids doctors from helping patients to end their lives. She wants the court to rule that doctors may sedate her and then withdraw tube feeding so that she dies."

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