Jim DeMint Wants to Compete With Skype

Finally a politician with the courage to go up against Skype.  A Republican – Doctor* DeMint – who loves government regulation has come out of the closet in favor of barring Skype users from discussing abortion with medical professionals.  No word yet on if he will allow an exception if you are skyping with your anti-choice priest.  What is clear, now Skype will face competition from SkypeDeMint.  SkypeDeMint – for all your abortion discussing needs.

Via Think Progress:

Now Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most die-hard anti-choice lawmakers, has jumped on the bandwagon by sneaking a radical anti-abortion amendment onto a completely unrelated piece of legislation. DeMint’s amendment would ban women and their doctors from discussing abortion over the Internet:

Anti-choice Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) just filed an anti-choice amendment to a bill related to agriculture, transportation, housing, and other programs. The DeMint amendment could bar discussion of abortion over the Internet and through videoconferencing, even if a woman’s health is at risk and if this kind of communication with her doctor is her best option to receive care.

Under this amendment, women would need a separate, segregated Internet just for talking about abortion care with their doctors.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said DeMint is essentially mandating “an abortion-only version of Skype.” She points out that a woman with high-risk pregnancy talking to her doctor through video conferencing would have to somehow switch to a separate communications system if abortion came up at all. “It is impractical, ridiculous, and, most importantly, bad for women in rural or remote areas who would not be able to discuss the full set of options with their doctor,” Keenan said.

In keeping with the anti-choice strategy of inching towards complete lack of reproductive choice, I wonder what the follow up to this amendment would be if it passes…

PS If you cannot discuss abortion over the internet, I wonder what impact this would have on blogs?

* Jim DeMint received his medical degree in the form of an MBA from Clemson.

Infections: Greed vs Saving Lives

I’ve been meaning to write about this.  Mad Mike over at Majikthise has written two very important posts about health care.  The first is about tackling the flu:

My point about influenza is that preventing most of the deaths can be thought of as ‘low-hanging fruit.’

With annual influenza, all we need is more vaccine stuck into the appropriate people. There’s no new technology to develop (although cell-based culture would be an improvement). Once a person is vaccinated, there’s no behavioral modification needed. We could have an effective vaccination strategy up and running in two to five years (being a pessimist, I’ll say five). A couple of years to increase vaccine production facilities, two years to work out the distribution kinks, and year five, it works.

Unsurprisingly, this boils down to a question of lives vs money:

There are very few problems can be solved solely by throwing buckets of money at them (although buckets of money are either helpful or necessary). Annual influenza is one of those problems than can be solved simply by investing more resources. That’s why this is so frustrating: it is utterly within our power to save roughly 28,000 lives per year, and yet we fail to do so.

There is just nothing ethical about letting people die when we have the means to save them.  But the second post got me thinking.  If 28,000 people die every year from the flu, how many are just hospitalized?  How many bring new bugs in, and carry new bugs out?  And that’s just from the flu.  What if we take into account every preventable health issue that, if left alone, leads to hospitalization?

That leads us back to that second post.  The number of people dying every year from hospital infections is staggering:

CDC estimates: 90,000 dead. 2,000,000 infected. Maybe if we called this an epidemic or a bacterial insurgency, people would pay attention.

Friends have often asked me why I don’t take bioterrorism very seriously. I have a lot of reasons, but here’s the germane one: the bioterrorist attack, for all intensive purposes, is already here. 90,000 dead per year–forget the World Trade Center, that’s a Nagasaki sized number.

So in addition to the thousands of people, every year, we fail to save from the flu, we are radically ratcheting up a host of other other health problems.  Universal Health Care and proper prevention and vaccination programs are not some abstract moral highland to strive for.  They are a necessity towards combating the current health crisis.

HIV Still a Death Sentence for the Poor

Despite the glowing praise coming out of the Syndey conference, HIV remains a death sentence for those unable to access the most modern treatments.

On the one hand there is progress in how we are able to treat the disease:

Sydney – HIV infection is no longer a death sentence, with patients likely to have a “fairly robust” life expectancy if given the right drugs, a major HIV/Aids conference in Australia heard on Monday.

Michael Lederman, of Case Western Reserve University, has been treating HIV patients for more than 20 years and said he has seen such improvements that he believes the world could be on the cusp of ending the pandemic.

But thanks to the unchecked greed of the pharmaceutical companies, that progress comes at a steep price:

Newer, less toxic anti-AIDS drugs will cost a whopping 500 per cent more, according to a report launched Monday at an international AIDS conference by the medical humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). The substantial price increase, from 99 to 487 dollars, was for first-line combination antiretroviral treatment recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In addition, new infections are outpacing treatment:

Dr Anthony Fauci told a conference in Sydney that progress had been made, but more people were being infected with HIV than were being treated.

“For every one person that you put in therapy, six new people get infected. So we’re losing that game, the numbers game,” he said.

The crisis of HIV/Aids is shifting from a scientific struggle to a socio-economic struggle.  The disease is treatable now, but for many, that treatment is beyond their reach.  The pharmaceutical companies and the governments that shelter their ip claims and their profiteering are putting the value of a dollar over the value of human life.

HIV will cease to be a death sentence when we step in to stop the executions.  Left unchecked, pharmaceutical companies are not likely to develop a conscience.