Monthly Archives: November 2008

Melamine Hits the United States

The FDA has found trace amount of melamine in baby formula. This marks the first time that melamine has been found in baby formula in the United States. Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Chinese babies were sickened when much higher levels of melamine were found in their formula. At least four babies died as a result of the melamine contamination. The problem in China concerned someone adding melamine to the baby formula in order to artificially increase protein levels in the product. As a result, many babies suffered kidney stones or kidney failure.
The FDA said melamine was found in Mead Johnson’s Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron, and a byproduct, cyanuric acid, was found in Nestlé’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron. The companies were first identified by the Associated Press.
Melamine is a chemical used in the production of housewares and other durable products.and has no business being added to any food stuff. It is made of nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen. When ingested into the body, melamine can cause kidney stones as well as renal failure.

Vatican Sex Abuse Case Allowed to Go Forward

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court decision that will allow a lawsuit against the Vatican to proceed. According to the appelate court ruling, the Vatican lawsuit can continue because the lawsuit alleges that the Vatican helped coverup priest sex abuse of minors and performed the coverup on U.S. soil.
This is an important if not unprecedented ruling since the Vatican as a sovereign state is normally immune from U.S. lawsuits. Part of the court’s decision involved the 1962 Vatican document known by its Latin title Crimen Solicitationis. The court ruled that while the document was promulgated in the Vatican and therefore immune from the lawsuit, its directives and policies were carried out by church officials in the United States.
The Kentucky lawsuit involving the Vatican alleges that bishops and archbishops, as Vatican operatives, were ordered to carry out the conspiracy to cover up the priest abuse scandal. The activity on US soil makes the Vatican subject to civil lawsuits and may finally open up some of the secret documents held by the Vatican and its diplomatic agency in Washington D.C. This is good news for those of us fighting for the rights of survivors of priest sex abuse.

Fr. Gerard Healy an Irish Priest Abuser

Fr. Gerard Healy landed at Christ the King Catholic Church in 1970 as if he had parachuted in from nowhere. He belonged to the religious order known in this country as the Holy Ghost Fathers. He was at Christ the King for less than a year. Yet, his presence impacted at least one young life. While at Christ the King, the Irish priest molested an impressionable 9 year old girl, on the very day of her older sister’s wedding day no less. Now an adult, the woman has come forward to seek justice and name her molester. As she comes forward, one of her chief concerns remains a lingering guilt that if she had been able to come forward earlier, perhaps other children would not have suffered the abuse she endured.
Like Fr. Healy, another Irish priest came to this country and pillaged our youth. Fr. Oliver O’Grady, a Limerick priest who emigrated from Ireland to the United States admitted to abusing at least 25 children during his time in California.
This is the problem with foreign priests who “drop in” for a time and work in our parishes. Often, very little is known about them and yet they are given access to the minds and hearts of our children. Father Healy is an example of this. He was in the Diocese of St. Augustine for less than a year, yet during that year he sexually molested at least one child. Healy’s criminal behavior forever altered the life of at least one Floridian girl. We need to check the backgrounds of these strangers and make sure they are not preying on our children.

Docs Claim They Warned Glaxo SmithKline About Avandia

On a day when two of the nation’s top newspapers publish unflattering, potentially scandalous stories about them, Glaxo SmithKline has to be wondering what its public relations can do to fix the mess.
The Wall St. Journal ran a story about doctors who say they told Glaxo officials about Avandia’s dangers only to be encouraged to stop talking about it. Mary Money told Glaxo that she first noticed problems with Avandia in 1999. Money also stated that the FDA wasn’t responsive either. Money’s issues with Avandia began when she began treating a woman with congestive heart failure. The woman was also taking Avandia. Money decided to take the woman off Avandia and the symptoms subsided.
Dr. Lippman, head of Washington County Hospital’s diabetes center, also noticed similar problems with Avandia. Money and Lippman alerted Smith Kline Beecham (the name of the company before the 2001 merger) about their Avandia concerns. Glaxo officials met with the two doctors who presented case studies on 85 patients. According to Dr. Money, “They came to tell us how wrong we were, not to listen.”
A month after the meeting Glaxo officials wrote a letter to the hospital’s chief of staff urging him to force the doctors from talking about their Avandia concerns to other doctors in the Hagerstown Maryland hospital. Salvatore DiMercurio, the hospital’s chief of staff, decided to ignore the threatening letter from the pharmaceutical giant. He would side with his doctors. “It came down to whom do you trust — a doctor you know and have worked with, or the people who are threatening you?”
When Glaxo didn’t obtain the desired result, company officials chose to act as thugs, threatening doctors who dared to speak out against their diabetes drug.
If you think that that story is bad, let’s turn to the story in the New York Times. The Times has published an article stating that a prominent psychiatrist who had his own satellite radio program featured on National Public Radio was being paid by pharmaceutical companies on the side.
Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, host of “The Infinite Mind” earned $1.3 million from pharmaceutical companies during the span of the last seven years. Goodwin neglected to tell the host of the radio program about the potential conflict or the hefty payments. The financial relationship was uncovered by Senator Charles Grassley who has uncovered a number of these conflictual relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.
The problem with the Goodwin case lies in the fact that Goodwin’s pharmaceutical benefactors and the drugs they produce often receive favorable mention on his radio program. Take for instance Glaxo SmithKline who paid Goodwin a handsome fee ($329,000) for his promotion of the mood enhancing drug Lamictal in 2005. Congressional records indicate that on the very day, September 20, 2005, that Goodwin was paid $2,500 to give a promotional lecture on Lamictal, his radio program also featured a Lamictal plug. The NY Times quotes a particularly damning piece from Goodwin’s radio program that day, “Dr. Goodwin warned that children with bipolar disorder who are left untreated could suffer brain damage, a controversial view. “But as we’ll be hearing today,” Dr. Goodwin reassured his audience, “modern treatments — mood stabilizers in particular — have been proven both safe and effective in bipolar children.”
A bad PR day for pharmaceutical companies, especially Glaxo SmithKline but a good one for those concerned with consumer safety. Kudos to Senator Grassley for uncovering all this nefarious activity!

US House Chaplain Has Ties to Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

The chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives is connected to one of the more notorious priest abusers in the Archdiocese of Chicago. When Rev. Daniel Coughlin served as Vicar for Priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago, he had sought the early release from prison of Norbert Maday who had been convicted of sexually abusing two teenage boys. In 1999, 10 months before assuming the chaplaincy post in Congress, Coughlin wrote a letter urging the Wisconsin Parole Commission to release Maday into the custody of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In the letter, Coughlin stated that Maday would be supervised and “live in a residence where his activities are monitored and he may never be in the presence of a minor without another adult present.” However, a an audit of this facility found it severely deficient in its monitoring ability.
This information came to light when Cardinal George’s deposition was taken. The transcript of the deposition was released earlier this year and George’s testimony revealed the Archdiocese’s efforts to free Maday and downplay his abusive past.
The House of Representatives chaplaincy post is considered a plum assignment and Coughlin was released from his duties in the Archdiocese of Chicago in spite of having tried to free a known and convicted sex abuser. This type of news really hurts Cardinal George’s credibility when he continues to proclaim that he is trying to protect children. The evidence quite clearly points to the contrary. Once again, a priest who aids and abets an abusive fellow priest is rewarded for his behavior. No wonder the situation hasn’t changed much in the Catholic Church.

Complications Spur FDA Probe of Medtronic Marketing Practices

It’s proponents call it a miracle medical device that promotes bone growth while helping patients avoid the pain of bone grafts. Detractors cite the 280 complaints to the FDA concerning side effects with Medtronic’s Infuse Bone Graft, some of which have been life threatening.
Once again, the focus is one the marketing practices of Medtronic. Critics have pointed out that doctors have the ability to employ drugs as well as medical devices for uses that are considered off-label. However, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies do not have a right to market their products for such off-label uses. Herein lies the controversy with Medtronic’s Infuse Bone Graft. Critics are accusing Medtronic of promoting the medical device for uses other than what it has been approved for.
Senator Charles Grassley is concerned that medical device companies and pharmaceutical companies are crossing the line in subtle ways. Grassley has vowed that his committee will investigate if Medtronic has attempted to entice doctors to use its Infuse Bone Graft product.
This is an ongoing issue with consumer safety implications. The medical device industry is a $189 billion industry and companies seek to increase profits. If they have to skirt the law to do so, it appears most will take their chances. This isn’t a good sign for the consumer.

FDA Fights Internal Battle

The circular firing squad mentality into which the FDA has devolved pits agency scientists against FDA managers. The internal struggle features FDA scientists who have written a strongly worded letter to Congress complaining about FDA managers approving unsafe or ineffective medical devices. The matter will be investigated by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The letter to Congress comes at a time when the US Supreme Court is deciding a case concerning the FDA and pre-emption.
The Committee chair, John Dingell (D-MI) has vowed to aggressively investigate any FDA wrongdoing that may place consumer’s safety at risk.
While there has always been a certain tension between FDA scientists who push for more definitive trial results before device approval and FDA managers who tend to approve drugs or devices when trial data is not clear, this new breach is remarkable in the level of rancor and publicity. Historically, the FDA has demonstrated a discipline that did not allow internal strife to spill over into the public sphere. Now it appears that the situation is different.
The public accusations contained in the scientists’ letter should give the industry pause regarding the question of pre-emption. Until the Bush Administration, the FDA had always taken the position that state consumer tort lawsuits provided a necessary form of checks and balances and complemented the federal FDA regulations. Perhaps, it’s time to re-visit this notion.

Alaska Priest Abuse Deadline Approaching

If you were abused by a Catholic priest, brother, or nun in the Diocese of Fairbanks Alaska, you have until December 2, 2008 to file a claim. The deadline was imposed by a bankruptcy court in Alaska as part of the Diocese of Fairbanks Chapter 11 proceedings. Thus far, sex abuse claims against the Diocese of Fairbanks have gone as far back as the 1950’s with most claims arising out of abuse that occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
If you were abused by a priest, brother or nun, you must come forward before December 2nd or your right to make a claim against the Diocese of Fairbanks will be forfeited. As a priest abuse lawyer, I’ve handled abuse cases all over the country, including Puerto Rico.

Bed Bugs

Over the past year, I’ve received a number of complaints about bed bugs. Those who’ve contacted me have been bitten by bed bugs while staying in hotels and motels around the country. Bed bugs are also known as “red coats”, “chinches”, and “mahogany flats”. While bed bugs are suspected of carrying leprosy, oriental sore, Q-fever, and brucellosis, they haven’t, to the best of my knowlege, transmitted these diseases to humans.
Bed bugs usually feed at night and are known to inhabit bedding, cracks in walls or wallpaper, and carpeting. Bed bugs are small, oval, wingless insects. Small blood spotting is usually an indicator that an area has a bed bug problem.
While the bed bug bite is painless, the severe itching can lead to infection if scratched. The signs of a bed bug bite can include small, white welts on the surface of the skin or reddish, irritated skin.
Bed bug occurrence in hotels and motels can often be caused by dirty mattresses, dirty bedding, and a generally unsanitary environment. They can also be transported in clothing and bedding materials.

Effects of Sexual Abuse Can Last a Lifetime

“When I was 12, I was abused,” he said while wiping tears from his cheeks. “So, I recognized that pain, that suffering. I wish I had confronted those demons. But there was a lot of hesitation because my parents had such deep faith. I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to let them believe that a man of God could have done this to [their] son. So, you keep this inside yourself. You hide it from everyone…Because you feel like it may have been my fault. You try your best to move forward, ignoring that it happened. When you’re 12 years old, a priest is telling you: ‘This is healthy. This is good. If you tell anybody, I’ll kill myself.’ Your life is instantly changed.”
While the words quoted above are former Congressman Mark Foley, they could be spoken by any number of priest sexual abuse survivors. Foley resigned his Congressional seat after it was learned that he had solicited House pages. While what Foley did is wrong and can’t be excused, it also needs to be put in proper context. Foley, who had been a popular Congressman had been abused by a Catholic priest, Anthony Mercieca, then a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami.
Foley suffered in silence and his inability to deal with the abuse ultimately led to his downfall as an adult. Those who’ve been abused often suffer just like Foley has, attempting to confront the demons on their own. Their attempts often lead to broken relationships, alcoholism and/or drug abuse. This is the tragedy and the evil of sexual abuse. The scars don’t heal, the wounds are deep and so often the Church’s salve is superficial at best.
In my experience, it’s the survivors who come forward and confront their past that end up healing and bringing this sad chapter of their lives to some sort of closure. Part of this process is holding the Church who aided and abetted these priest abusers accountable for their actions.