Health Highlights: April 12, 2011

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

New U.S. Program Aims to Reduce Hospital-Related Injuries

A new federal government program to prevent hospital-related injuries could save 63,000 lives and up to $35 billion in health-care costs in the United States over the next three years, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

In her announcement Tuesday, the secretary said HHS will invest up to $1 billion in the Partnership for Patients, ABC News reported.

“Americans go to the hospital to get well, but millions of patients are injured because of preventable complications and accidents,” Sebelius said. “Working closely with hospitals, doctors, nurses, patients, families and employers, we will support efforts to keep patients safe, improve care, and reduce costs. Working together, we can help eliminate preventable harm to patients.”

One of the people who joined Sebelius for the announcement was Sorrel King, whose 18-month-old daughter died in 2001 due to a hospital error, ABC News reported.

“For 10 years I have been traveling all around the country, in and out of hospitals,” King said, “and I have to tell you they are doing really great things and really great things are happening. But I have to tell you it’s not happening fast enough.”


Guilt Verdict for Mother Who Withheld Cancer Drugs From Son

A Massachusetts woman has been convicted of attempted murder for withholding at-home cancer treatment from her autistic son.

The jury also convicted Kristen LaBrie of child endangerment and assault and battery. She had testified she stopped giving her son, Jeremy Fraser, his chemotherapy medications for non-Hodgkin lymphoma because the side effects made him so ill she thought the drugs would kill him, the Associated Press reported.

Jeremy died in 2009 at age 9.

During the trial, the boy’s oncologist said she told LaBrie her son’s disease had a high cure rate. But the doctor discovered in 2008 that Jeremy’s cancer had returned and that LaBrie had not been filling prescriptions, the AP reported.


Vitamin D Cuts Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Study

Women who consume high levels of vitamin D in their diet reduce their risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a new study.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans.

This study found that women who consumed the most vitamin D were 59 percent less likely to develop AMD than those with vitamin D-poor diets, ABC News reported.

The risk of AMD was lowest when women consumed 720 international units of vitamin D per day from foods such as leafy greens, cold water fish and dairy products, said the researchers.

For example, that amount of vitamin D can be gained by eating a little over three ounces of blue fin tuna, ABC News reported.

The study appears in the April issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.


Missouri Democrat Joins Fight Against Health Care Law

In a break with his political party, the Democratic attorney general of Missouri has filed a court brief asking a federal judge to overturn the new U.S. health law’s requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance.

Attorney General Chris Koster took the action Monday following months of pressure from state Republicans. Koster is a onetime Republican state legislator who became a member of the Democratic Party in 2007, The New York Times reported.

Instead of joining attorneys general from other states who have taken legal action against the new health law, Koster filed a “friend of the court” brief, or legal argument, in the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

That appeals court is hearing a case filed by Republican governors and attorneys general from 26 states. In his ruling on the case, a federal district judge said that the entire health reform law should be invalidated but stayed his ruling until the matter was settled by the Supreme Court, The Times reported.


Older Parents Happier: Study

People over the age of 40 who have children are happier than those over 40 without children, while those under 30 with children are less happy than those under 30 who are child-free, according to a new study.

American and German researchers analyzed self-reported levels of happiness among more than 200,000 people in 86 countries who took part in the World Values Surveys, The New York Times reported.

The study, published in the March issue of the journal Population and Development Review, doesn’t reveal why parenting seems to be more enjoyable for people over 40.

The researchers also found that having more children makes older parents even happier, but makes younger parents unhappier, The Times reported.

For people under 30, those with two children are unhappier than those with one child, who are unhappier than those with no children. For parents over 50, each child brings more happiness. For parents ages 40 to 50, the number of children has no effect.