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December 31, 2013 - 6:43pm

Q&A : Legal battle over Calif. girl declared brain dead reignites difficult debate

OAKLAND, Calif. — A California hospital and family are embroiled in a harrowing legal and medical fight that has reignited the debate about when machines keeping a severely brain-damaged person alive should be turned off.

Doctors, outside specialists and a judge have all agreed that 13-year-old Jahi McMath is brain dead. They consider that the same as being legally dead and want to remove the girl from the breathing machine that has kept her heart beating since Dec. 9.

Jahi’s family has rejected the diagnosis and is fighting to keep her on the ventilator while they try to find doctors and a long-term facility willing to care for her.

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy and tissue removal at Children’s Hospital Oakland to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, she started bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth and went into cardiac arrest, her family said. Doctors declared her brain dead three days later. The hospital is investigating the cause of the complications.

All-clear coming for North Dakota town near explosive oil train derailment

CASSELTON, N.D. — A southeastern North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby, the mayor said Tuesday, calling for changes in how the fuel is transported across the U.S.

No one was hurt in Monday’s derailment of the mile-long train that sent a great fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward about a mile from the small town of Casselton. The fire had been so intense as darkness fell that investigators couldn’t get close enough to count the number of burning cars.

Worries about the smoke plume prompted officials to ask Casselton’s 2,400 residents to voluntarily evacuate Monday evening, and most did. The recommendation was lifted Tuesday afternoon, but officials were urging residents south of the derailment to remain vigilant about changing conditions, Cass County Commissioner Ken Pawluk said.

Residents said the blasts endured for hours after the derailment, shaking their homes and businesses. A BNSF spokeswoman said 18 tanker cars burned.

Pawluk estimated that the fire was about 80 to 90 percent burned out by Tuesday afternoon.

Alzheimer’s hope: Vitamin E may slow decline in mild, moderate dementia, veterans study finds

Researchers say vitamin E might slow the progression of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease — the first time any treatment has been shown to alter the course of dementia at that stage.

In a study of more than 600 older veterans, high doses of the vitamin delayed the decline in daily living skills, such as making meals, getting dressed and holding a conversation, by about six months over a two-year period.

The benefit was equivalent to keeping one major skill that otherwise would have been lost, such as being able to bathe without help. For some people, that could mean living independently rather than needing a nursing home.

Vitamin E did not preserve thinking abilities, though, and it did no good for patients who took it with another Alzheimer’s medication. But those taking vitamin E alone required less help from caregivers — about two fewer hours each day than some others in the study.

“It’s not a miracle or, obviously, a cure,” said study leader Maurice Dysken of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. “The best we can do at this point is slow down the rate of progression.”

By wire sources

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