Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Bad testing can destroy good medical practice

August 21, 2011

Tags: medical test, uncertainty, fetal sex determination, direct to consumer medical test


By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 08/21/2011

You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there. -- Yogi Berra

CONCEIVABLY, baseball legend Yogi Berra might have been referring to modern birthing trends. With new medical technologies constantly altering the conditions for human conception and birth, it's not always clear where we're going -- and if we're going to get there.

Last week, modern science threw another fastball when researchers claimed in the Journal of the American Medical Association that you could determine the sex of a fetus as early as seven weeks in its development in 95 percent of cases.

More remarkably, this determination could be made by sampling the mother's blood -- avoiding the risky and invasive methods we used to employ for fetal-DNA sex detection in the ancient days of ... well, yesterday.

Savvy readers may ask why this study is noteworthy. After all, since 1997 we've known that maternal blood carried free-floating fetal DNA, which could be analyzed for telltale evidence of either male (XY) or female (XX) chromosomes. Moreover, medical clinics in other countries have been offering maternal blood testing for fetal sex determination for years. And, not surprisingly, private companies have been marketing maternal blood and urine tests to consumers over the Internet, promising accuracy rates as great as 99 percent as early as 5-to-7 weeks' of gestation.

But the new study is radical because its researchers dared to test the test itself. (more…)

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Congress at the helm of health care's sinking ship

August 7, 2011

Tags: health care reform, federal deficit, Congress, health care costs, deficit reduction

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in print: 08/06/2011

THINKING OFTEN about health care, I am increasingly disheartened about the direction it's taking in this country. We seem to be sailing further away from a clear understanding about the goals of medical care, on an expensive junket with politics and commerce commanding the helm.

It feels that we are sinking a little, our ship also bogged down with the weight of the federal deficit and hefty health care costs. We anxiously hang on because it's the only ship in sight, but all of us know there aren't enough lifeboats to go around.

So the last thing our health care system needed was last week's tribal tantrums in Congress rocking the boat for political show. The harrowing rollick not only nauseated most of us passengers -- it also demonstrated that our political officers were inept and unsafe navigators of the financial crisis on which health care drifts. (more…)

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