Action Special Issue: Aug. 6, 2012

 Alert! West Nile Webinar Today 

An outbreak of the West Nile virus across Texas – and especially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – prompted the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to hold a free webinar, "West Nile Virus: An Update for Clinicians," from 5:30 to 6:30 pm CDT today, Aug. 6. State Health Commissioner David Lakey, MD, and DSHS staff Robert Kaspar, MD; Paul McGaha, DO, MPH; and Tom Sidwa, DVM, MPH, will discuss the virus and its epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Physicians who cannot participate in today webinar's can listen to it beginning at 9 am CDT Tuesday, Aug. 7, by logging on to the DSHS Grand Rounds website. 

The agency said there is earlier and larger-than-normal disease activity compared with previous years. Through July 31, it said, there were more reported cases of West Nile virus than in any other year since West Nile came to Texas in 2002. Nationally, 241 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas cases account for more than 60 percent of these and for half of the deaths, DSHS said.  

In a July 27 news release, DSHS attributed the outbreak to the warm winter and recent rains, particularly in North Texas. It said about 80 percent of the West Nile cases are in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, and Denton counties. 

For more information on West Nile virus statistics, visit www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/

If you have technical issues with the webinar, contact the DSHS Technical Support Team at (800) 263-6317 or (805) 617-7000.


Don't Gag Doctors

That's the heart of a letter from TMA President Michael E. Speer, MD, to DSHS opposing proposed rules barring physicians from discussing elective abortion with their patients even if the patients ask about it or if the standard of care indicates it should be discussed as an option.

That's the heart of a letter from TMA President Michael E. Speer, MD, to DSHS opposing proposed rules barring physicians from discussing elective abortion with their patients even if the patients ask about it or if the standard of care indicates it should be discussed as an option.

DSHS’ proposed rules would impose a “gag order” on physicians who participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program. “If the state indeed wants doctors to participate in the program, this is a step in the opposite direction,” Dr. Speer wrote. 

“A rule should not compromise a physician’s medical judgment regarding what should or should not be discussed with a patient,” he said. “The proposed rules would prevent physicians from freely discussing medical care and procedures with patients, and would set a dangerous precedent for future restrictions on patient-physician communications based upon the political agenda of the day.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists/Texas District, the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, and the Texas Pediatric Society cosigned the letter.

Ultimately, Dr. Speer said, “the issue of support or opposition to abortion is an individual decision based on personal values and beliefs. Our respective organizations have members on both sides of this issue, and are therefore not advocating for or against abortion by this letter. Rather, our organizations are advocating for the preservation of a physician’s right and duty to provide his or her patient with truthful and uninhibited medically appropriate information within the patient-physician relationship."

He added that the groups signing the letter “strongly oppose any interference into a physician’s ability to use his or her medical judgment as to the information that is in the best interest of his or her patient.”

Many Texas physicians may leave the program because the rules, if enacted, would force them to choose between practicing medicine in accordance with the standard of care and medical ethics or in accordance with a rule created to serve a political ideology, Dr. Speer wrote. 


 Action Special Issue, Aug. 6, 2012


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