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Center for Health Journalism

William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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Unless someone has had a bad experience with an insurance company, most people think of insurers as either benign or positive forces in their lives. It’s the president from “24” telling us in a deep, reassuring voice that we’ll be taken care of.

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UPDATE: Rutland will be allowed to continue practicing but cannot perform surgeries or deliveries after a judge's Jan. 7 decision. Here's the Orange County Register story.

 

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Dr. Earl Bradley had rooms in his pediatric practice decorated with Disney characters. Standard issue for the field.

He also had a merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel, which might be pushing the boundaries of childlike enthusiasm.

What made Bradley truly unusual, though, were the six handheld video cameras he kept. He used them, police say, to film himself molesting patients. They suspect he may have victimized more than 100 children, often bringing them into the basement of his office where he gave them toys to play with but also terrorized them.

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Hepatitis C tore through Las Vegas in February 2008, prompting health officials to call for 40,000 people to be tested for the disease. With estimates of more than 100 cases stemming from the outbreak and possibly thousands of infections that went unreported, it was later declared the largest Hepatitis C outbreak in US history, putting more people at risk than all previous outbreaks combined.

 

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Dr. F.D. Toms, a New Jersey doctor, found himself in a bind.

Rumors had been running around town that he had been sleeping with another man’s wife. The spurned husband, William Smith, showed up at the doctor’s office demanding to see him.

Toms panicked. Seeing Smith charging at him, Toms grabbed a container of sulphuric acid and threw it in Smith’s face. Toms said later that he thought he had grabbed a bottle of ammonia.

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I started listing my favorite stories of the past year, in no particular order, on Dec. 21. Here is the rest of the list.

At VA Hospital, A Rogue Cancer Unit,” Walt Bogdanich, The New York Times

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Last week, Antidote spoke with Dr. Doris K. Cope, a seasoned anesthesiologist and pain medicine specialist from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who is one of the voices behind the new Life Line to Modern Medicine campaign from the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

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Antidote started as a way to share innovative investigative ideas in health reporting, in part by highlighting reporters who have done an exceptional job digging for great stories. Starting this week I am going to list 10 of my favorite stories from the year, in no particular order.

Smart Choices Foods: Dumb as they look? ,” Rebecca Ruiz, Forbes, October 2009

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The American Society of Anesthesiologists wants to change the way people think about pain medicine, both to promote the idea that anesthesiologists are not just experts in the surgical suite and also to prevent addictions and deaths.

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Dr. Scott Takasugi finally ran out of excuses.

The Sacramento plastic surgeon was accused of molesting his patients, some of whom were as young as 12.

His patients said that they came in for breast enhancements or reductions, yet Takasugi told them to take all their clothes off. Then he touched and photographed them. To explain this behavior, Takasugi told the Sacramento Bee:

What I did was misconstrued medical procedures.

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The 2017 California Fellowship, for California-based journalists only, will be held March 5-9, 2017 in Los Angeles. This Fellowship will focus on vulnerable populations and access to care and health care reform and innovation. We also take an in-depth look at how community conditions influence individuals' prospects for health. Each Fellow receives a $1,000 stipend to assist with the costs of reporting an ambitious Fellowship project on a California health issue, as well as six months of mentoring by a Senior Fellow. Deadline to apply is Dec. 1. For more information, go here.

Our health care system commits tremendous resources to extending life but comparatively little to end-of-life planning and care that honors patients’ wishes. This webinar will give an overview of the problem, identify changes to our health care system that might help, and offer insights on how journalists might spur more conversations on how we approach death in America. Find info and register here.

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