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Health Highlights: Dec. 5, 2011
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Departing Medicare Chief Cites Wasteful Spending
Twenty to 30 percent of U.S. health spending is "waste" that provides no benefit to patients, according to the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Dr. Donald M. Berwick told The New York Times that the high level of wasteful spending is due to overtreatment of patients, failure to coordinate care, the health system's administrative complexity, burdensome rules and fraud, The New York Times reported.
Berwick, whose last day on the job was Thursday, also said Americans should support the nation's new health care law, even if they don't fully understand all the details.
"It's a complex, complicated law. To explain it takes a while. To understand it takes an investment that I'm not sure the man or woman in the street wants to make or ought to make," he told The Times.
He noted that Americans supported manned missions to the moon even though they didn't fully comprehend the science.
"We are a nation headed for justice, for fairness and justice in access to care," Berwick told The Times. "We are a nation headed for much more healing and much safer care. There is a moon shot here. But somehow we have not put together that story in a way that's compelling."
Prominent Cancer Researcher Dies
An American doctor who made major discoveries about the link between the immune system and cancer had died.
Dr. Lloyd J. Old, 78, died Nov. 28 at his home in Manhattan. His family said the cause of death was prostate cancer, The New York Times reported.
Old was considered a leader in a branch of cancer therapy called immunotherapy, also known as biotherapy. Most of the treatments in this field involve using cells from a cancer patient to boost the body's natural ability to kill cancer and to improve the immune system's ability to detect cancer cells.
Cancer immunotherapy was considered fringe when Old began in work in the field in the 1960s but is now considered one of the standard options for cancer treatment, The Times reported.
"Without Lloyd Old, there would be one less therapy available to treat cancer patients," Dr. Irving Weissman, director of the Institute of Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine, told The Times. "He has kept a field alive that shows great promise."
Scene in 'Breaking Dawn' Movie Poses Seizure Risk: Report
Flashing white lights in the birth scene of the movie "Breaking Dawn" can cause seizures in some people, the Epilepsy Foundation of America warns on a Facebook posting.
At least nine people have reported suffering photosensitive seizures during the scene, ABC News reported.
The flashing white lights can cause brain neurons to start firing in synch instead of their usual random patterns.
"When the brain is functioning normally, there are neurons firing all over the place," Dr. Dan Lowenstein, director of the University of California, San Francisco Epilepsy Center, told ABC News. "During a seizure, there's an abnormal synchronization that we don't usually have."
In 1997, more than 700 people in Japan were hospitalized after suffering seizures caused by special effects in a Pokemon cartoon.
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