Health Desk

In the U.S., surrogate parenting is widely accepted. Although no official figures exist, experts believe perhaps a thousand American children are born every year through surrogacy.

A patchwork of state-to-state regulations governs the practice. But the bottom line is if you're an American in the market for a surrogate — and you have money to spend — you can do it.

Things are very different in other parts of the world.

Electronic medical records may seem like a distraction when your doctor is busy typing on a screen instead of looking you in the eye. But, as a new study shows, these systems have the potential to help identify some drug side-effects.

Researchers at Stanford University gathered about 3 million electronic medical records — with patients' names and other identifying material stripped away — to look for a link between a popular heartburn drug and heart attacks.

More than 3,400 people are now under quarantine in South Korea's fight to contain an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome — a deadly virus that can cause severe pneumonia and organ failure.

So far, South Korea has reported 122 MERS cases. And the government is actively tracking the whereabouts of people possibly exposed to the virus.

Chung-ahm is a Buddhist monk who's quarantined in the Jangduk village in southern South Korea.

A little more than 10 years ago, Texas banned soda machines and deep fryers in public school cafeterias.

Now the state's current agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller, wants to do away with that ban. He believes these kinds of restrictions should be in the hands of local school boards — not state regulators. But some students are among those who aren't happy about this idea.

A key goal of the Affordable Care Act is to help people get health insurance who may have not been able to pay for it before. But the most popular plans – those with low monthly premiums – also have high deductibles and copays. And that can leave medical care still out of reach for some.

Lots of factors may affect a child's odds of ending up with autism. Researchers around the world have been striving to fully understand how biology, genetics and environment play roles.

A huge study that includes data from more than 5.7 million children in five countries might shed some light on how autism develops — but it also raises new questions.

Researchers looked at autism rates among children born between 1985 and 2004 in Denmark, Israel, Norway, Sweden and Australia.

Judy Naillon called her insurer several months ago to find out why she was being charged $35 every month for birth control pills. Her friends said they were getting their pills free under the federal health law.

Why wasn't she getting the same deal?

"Yes, I do mind," says a sign alerting visitors to a ban on smoking at the Beijing Children's Hospital.

The poster shows a woman covering her nose with her hand, as if to block the secondhand smoke created by the 300 million smokers in China. There are 4 million in Beijing alone.

A recorded message played over the hospital's public address system emphasizes the message: It's "for your health, and that of the young patients," the voice says.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a controversial state law requiring nearly all Texas facilities that perform abortions to operate like hospital-style surgical centers.

If the ruling stands, abortion providers say another dozen could close in the next few weeks. They say that would leave nearly a million women at least 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider.

Since the law first passed in 2013, about half the state's 40 clinics have shut down.

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Laboratory research seeking new medical treatments and cures is fraught with pitfalls: Researchers can inadvertently use bad ingredients, design the experiment poorly, or conduct inadequate data analysis. Scientists working on ways to reduce these sorts of problems have put a staggering price tag on research that isn't easy to reproduce: $28 billion a year.

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Kevin Lopez remembers exactly when he knew he wasn't like his friends and family.

"It just hit me one day," he says. It was the morning he was picking out a shirt to wear for his first day of sixth grade. "I just looked at myself and I realized I was different."

Kevin was born missing the fingers on his right hand. His arm and wrist are fully developed, and he has most of a regular palm. But he just has nubs where his fingers should start.

Lots of people say they have trouble sleeping. And 1 in 10 Americans has chronic insomnia.

Most often, sleep disorders are treated with medication. Between 6 and 10 percent of adults in the U.S. use sleeping pills.

But a review of the medical evidence has found that therapy might help people with chronic sleep troubles just as much — or even more — than pills.

Talk about sticker shock: Some U.S. hospitals charge patients more than 10 times the rates paid by Medicare.

Of the 50 U.S. hospitals with the highest charges, 49 are for-profit institutions, 20 operate in Florida, and half are owned by a single chain, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs Monday.

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Online health insurance marketplaces are central parts of the Affordable Care Act. And HealthCare.gov, the federally run exchange, is where 27-year-old Kathryn Ryan, a restaurant server in Philadelphia, turned for health coverage, as soon as the law took effect.

"I was excited because if it weren't for Obamacare, I wouldn't be insured at all," she says. "I wouldn't have the ability to go to the doctor."

She can afford health insurance thanks to a $200 a month subsidy that brings her premium down to $60 a month.

An outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, has swelled to 95 cases in South Korea. Seven people have died, and scientists are trying to figure why the outbreak has grown so rapidly.

Although there's no vaccine or treatment for MERS, the disease isn't usually very contagious.

In the privacy of a doctor's office, a patient can ask any question and have it be covered under doctor-patient confidentiality. But what happens when patients want to search possible symptoms of a disease or ailment online?

It's common to search for treatments for a migraine or stomach pain on WebMD, or a flu strain on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. But there's no way to know who else may be privy to that search information. So where do the data go when a patient presses enter?

The first thing out of John Iovine's mouth is an apology.

"You got to forgive me if I don't remember too much," he says. "I had a stroke."

Signs of that stroke are everywhere — the bed in the dining room, a shower installed in the pantry. John is thin, and sits in blue pajama pants in the wheelchair he uses to get around.

He may, however, have overstated his memory problems.

The genetic underpinnings of psychosis are elusive and diffuse. There are hundreds of common genetic mutations scattered throughout the human genome that each bump up by just a tiny bit the risk of developing a mental illness like schizophrenia. Many people carry some set of those genes, but most don't end up with a psychotic disorder. Instead, a study suggests, they might be getting a small creative boost.

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on King v. Burwell, a case challenging the validity of the federal tax subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health insurance if they don't get coverage through an employer. If the court rules against the Obama administration, those subsidies could be cut off for people in about three dozen states using HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange website.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the case.

Editor's note, June 10: We have added an acknowledgement of several sources that Esther Gokhale used while developing her theories on back pain. These include physiotherapy methods, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, and the work of anthropologist Noelle Perez-Christiaens.

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A good night's sleep for a child typically means the same for a parent. But night terrors can make middle-of-the-night wakings more frequent and can leave parents feeling helpless.

A new device wants to fend off night terrors by rousing a child into a lighter sleep stage. The Lully Sleep Guardian is a Bluetooth-enabled pod that pairs with an iPhone app. To prevent a child from entering an "unhealthy state of sleep," when night terrors typically occur, the pod uses gentle, timed vibrations.

In 2008, Cambodia passed a law that closed its brothels. The goal was to prevent human trafficking. But there was a tragic unintended consequence. It upended a government program designed to distribute condoms and screen for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV at brothels. When the sex workers scattered, there was no easy way to reach them.

The Affordable Care Act says that preventive health tests or services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have to be available to most insured consumers without any out-of-pocket cost.

Since the law was enacted, the list of services that people are entitled to has grown. In 2014, the task force recommended two new services and tweaked a handful of others that had previously been recommended.

Think of how often you stop by Walgreens or CVS. You run in and grab some Band-Aids or restock your ibuprofen supply. Maybe you even get a flu shot on your way to work.

Soon, it will be that easy for women in California to get birth control, too. Under a new state law, women will be able to go to a pharmacy, get a prescription for contraceptive pills, the ring, or the patch, get it filled and walk out 15 minutes later.

After wrestling with India's regulatory bodies over the safety of some of its products, Nestlé India says it will abide by a ban and pull its noodle soup products from shelves.

More than a thousand schools are shut down in South Korea, a response to rising fears over MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome. The virus has now infected 41 people, of whom four have died, since the South Korean outbreak began May 20th, and it's exposing widespread distrust among South Koreans that their leaders can adequately handle the crisis.

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