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Health Freedom Watch
(Email newsletter published by the Institute for Health Freedom)
July 2006


Family Challenges State’s Medical Orders for Teenage Son
Receives Support from Virginia Attorney General

A 16-year-old Virginia teenager fighting for his right to use an unconventional cancer treatment and his parents asked a federal judge to uphold his freedom to choose. On July 25, Abraham Cherrix and his parents, Jay and Rose, asked the Accomack County Circuit Court to block a juvenile-court ruling that the teen must submit to chemotherapy and that his parents must give their legal consent for the treatment, even though both the son and parents object to the chemotherapy. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell filed a brief (on July 24) supporting the teen’s request to block the mandatory medical treatment orders until the appeals process is complete, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Judge Glen A. Taylor ruled (on July 25) that Abraham Cherrix did not have to report to the hospital for mandatory chemotherapy treatment and also ended joint custody of the teen with his parents and state social services officials. The judge ordered a trial to settle the dispute, according to the Associated Press.

This case has made national headlines, and bloggers have commented on the important issue. The blog “The Liberty Papers” noted, “Don’t forget that there was a time when, to the established, learned professionals of medical science, blood letting and leeches were the pinnacle of treatment. At the time, refusing such a treatment was as ‘insane’ as refusing chemo appears today…”


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Federal Government Funds Random Home Health Checkups

Public health workers in Arkansas, Kansas, and Washington state will soon be knocking on citizens’ doors to ask health-related questions, conduct physical exams, and take blood samples on randomly selected residents.

The state-based surveys are financed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Seattle Times reports that Washington state received $800,000 for its Washington Adult Health Survey. Some 1,100 households across that state will be targeted for the study, which includes:

  • Questions about:
    • diet, medications, tobacco and alcohol use, and other behavioral issues,
    • conditions such as osteoporosis, emphysema, and cancer,
    • dental problems, and
    • access to health care.
  • Measuring of blood pressure, pulse, height, weight, and waist size.
  • A blood sample to measure cholesterol and blood sugar.
  • A hair sample to measure mercury levels (in women of childbearing age and participants 60 and older).

It’s important for everyone to understand that public-health officials are exempt from the federal medical-privacy rule, which was established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Thus it’s unclear whether the privacy of participants in the checkups will be protected and whether state or federal privacy law will take precedence. This important information should be made available—in unambiguous terms—to all residents so they can make informed decisions about whether to participate.


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Institute of Medicine Reports that Medication Errors Harm 1.5 Million Patients Annually

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that medication errors harm at least 1.5 million patients every year. This figure includes drug errors in hospitals, nursing homes, and among Medicare outpatients. But it is a conservative estimate because it does not account for drug errors in doctors’ offices or by patients themselves.

All told, there are more than 300,000 over-the-counter medications and over 10,000 prescription drugs on the market, according to the IOM study. It also points out that four of five U.S. adults take at least one medication in any given week. It also notes that “When all types of errors are taken into account, a hospital patient can expect on average to be subjected to more than one medication error each day.” The IOM study, titled Preventing Medication Errors, provides recommendations for reforming the health-care system to prevent and reduce medication errors, including electronic prescribing. The study is online at


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Health Freedom Watch is a monthly email newsletter published by the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF), a national nonprofit, educational organization whose mission is to bring the issues of personal health freedom to the forefront of the American health-policy debate. IHF monitors and reports on national policies that affect citizens' freedom to choose their health-care treatments and providers, and to maintain their health privacy--including genetic privacy. IHF is not affiliated with any other organization.

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