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Superbugs, video games, and the Supreme Court – this week’s Friday 5

Legal permission no longer needed to withdraw food and water from vegetative-state patients

The Supreme Court has ruled that legal permission will no longer be needed for doctors and families to withdraw food and liquid from patients in a permanent vegetative state. This decision means that when families and doctors are in agreement of the patient’s best interests, there is no need to go before courts and ask for a judge’s approval – a process that can take years and costs local health authorities tens of thousands in legal bills.

Anti-assisted dying campaigners have argued that this means patients will be “starved or dehydrated to death”. The charity Compassion in Dying, however, said it would “allow those closest to a person – their loved ones and medical team – to feel supported and empowered to make the right decision for the person, even when it is a difficult one”.

Read more on the BBC.


Report finds the private health sector is most vulnerable to data breaches

In April and June, the private health and financial sectors suffered more data breaches than any other sector. The quarterly notifiable data breaches report published by the Office of the Australia Information Commissioner (Oaic) on Tuesday found malicious or criminal attacks accounted for 59% of data breaches, with theft of paperwork or storage devices a significant source of those attacks. Human error accounted for 36% of data breaches, including phishing emails and disclosing passwords. The majority of breaches, however, involved the personal information of fewer than 100 people.

A research fellow with the University of Melbourne law school, Dr Megan Prictor, said the fact that the health sector still relies more heavily than most on paper-based systems, such as fax, means it is prone to breaches through human error.

Read more in The Guardian.


‘Blue Badge’ scheme to be extended to people with hidden disabilities

The ‘blue badge’ scheme, which allows people with disabilities to park in designated spots or on yellow lines, is being extended to include those with hidden disabilities, such as mental illnesses. The move will come into effect early next year and could potentially benefit millions. The new criteria extends eligibility to those who cannot undertake a journey “without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person” and those who are caused “very considerable psychological distress” or have “very considerable difficulty when walking”.

Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, health and work,  said: “It’s absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.”

Read more in the Guardian.


Superbugs are resistant to hand sanitisers, study warns

Researchers investigating antibiotic-resistant bacteria have found evidence of a growing resistance to alcohol hand sanitisers. Testing bacterial samples from Australian hospitals, scientists found that a bacteria group known as the enterococci can survive in sterilised environments and have become more resistant over a 19 year period. If this trend continues, hospitals may struggle to prevent outbreaks of infection that could prove fatal for vulnerable patients. The enterococci are already the fifth biggest cause of sepsis in Europe and account for 10 per cent of hospital-acquired blood infections globally.

Alcohol gel dispensers have become a cornerstone of NHS hospitals since the mid-2000s, when an international hand-washing initiative helped to reduce rates of superbugs such as MRSA. Resistance could be due to increased use of alcohol sanitisers, or a coincidental adaptation.

Read more in the Independent.


MRI finds link between depression and video game addiction

Psychiatrists have issued a warning after MRI scans revealed the potential damage of video game addiction on developing brains. In the study, researchers from Beijing Normal University took a group of over 2,000 students aged 16 to 21, who had gamed more than two hours a day over the past four years, before refining it to 63 gaming addicts. Using psychological questionnaires, they found those who were addicted to gaming were twice as likely to be depressed as those who did not game. The MRI images of addicts’ brains revealed that signals from the left amygdala, which is responsible for emotions like depression, were disrupting the prefontal cortex, which controls reason, making the gamers more likely to stay online and also worsening their depression.

Dr Louise Theodosiou, a leading adolescent psychiatrist with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was an important study in linking gaming addiction with a rise in depression among the young, which has been shown in studies to affect as many as one in four teenagers. She stated, ““If you have something distorting the relationship between the emotional and analytical parts of the brain, it’s potentially damaging”.

Video game addiction was classified as an official medical disorder by the World Health Organisation earlier this year.

Read more in the Telegraph


Quote of the week

Our quote of the week is from the Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, after news that, following high-profile awareness campaigns, over half of the Scottish population have registered to donate their organs or tissue after their death, compared with a UK average of 38%.

“Just over half of Scotland’s people have registered to donate their organs or tissue after death, reflecting both their incredible generosity and the progress we have made in highlighting the need for organ donors. Registering only takes two minutes and could save or transform someone’s life. “

Read more on the Guardian.

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