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30 posts categorized "Health Care"

July 17, 2012

Burlington City Council Approves Planned Parenthood No-Protest Zone

Anti-abortionThe Burlington City Council overwhelmingly approved an ordinance Monday night that establishes a 35-foot "buffer zone" around health centers. The vote was 13 to 1 in support, with Councilor Paul Decelles (R–Ward 7) casting the lone dissenting vote.

Councilors said the ordinance seeks to balance the First Amendment right of protesters to speak out against abortion with the public safety concerns of patients to access medical care without being subjected to threats, fear or intimidation, 

Although the new ordinance applies to all healthcare facilities in Burlington, its primary aim was the Planned Parenthood clinic on St. Paul Street. Since moving to its downtown location last fall, Planned Parenthood has reported an uptick in anti-abortion activists approaching its patients on the sidewalk, asking why they're visiting the clinic and, in some cases, trying to dissuade them from getting an abortion.

Jill Krowinski, Vermont public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told the council that in the past month alone, 30 patients have reported being "approached, intimidated or harassed" by anti-abortion protesters as they attempted to enter the clinic, creating "a serious public safety issue."

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Approves Planned Parenthood No-Protest Zone" »

June 28, 2012

Vermont Politicos React to Health Care Ruling

SCOTUSThe news is in: The federal Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare") is here to stay, according to the much anticipated ruling the Supreme Court handed down today.

SCOTUS Blog is reporting that the court upheld nearly the entirety of the ACA in a 5-4 ruling, including an unpopular individual mandate that requires virtually every American to carry health insurance. Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding swing vote. 

Click here to read the actual opinion. Click here to read the excellent analysis of people who know more about these things than we do.

How are Vermonters reacting? Here's a smattering of comments gleaned from phone interviews and written statements.

Republican candidate for governor Randy Brock summoned reporters to the Hilton in Burlington less than an hour after t he ruling came out. Brock said he was less concerned about "Obamacare" than about "Titanicare" — his term for Gov. Peter Shumlin's "Green Mountain Care" single payer health care plan.

Today's Supreme Court decision only postpones the day of reckoning for Governor Shumlin's Titanicare health care law. Federal dollars can now temporarily plug the huge holes the Governor's plan will generate in Vermont's budget. Let's be frank about this: Titaniccare will sink and take all of us with it. It's just going to sink a teeny bit slower with this subsidy and nobody, not even Governor Shumlin, believes the subsidy will last forever. Vermonters better start asking the Governor and his allies in the legislature to explain before this upcoming election how they're going to rescue us passengers.

Full steam ahead?

Continue reading "Vermont Politicos React to Health Care Ruling" »

May 18, 2012

Planned Parenthood Wants 35-Foot "Patient Safety Zone" to Keep Anti-Abortion Protesters At Bay

PPNNE 2The Burlington chapter of Planned Parenthood wants a buffer zone around its new downtown offices to keep anti-abortion demonstrators from approaching patients and staff.

On Monday, the City Council will take up an ordinance that would create a 35-foot "patient safety zone" around the St. Paul Street building.

Jill Krowinski, director of Vermont public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, says more patients and staff have reported being harassed by anti-abortion demonstrators since the organization moved its offices downtown last fall. She says it's a privacy problem and a "serous public safety issue."

"They're walking up to people on the sidewalk, asking them what they're doing at the health center, giving them misinformation about medical procedures and the outcomes of it," says Krowinski, who also represents Burlington in the state legislature. 

Planned Parenthood now shares a building with a hair salon and other offices, some of whom have also complained about the protesters, Krowinski says.

"We had a complaint from a client of the hair salon that's also in the building," Krowinski says. "She was getting out of her car and she was approached by an individual asking if she was here for an abortion and she said, 'I'm here to get my bangs trimmed.'"

Under the ordinance, picketers would be banned from coming within 35 feet of the building — effectively putting them across St. Paul Street. Breaching the buffer zone would be punishable by fines of $50 to $500 per offense.

Leaders of pro-life groups who picket and hold prayer vigils outside Planned Parenthood tell a vastly different story. They deny intimidating anyone and claim it's their members who are being harassed for exercising their constitutional right to free speech.

Continue reading "Planned Parenthood Wants 35-Foot "Patient Safety Zone" to Keep Anti-Abortion Protesters At Bay" »

May 07, 2012

On Last Day of Legislature, Senate Takes One More Shot at Vaccine Bill

DSC02326Turns out Vermonters won't have to find Jesus in order to get out of vaccinating their school-bound children. 

But they will have to sign a form every year declaring that they understand their un-immunized kids could inadvertently sicken — or even kill — another child.

That was the compromise agreed to at the Statehouse on the final day of the 2012 legislative session on Saturday.

The bill passed Saturday maintains the philosophical and religious exemptions. But it will require parents to provide schools and day care providers with a signed statement — every year — declaring, among other things, that they understand:

"There are persons with special health needs attending schools and child care facilities who are unable to be vaccinated or who are at heightened risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable communicable disease and for whom such a disease could be life-threatening."

Sen. Phillip Baruth (D-Chittenden, pictured) called that language "coercive" and said it forces parents annually to "certify that their actions could endanger other kids."

"We're basically saying, 'We would like to take your rights away. We're not going to do it, but we're going to make you sign a form saying we were right all along,'" Baruth said.

Continue reading "On Last Day of Legislature, Senate Takes One More Shot at Vaccine Bill" »

April 13, 2012

Vermont Senate Rejects Right-to-Die Legislation — Without Ever Voting On It

Campbell Miller 2No one expected discussion of a right-to-die bill to last more than a few minutes in the Vermont Senate on Thursday. On her way into the chamber, Amy Shollenberger, a lobbyist for the advocacy group Patient Choices at End of Life Vermont, quipped, "Don't blink, or you'll miss it."

Even so, sticker-wearing supporters and opponents of the legislation packed the chamber to see the full Senate debate the issue for the first time.

In the end, they got a debate — but no up-or-down vote.

The Vermont Senate went into session ostensibly to tackle a procedural question: Could legislation that would give terminally ill Vermonters the right to end their lives with a fatal dose of medication be added to a bill regulating tanning salons?

Proponents of an Oregon-style "death with dignity" law attached the language to the tanning bill in committee this week in a last-ditch attempt to pass it this session. But whether it survived to get a floor vote depended on whether it was deemed germane to tanning salons.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who presides over the Senate, ruled that it wasn't. The senators could have overruled him if three quarters of them disagreed. Instead, they voted to sustain his decision — but not before the procedural question morphed into an emotional, two-hour debate on the merits of "death with dignity," which opponents call "doctor-assisted suicide." Senators also traded some testy remarks about the unusual way the bill ended up on the floor in the first place. 

Continue reading "Vermont Senate Rejects Right-to-Die Legislation — Without Ever Voting On It" »

April 10, 2012

"Death With Dignity" Legislation Alive Again

What do tanning beds and physician-assisted death have in common?

Photo 1We're about to find out.

In a surprise move Tuesday, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee found a way to advance right-to-die legislation that until today appeared dead. Using a procedural move, the committee attached a right-to-die provision to a bill regulating tanning salons. The amendment would make it legal for terminally-ill Vermonters with fewer than six months to live to request a fatal dose of medication.

Whether it survives to get a floor vote — as soon as Thursday — hinges on whether the "death with dignity" legislation is deemed germane to the tanning bill. If Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who presides over the Senate, deems that it is, the vote can go forward. If he doesn't, the assisted-death language will be stripped from the bill.

Sen. Hinda Miller (D-Chittenden), who engineered Tuesday's vote on the bill, says she is confident she can defend the germane-ness of the legislation. The tanning bed bill deals with cancer, she says. And research from Oregon, where right-to-die is established law, shows that some 80 percent of patients who choose to end their lives have terminal cancer.

If that sounds like a bit of a stretch to you, it apparently does to Scott as well. The lite guv told the Burlington Free Press that the issues don't seem particularly germane to each other. Senate President John Campbell agrees, and told Seven Days that he's "sure someone will challenge it."

Advocates of right-to-die legislation mounted an aggressive campaign to pass it this year. Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith support it, but Campbell, who is Catholic, does not. After an emotional day of testimony on the bill last month, Campbell and Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), who opposes the bill on conscience, said the bill would not move forward.

Miller (pictured at left in photo) is retiring from the Legislature at the end of this term, and said she wanted to see a vote on an issue she's worked 10 years to pass.

Continue reading ""Death With Dignity" Legislation Alive Again" »

March 23, 2012

Breaking Dad: Author David Sheff Talks About His Book 'Beautiful Boy' and His Son's Meth Addiction

David_sheffThere’s an inherent repetitiveness to all books about alcoholism or drug addiction. The reader knows immediately that if the main character enters rehab just a third of the way into the story, a relapse — or more likely, a series of relapses — is just page turn away. That's the nature of addiction: It's a vicious circle, or more accurately, a vicious spiral that typically moves only downward.

Beautiful Boy, David Sheff’s 2008 #1 New York Times bestseller about his son Nic's rapid descent into methamphetamines addiction, is no less gripping because you already know what's coming: Nic, an exceedingly bright, athletic and creative boy, starts drinking and smoking pot as a northern California preteen and soon moves on to harder stuff before discovering his drug of choice: crystal meth.

What unfolds over the ensuing 300-plus pages of Sheff's compelling and heart-wrenching memoir is all-too-familiar terrain to the families of addicts: the lying, stealing, guilt, self-recrimination, broken promises, sleepless nights, police cars, and seemingly endless visits to emergency rooms, Al-Anon meetings and drug rehab centers. And tears. Lots and lots of tears.

But the book, which is unsparing in its gritty honesty, also offers tremendous hope to those who assume there's no road back from addiction to an insidious drug that permanently alters the brains of its users.

Sheff, whose pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired and elsewhere, based this book on a February 2005 article he wrote for the  New York Times Magazine called "My Addicted Son." Since the publication of Beautiful Boy, Nic Sheff has published two books of his own about his meth habit: Tweak and We All Fall Down.

Sheff, 56, will be speaking at Burlington's Contois Auditorium on Thursday, April 5, at 7 p.m. (Tickets are $15. Click here for more info.) He was invited to Vermont by documentary filmmaker Bess O’Brien, of Kingdom County Productions, whose latest project addresses prescription opiate abuse in St. Albans. Following Sheff's talk, he'll take part in an open panel discussion, moderated by Mitch Barron, with St. Albans pediatrician Dr. Fred Holmes and two recovering prescription-pill addicts.

Seven Days spoke to Sheff by phone at his home in Inverness, Calif.

SEVEN DAYS: You must get many invitations to speak to community groups all around the country. What convinced you to come to Vermont? It couldn’t just be for the Ben & Jerry’s and maple syrup.

DAVID SHEFF: Do you know Bess O’Brien? She’s sort of a force of nature and hard to say no to. But, yes, I get a lot of invitations and I like to do them. It’s really gratifying to connect with people, and it also relates to the new book I’m working on... about the addiction treatment system, what works, what doesn’t, and what’s wrong with the system we have here in America. So, going to different places is instructive. Most places have very similar issues but there are specifics to specific places and  specific drugs... Plus, it sounds like Bess is doing some really interesting work. That has a lot to do with it. And, the maple syrup.

SD: You write in Beautiful Boy that your own experimentation with drugs was a flaw that you passed on to your son. Have your other two kids avoided using drugs?

DS: They have. You don’t have to convince them that drugs are really, really bad. They were scared to death... When I was growing up, my parents talked to me about drugs. They warned me [with] information they probably got from public service announcements on TV and PTA meetings. So, I thought they were totally clueless, and they were, about drugs. They had no idea. So, because of my experiences, I understood, and understand, why people use drugs, both for the social part of it and also the relief they can provide when you’re stressed out. I understood the draw of drugs and I wasn’t naive about the dangers. It wasn’t just someone giving me these Nancy Reagan-like “Just say no” warnings. I had one friend I wrote about who died... one who ended up in prison, another who ended up out of his mind and who slowly drifted off into oblivion.

Continue reading "Breaking Dad: Author David Sheff Talks About His Book 'Beautiful Boy' and His Son's Meth Addiction" »

March 16, 2012

"Death With Dignity" Bill on Life Support

DSC02163A right-to-die bill was near death in Montpelier on Friday after failing to make it out of committee by the mid-session "crossover" deadline.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to vote on the contentious "death with dignity" bill Friday morning following an emotional three-hour hearing on Wednesday. But the vote was cancelled because one of the committee members, state Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor), was hospitalized last night after falling six feet off a staircase at an apartment she rents with two other lawmakers.

Nitka's absence didn't change the bill's fate: she was opposed, as were two other members of the five-member Judiciary Committee. A 2-2 tie would have effectively killed the bill in committee.

But committee chairman Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington, pictured), who opposes the bill, felt it wouldn't be right to vote on the legislation without Nitka present. Sears held firm despite pressure from Gov. Peter Shumlin, a backer of "death with dignity," to vote the bill out of committee with an "adverse" recommendation so that the full Senate could debate it. Sears conferred with Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell and determined that was the "wrong thing to do."

Backers of the bill said they are prepared to fight for the vote on the Senate floor this year, but the prospects for that happening appeared uncertain.

Continue reading ""Death With Dignity" Bill on Life Support" »

March 15, 2012

Debating How to Die: Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony on "Death With Dignity" Bill

DSC02069Following an emotional three hours of testimony on a right-to-die bill Wednesday, state Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor) shared a personal story about her mother to explain why she opposes the legislation.

At age 92, Nitka says her mother was "able bodied and still working" until one night when she fell and broke her hip. Nitka was at home covering her pepper plants to protect against an October frost. Nitka called her mother, who lived in Albany, and told her to look at the beautiful stars outside. Her mother switched the lights off to get a look and fell down in the dark.

Nitka says her mother went downhill over the next five weeks and was ultimately "eased out of life with morphine." To Nitka, that personal experience convinced her that it is not necessary to pass a law giving terminally ill Vermonters with fewer than six months to live the option of taking a fatal dose of medication.

"We already have a type of care that is easing people out of life," she says.

After collecting dust for more than a year, a right-to-die bill finally got a hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. More than 100 people packed a Statehouse hearing room for a bill that backers call "death with dignity" and opponents call "physician-assisted suicide." Committee chairman Dick Sears (D-Bennington) agreed to take testimony on the bill but predicted it likely wouldn't pass — even if it does get a vote, which is far from certain.

Sears opposes it. So do Nitka and Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington). That leaves only two members of the Judiciary Committee — bill cosponsors Jeanette White (D-Windham) and Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden) — who support the legislation. Nitka says she wasn't moved off her position by Wednesday's hearing, despite testimony from supporters including the architect of Oregon's right-to-die law, illustrating the long odds proponents face in getting the bill passed this year.

Continue reading "Debating How to Die: Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony on "Death With Dignity" Bill" »

March 09, 2012

Republican Emerges to Challenge Bernie Sanders — And He's Got a Colorful Past

John MacGovern
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been raising millions of dollars for his re-election campaign this year, but so far no candidate — Republican or otherwise — has come forward to run against him.

Until now.

Yesterday, the conservative website Redstate.com reported that John MacGovern, a former Republican Massachusetts lawmaker who lives in Windsor, will challenge Sanders. MacGovern has already launched a campaign website with his bio, issue positions, news clippings and online donation form. On the site, MacGovern names the "skyrocketing national debt" as the most serious problem facing the country.

Without naming him, MacGovern's website states that Sanders is leading America down the road toward "catastrophic national bankruptcy and further increases in unemployment."

"It seems that he has does [sic] not know what it takes to create jobs, and, in fact, supports raising taxes on the producers of jobs which, needless to say, would make it more difficult to create them," MacGovern states on the site. "In short, his vote can almost always be counted on to continue down the wrong road."

MacGovern also wades into the contraception controversy roiling Washington D.C. and the nation, though he never mentions birth control by name, saying America is facing a "full frontal assault on our religious liberties."

Vermont Republican Party executive director Mike Bertrand said he met MacGovern for "about 15 seconds" at a GOP event and said he seems like a "a very capable individual." But Bertrand stressed there's at least one other Republican exploring a candidacy, though he did not name the person.

"I would not assume by any stretch of the imagination that that is the one candidate," Bertrand said of MacGovern.

Continue reading "Republican Emerges to Challenge Bernie Sanders — And He's Got a Colorful Past" »

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