Federal Trade Commission

Two men from Michigan were named in a series of lawsuits filed by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about the health benefits of acai berries. The FTC filed a total of ten cases against similar websites across the country.        

user the consumerist / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that protects doctors from lawsuits if they express sympathy for the death of a patient.

Snyder says health care providers are often prohibited from saying “I’m sorry” when a medical procedure fails because it can be considered an admission of guilt in court.

Snyder said the new law will allow doctors to be more supportive, "and the opportunity for health care professionals to have a dialogue with families that have had some traumatic experiences," said Snyder. "So it’s great to have an opportunity to have that be done in a safe and thoughtful fashion so people can have good communication and good dialogue."

Snyder says studies show that when a doctor is allowed to say “I’m sorry,” people who are grieving are better able to heal.

user striatic / Flickr

People with pre-existing medical conditions now have the option of paying lower premiums and higher deductibles if they enroll with Michigan’s Health Insurance Program.

State officials are trying to get more people to take advantage of the program that is a precursor to national health care reforms taking effect in 2014.

Eric Schneidewind, president of the Michigan chapter of AARP, says only a few hundred people have enrolled with the program so far.

“I think it’s a new program, for one thing, and they just don’t know it exists. And so they aren’t aware of it, they haven’t taken advantage of it, and so it’s really potentially a very good deal for a person who has a chronic condition of health—bad health.”

Schneidewind hopes offering the lower premium and higher deductible will encourage thousands of people to enroll. He says hundreds-of-thousands of people in Michigan are eligible.

"I’ve run across members who have tragic stories about themselves or their children who really probably died prematurely because they couldn’t get adequate health care for a chronic condition. What I’m telling our members at AARP and elsewhere, there now is an option, it is affordable."

The health care company that runs the pool recently got federal approval for a plan to bring down rates that can still be hundreds of dollars a month. The new plan allows people with preexisting conditions to pay higher deductibles and lower premiums than were previously offered.

Michigan is one of a group of states suing the federal government to opt out of national health care reform.

Dr. Lazar Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan, resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) after writing a controversial editorial in a February issue of  Surgery News. Greenfield also served as the lead editor for ACS' content in the publication - a post he has also resigned.

The editorial suggested that semen has a mood-enhancing effect on women. It concluded, "so there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates."

The entire February issue of Surgery News was retracted by ACS after receiving complaints.

You can find Dr. Greenfield's editorial as originally posted on Retraction Watch.

White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

Residents of White Lake gathered this morning to dispute their inclusion on a list of cancer clusters in Michigan. The list was compiled by the National Disease Cluster Coalition.  

Claire Schlaff  started the White Lake Cancer Mapping Project after her son passed away from a rare cancer. She says the National Disease Cluster Coalition misinterpreted information from the White Lake Cancer Mapping project:

“The materials they put out kind of made it look like all of these were confirmed clusters, including ours, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Although we’re looking into it, nothing has been confirmed.”

Schlaff said the White Lake Mapping Project data will not be ready for analysis for at least a year. She says the project was meant to find a link between cancer and the environment:

“I’m not looking for a yes or no answer about whether there’s a cancer cluster here. What I am trying to do and what our group is trying to do is to learn more about the connection between the environment and cancers.”

White Lake was put on a list of toxic hotspots in the mid-1980s because of pollution from the Occidental Chemical Company.

Kitt Walker / flickr

Detroit is the site of an important medical discovery that’s expected to reduce infant mortality.

Doctors at the Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University, and the National Institutes of Health identified women likely to deliver their babies early with a simple hormone gel. They treated those women with a hormone gel and reduced the chance of premature delivery by 45 percent. Mike Duggan is the President of the Detroit Medical Center.

"The idea that you could spot a likelihood of that premature delivery and prevent it in really remarkable numbers it is a world changing discovery. This is going to change the infant mortality rate."

Doctor Tom Malone is the head of DMC’s Hutzel Women’s Hospital.

"Prematurity and small for gestational age probably impacts infant mortality more than anything else, and the infant mortality rate in the city of Detroit is the highest in the state. So you get an idea of how significant this study is."

Over 500,000  babies are born early each year in the United States. Prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality.

Scott Soderberg/U-M Photo Services

The University of Michigan has announced it has created new embryonic stem cell lines for medical research.  Developing its own stem cell lines has been an important goal of the university’s stem cell research center since its inception two years. 

In a written statement, Gary Smith, co-director of the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies and leader of the cell-line derivation project, talked about the importance of this milestone for the consortium:

"All our efforts are finally starting to bear fruit...Creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines has been a central goal of the consortium since it was formed two years ago, and now we've passed that milestone." 

The stem cell lines carry genes responsible for a type of hemophilia and a neurological disorder. In the future, researchers at the University of Michigan hope to develop additional stem cell lines that will help with research into Huntington's disease,  spinal muscular atrophy and Tay-Sachs.

New University of Michigan research finds more women are having more children by more than one father. The U of M study shows 28% of women with two or more children had those children by more than one man. Among African-American women that number goes up to 59%.

Cassandra Dorius is a demographer at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

“I think it’s just that families are changing. That families have been changing for a long time and that this is just one more indication that they are new and different today."

Dorius says families with multiple fathers face higher stress levels, as children and parents try to balance emotional and financial pressures. 

She says the growing remarriage trend , as well as single parenthood, is increasing ‘Multiple Partner Fertility’ in the U.S.

A new study says Ottawa County is the healthiest county in Michigan. The county borders Lake Michigan’s shore directly west of Grand Rapids.

Marcia Knoll is a community health analyst at Ottawa County’s Health Department. She says the department does not take credit for the county’s “healthiest” rating. Knoll says there are many organizations, churches and people working together to keep the community healthy.

“Instead of standing like silos, each with our own agenda and our own territory. So that’s not the environment here, that’s not the culture here and I think that has stood us well in the struggles and with our health care.”

The study was done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It looks at a number of measures that affect a community’s health; how many people smoke, are overweight, and have access to fresh, healthy foods.

(courtesy of

This weekend you’ll have a chance to buy a piece of Michigan and space history. A state of Michigan flag, carried on board Apollo 15,  to the moon and back, is being auctioned. All three members of the Apollo 15 crew had ties to the University of Michigan.

The online auction benefits a science scholarship program. Former NASA astronaut Al Worden piloted the Apollo spacecraft. The Michigan native hopes the 8 by 12 inch flag will attract a lot of bidding. 

“I would expect it to bring in 5 or 6 thousand dollars.  I think the last one that sold at auction I donated brought in almost $6 thousand.”

Worden says the online auction is raising money for science scholarships. 

 “We give out something like 25 scholarships…10 thousand dollars each…every year…which means we have to raise a lot of money.  And one of the ways we do that is by selling artifacts that are donated by astronauts who’ve made a flight…and that is kind of a mainstay how we raise our money.”  

The online auction of NASA memorabilia concludes Saturday night at 10 pm. Anyone interested in bidding on the space flag should go to ‘’.

For soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the biggest threats has been IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices. When these bombs go off, they can do enormous physical damage. But they can also cause damage to the soldier that often goes undetected.

NPR's Daniel Zerdling and ProPublica conducted an investigation of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) in soldiers serving in the U.S. military.

In the series, Brain Wars, they found that "the military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom receive little or no treatment for lingering health problems."

We're beginning to learn more about the persistent debilitating effects of these brain injuries from studies of football and hockey players and other athletes involved in contact sports. These are unseen injuries. Injuries that, prior to our understanding of them, might have gotten a "shake it off, you just got your bell rung" response from a coach.

As it turns out, the military has been slow to understand the effects of these brain injuries as well.

To get a grasp of how these unseen brain injuries can affect somebody - watch this video of Sgt. Victor Medina who says, "sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier to get my leg blown off - you can see it.":

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Students of Western Michigan University are reacting to the donation of $100 million dollars to Western Michigan University for their medical school. MLive reports:

A few hours after the announcement of a $100 million cash gift to jump-start Western Michigan University’s medical school, the event was replayed on a video kiosk inside the Bern­hard Center and caught the at­tention of several students.

The state Court of Appeals today ruled against Michigan in a prescription drug case.  The decision could cost the state millions of dollars. 

In 2004, the pharmaceutical company Merck pulled the arthritis drug, Vioxx, off the market, because it caused serious heart and other health problems.

user tejvanphotos / Flickr

All signs are pointing to spring as the area heads for a big warm up today.

The last piles of snow and ice on the ground could melt away as temperatures might go as high as 67 degrees today in southern Michigan, 63 in the Grand Rapids area.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"Today is going to be very spring-like," National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Considine said from the White Lake office today.

Highs will be in the mid- to upper-60s between 3 and 6 p.m., with cloudy skies and a southwest wind, he said. The average high for March 17 is 46, and the record high of 75 was set in 1945.

"We’re going to be 20 degrees above normal for today," Considine said, adding that temperatures won't get high enough to break today's record.

No snow is expected in the near term, but don't put away that shovel just yet, we are in Michigan after all.

Mariner 10 / NASA

Today is a big day for lovers of the planet Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

NASA's MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging) vehicle will start to orbit Mercury today.

Of all the terrestrial planets, Mercury remains one of the most mysterious.

NASA's Mariner 10 took some photos during flybys back in 1974 and 1975. And more recently, MESSENGER took some photos and grabbed some samples on a flyby in 2008.

The New York Times had a piece on what scientists learned about Mercury from the 2008 flyby:

An instrument aboard Messenger sampled Mercury’s surface composition by catching some of the charged atoms that have been knocked into space. Silicon, sodium and sulfur were detected. So was water.

“Which is a real surprise,” said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, an associate professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan and lead author of another paper in Science. “The first time we took a whiff of the planet, it’s right there.”

One possibility is that the water exists as ice in the shaded parts of craters in the polar regions.

Today, MESSENGER will begin orbiting the planet every 12 hours. Engineers at the University of Michigan say "an onboard device dubbed FIPS (Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer), a soda-can sized sensor designed and built at the University of Michigan will take atmospheric measurements, studying the evolution of rocky planets as it orbits Mercury."

Here, Thomas Zurbuchen, the lead engineer from the University of Michigan, talks about FIPS:

Students from 143 Detroit area schools competed in the Metro Detroit Science and Engineering Fair Wednesday.

Almost 1400 middle and high school students displayed their projects at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Students from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county schools showed off research projects in 13 categories, ranging from computer science to zoology.

Fair organizers say participation in the fair is trending upward, and participation from Detroit Public Schools students shot up dramatically this year.

(Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Japanese nuclear crisis began, the handful of pharmacies in Michigan that stock anti-radiation medicine are seeing an uptick in demand.   

(Flickr spike55151)

The state agency charged with monitoring radiation at Michigan’s three nuclear reactors has so far not recorded any increased radiation coming from Japan. Japan’s troubled nuclear reactors might be a half a world away, but it wouldn’t be the first time a nuclear accident overseas had an effect on Michigan. 

The state of Michigan has been monitoring radiation levels since January of 1958. Ken Yale is the acting chief of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Radiological Protection Section. His office monitors radiation levels at Michigan’s three nuclear plants (Fermi 2, DC Cook and Palisades). He says the last time his office recorded abnormal radiation readings was back in the mid-1980’s, at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine.

Experts do not expect a ‘Chernobyl’ level of radiation release from the Japanese reactors, due to improved containment technology.

Craig Finlay / Creative Commons

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows people to use the drug, but motor vehicle laws forbid driving with any marijuana in your system. The legal battle could head to the State Court of Appeals.

Rodney Koon was pulled over for speeding a little over a year ago. Officers in Traverse City found a pipe in his pocket so he showed them his medical marijuana card. The Traverse City Eagle-Record says Koon was charged with driving under the influence of a schedule one controlled substance (others include ecstasy, heroin, and LSD) after a drug test revealed he had marijuana in his system.

A county judge ruled the state’s medical marijuana law protects Koon from prosecution. He said prosecutors need to have more solid evidence a driver is impaired while driving. State driving laws say people can’t drive with even a trace amount of schedule one controlled substances in their system.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is supporting the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s appeal to the State Court of Appeals. He says Koon isn’t “being prosecuted for using marijuana, but for driving shortly after using it.”

It’s no secret that air pollution can lead to breathing problems, like asthma. But a new study will look at what else pollutants may be doing to humans.

Michigan State University has been named a Clean Air Research Center by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scientists will investigate how certain mixtures of air pollutants affect human health.

MSU professor Jack  Harkema is leading the study.

He says certain toxins may contribute to or even cause heart disease or diabetes, especially in people with other health issues.

"One of those risk groups are people who are overweight or obese," Harkema says. "And maybe you wouldn't think of that right away, but we have some evidence, just like  cigarette smoke, can affect multiple organ systems."

The study will take place primarily in the Detroit area and in rural areas.

University of Michigan and Ohio State University researchers are also taking part.