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Premiums on the Rise; Help for Wounded Vets; Mystery of King Tut's Death

Aired February 20, 2010 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Welcome to a special place where we're going to teach you how to live longer and stronger. I'm your doctor, but I'm also your coach.

Health care obviously still in the news, and there's a big summit coming up this week. I had a chance to sit down and talk to the health care secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. She's really at the center of a lot of this. We're going to hear straight from her and how likely she thinks this is all going to be to happen.

Also, you know, in Haiti, we saw a lot of people who had amputations and that really raised the discussion about prosthetics. How feasible are they?

Dean Kamen is this inventor. You've met him before on this program. He's putting together some of the most remarkable prosthetics we've ever seen. How likely is this, something like what you're looking at right now, is going to be available to lots of people who need it?

And finally, a medical mystery out there: Who killed and what killed King Tut. Almost since his death, almost 3,000 years ago, people have been really, really curious what exactly happened to him. Was he murdered? Was it something else? We've got remarkable answers.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: You know, health insurance premiums are on the rise, and the administration has been crying foul about this. We've seen this for some time now.

But maybe you didn't know this -- there's a new report out released by the Department of Health and Human Services which highlights that insurance companies in seven states have tried to raise insurance premiums by double digits. Think about what's going on in the economy, going up double digits in terms of your premium. WellPoint, one of the companies mentioned, says its costs are in line with competitors and it blames the premium increases on a sicker, older pool of customers as well as rising health care costs.

Now, this report comes just days before a planned health care summit at the White House, an important one that we've been talking about. And I had a chance to sit down with the HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, and really get some clues, some insights on this summit coming up. Take a look.


GUPTA: The president says he's going to post online the text of the health insurance reform plan. He's going to post it online ahead of the summit. What is that plan?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: Well, I think it's really -- it's sort of combination of the best ideas of the House and the Senate bills. Lots of good Republican ideas in both the House passed bill, and the Senate passed bill. High risk pools and selling insurance across state lines, and keeping kids on their parents' plan to 26 or 27, having a lower cost plan for younger workers -- those ideas are already part of the comprehensive package.

So, I'm hoping that the Republicans really come on the 25th of February really to roll up their sleeves and go to work.


GUPTA: Now, I promise you, we are going to be the place for the latest news on how health care could be impacted by everything that's happening in Washington. We're going to put this in plain English for you as the days and weeks and months go on.

Now, many agree that a large part of health care reform needs to be tort reform. We're talking about lawsuits here -- and reducing costs in a system some say is more worried about litigation than truly reducing medical errors.

CNN's David Mattingly now with a report on just one example that critics say highlights what exactly is wrong with the system.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2006, Eric Cropp was a pharmacist at a Cleveland hospital when 2-year- old cancer patient Emily Jerry was killed by the medical error of a pharmacy technician. She was given a chemotherapy drug mixed with a salt solution 23 times more concentrated than the normal dose.

But because Eric Cropp was the supervising pharmacist and should have caught the mistake, he was sent to jail. And that's where I found him, confused and struggling with regret.

(on camera): Do you think it was your fault?

ERIC CROPP, FORMER PHARMACIST: In a way sometimes, because I was called everything in the media from -- in the way my co-workers have treated me. It's been hard.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But not as hard as it has been for Emily Jerry's mom. KELLY JERRY, EMILY'S MOM: She would go up and down the slide. Her swing was in the middle, it was still one of those child safety swings.

MATTINGLY: After Emily's death, Kelly Jerry pushed for laws in Ohio requiring new training and certification for pharmacy workers.

(on camera): Cropp says the mistake that killed Emily Jerry came on a day when he was overloaded and rushed. These are common complaints throughout the nation's medical system. And patients' safety advocates warn that cases like this might actually make it harder to change the conditions where tragic errors are made.

MICHAEL COHEN, INSTITUTE FOR SAFE MEDICATION PRACTICES: People are going to be afraid to come forward and identify problems that they've been involved with, because of fear for losing their license or, you know, in this case, even have criminal charges brought against you.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Michael Cohen for the Instate for Safe Medication Practices was among experts sending letters to the judge calling Cropp an "easy target," saying, "the greater good is served by focusing on system issues that allow tragedies like this to happen."

But in the court's eyes, Cropp had no excuse for missing the mistake that killed Emily Jerry. He's serving six months for involuntary manslaughter. He will never work as a pharmacist again.

David Mattingly, CNN, Cleveland.


GUPTA: All right. Thanks, David.

And David also reported that Cropp was released from jail just this week. The terms of his probation include speaking publicly, telling a story of caution to others in the industry. That's a pretty good idea, actually.

Just ahead: Find out what Secretary Sebelius also had to say about some hospitals in Florida not getting reimbursed for treating patients from the Haiti earthquake. Patients came to these Florida hospitals -- are they going to get paid or not?

Also, could there be a genetic link to mental illness? A lot of people ask about this question. We're going to have an answer on "Ask the Doctor."

Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to SGMD.

Every week at this time, we're going to be answering your questions directly. Think of this as your own appointments -- no waiting, no insurance needed as well. Let's get right to it.

This is a question from Shahid in New Jersey, writes this, "Can bipolar disorder or schizophrenia be genetic? And is medical treatment a lifelong process?"

Great question. We get something like this just about every week. And the short answer here, of course, is, yes. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, they both have genetic links.

Schizophrenia is a serious -- it's a challenging illness. People can feel agitated. They can have hallucinations. Scientists believe that there's no one specific gene that causes the disease itself, probably from multiple genes. And that's really the target here.

In the case of bipolar disorder, it often causes extreme shifts in mood and energy. That's one of the hallmarks of this. Now, the changes might be subtle or they might be drastic and they could change continuously throughout a person's life. It's usually diagnosed, though, by age of 25.

Treatment for both diseases is a lifelong commitment. Medication is usually a key component in the successful treatment of both bipolar and schizophrenia -- but also, psychotherapy, support, education. Not only the patient but the family and support-givers, as well, are also very essential. Bottom line: schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, they can be serious, they can be devastating, but you can lead a normal life if treated properly in some of the ways outlined.


GUPTA: All right. Let's shift topics quickly. The road to obesity may begin a lot earlier than we thought. I really want to talk about this this week because this was interesting to me, especially given that I have three children 4 and under.

They say that perhaps the whole process could start as early as three months of age. Now, think about that as you're listening to what I'm saying here, three months of age. You know, babies do need a certain amount of fat. There's no question, baby fat, it's cute. It helps with brain development, the nerve development, eye development, as well.

But this new study published in the journal "Clinical Pediatrics" followed 100 kids until the age of 20. These are not kids anymore at 20, but they follow them all along for 20 years trying to figure out at what point signs of obesity were developing and they discovered it was as early as 3 months of age. What we're talking about here is that half of these kids were already considered overweight at 2 years old. So researchers tried to trace it back so see exactly when it began.

Now, keep in mind that this doesn't mean that a chubby baby is for sure going to be a chubby adult. But there were some clues here. And that's what I was really focused on.

Bottom line for parents: pay attention to some of these. If the baby is breast-feeding, for example, they stop suckling, stop feeding them. It turns out the body, even at a very young age, the brain and stomach are very good at being able to tell when someone's full. That can be a good sign if they're actually turning their head away. The brain is telling their stomach at that point simply no more. It's always easier to change habits early on in life and later on in life, as well.

And, finally, if your child is well above the normal weight for their age, ask the doctor if you should be concerned. It's worthwhile having those conversations very early.

Now, we're on to this search -- this investigation that's been going on for 3,000 years. Trying to figure out what killed King Tut or who killed King Tut. We're trying to get an answer on that and I'm going to have that for you later in the show.

And also, something else that I found fascinating: Florida hospitals have been reaching out to Haitian quake victims for some time. I saw this firsthand when I was down in Haiti. But now, those same hospitals are feeling a bit of a financial pinch. Are they going to get help from the government for taking care of those patients? I asked the question directly and I got an answer.


GUPTA: And we're back with the program.

You know, while in Haiti last week, I reported on the United States government program that reimburses hospitals caring for Haitian patients injured in the earthquake.

Now, while hundreds of patients were evacuated to the United States immediately following the disaster, we found out that the program didn't officially go into effect until several weeks later. So, hospitals who took in patients immediately following the quake say they are starting to have trouble getting the money.

I went straight to the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, and asked her some questions.


SEBELIUS: No question that the biggest influx of patients came to Florida initially because of proximity. And there has been a huge outpouring from Florida of both resources and personnel. I think that there will be an effort to repay Florida hospitals for child care services, who were helpful with orphans and families, so that that burden doesn't fall disproportionately in one state.


GUPTA: And we'll certainly keep on top of that for sure.

You know, when I was in Haiti, I saw a lot of horrific injuries. You probably saw a lot of them on television, as well, including many people losing limbs. The issue now is prosthetic replacements. They are extremely difficult to get, good ones are anyways, and you're lucky if you can get one at all.

Yet in other parts of the world, the technology of these prosthetics has simply become remarkable. Inventor Dean Kamen, we asked him to come back this week. Why? Because he's working on one such breakthrough. He is most famous for inventing the Segway, but he's turned his attention now to a cutting edge prosthetic. Take a look.


GUPTA: We're here in the offices of Dean Kamen. It's called DEKA Research. Some of the brightest minds really, most productive minds really in the country as well, working on projects all the time.

One of the things that we're really interested in is this idea of a prosthetic arm. Think about all of the wounded veterans coming from Iraq and Afghanistan, amputees. We hear so much about them.

Well, no surprise really to any of us who know him, but the Pentagon actually called Dean Kamen to see if he might be able to help.

Thanks again. Appreciate it.

So, they give you this call. And they want you to come up with an arm. What do they tell you? What's the mandate?

DEAN KAMEN, INVENTED INSULIN PUMP AND SEGWAY: They sat in my conference room and with just pure passion, and said, look, Dean, these plastic sticks with the hook on them and from the civil war, unacceptable. You're going to give us an arm to put back on these kids. They're going to be able to walk in this conference room, pick up a razor and not drop it, pick up a grape and not break it, and in either case, move it into their mouths and eat it -- like they want fine motor control, they want a wrist, an elbow, an abducting and flexing shoulder.

And they sat there and said, we want that, we want it fast. It's got to be less than nine pounds. It's got to be self-powered. They just, that's what we want.

GUPTA: And your response was?

KAMEN: You're crazy, because the technology is not there.

GUPTA: Well, it's worth pointing out that this is your starting point, right? It's considered state of the art.

KAMEN: This is state of the art.

GUPTA: This.

KAMEN: It doesn't do much and it's pretty heavy.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, no surprise. This is -- for what it does, it weighs a lot. KAMEN: Yes.

GUPTA: And you slowly decided to ...

KAMEN: And I went home that night thinking, I can't imagine giving up one of my arms. I was lying in bed thinking, how do you turn over? What do you do? I just -- so the next day, I decided we've got to do this.


KAMEN: And in about 15 months, we had Chuck over there wearing an arm.

GUPTA: Fifteen months?

KAMEN: Fifteen months.

GUPTA: Literally from being an idea in your brain to actually being a reality.

KAMEN: And it weighs under nine pounds and does everything they said. And if you want, we'll go ask Chuck to go eat a grape.

GUPTA: I'm so excited.

Nice to meet you.


GUPTA: That's something. I never thought I'd get to shake hands with an arm like that.

HILDRETH: Neither did I. It's been 28 years since I've had my arms.

GUPTA: Twenty-eight years without ...

HILDRETH: Without arms. I lost them at 18 years old, three weeks out of high school, grabbed a hold of high tension lead that I thought had been turned off, between 13,000 and 15,000 volts.

KAMEN: Let's do some heavy work, let's go pick up a gallon of water.

When you think there's not a plausible way to do that with a hook. Let's pick up a piece of wood in your basic shop, get it into a vice, pick up a drill, and drill a hole or two.

GUPTA: Wow. Wow.

KAMEN: Now, if he wants to do the lower hole, he couldn't unless he rotates his whole wrist.

GUPTA: Rotate it the other way.

That's amazing. That is absolutely amazing.

KAMEN: Put it down, let go of it. The things you and I take for granted, think about that.

GUPTA: That was amazing.


GUPTA: And I have to tell you, after that, he showed me something even more eye opening. We're going to have much more with Chuck Hildreth and Dean Kamen -- that's just ahead.

Stay with the program.


GUPTA: And we're back with SGMD.

You know, hundreds of troops have lost an arm or a leg in Iraq or Afghanistan. We talk about this quite a bit. And the military's top research agency, and organization called DARPA, well, they called inventor Dean Kamen, ask him to build a replacement arm that would somehow do justice to those young men and women. That arm is now in clinical trials.

And we got a really interesting look. Kamen showed me how to this thing works with the help of a man named Chuck Hildreth who lost both his arms in an electrical accident nearly 30 years ago.


GUPTA: He's literally traveled all over the world to see your arm pick up this grape.

KAMEN: No pressure.

GUPTA: Got a whole bunch. That's amazing.

HILDRETH: It's a pretty big grape, though.

GUPTA: Wow. That's amazing. And you're also able to lift your arm up ...

HILDRETH: Oh, yes. I can ...

KAMEN: Let's -- let's go take maybe -- go get a coke off the counter.

GUPTA: Correct me if I'm wrong, to actually lift the arm above the shoulder ...

KAMEN: Which as a doc you may know, but a lot of your people may not realize that there's no history of people being able to abduct and flex in a way, that with a prosthetic they can go and get something off a shelf like that. This is beyond what people were expecting. GUPTA: This was impossible, or still is for most of the prosthetics that are out there. Where are we headed with this? I look at this, how good is this going to get?

KAMEN: Well, as proud as we are of this, I'd still tell you, you wouldn't want to give up the original equipment to have it. You deserve it. Have a drink.

GUPTA: A coke and a smile.

You did deserve that.

You told a phenomenal story about when you were talking to a bunch of the people down at Brooks, you had one guy at the end of table, you know, like, I'm OK. You know what he said?

KAMEN: This guy -- well, we had a table, a long table, with a whole bunch of kids, soldiers. To me, they look like kids, but they're soldiers. And they had all been badly wounded in different ways. But all of them at the very least were missing an arm because they were brought so that we could get feedback from them.

And there's one guy at the end. He was very quiet the whole time. And he's listening to everybody else give us their opinion, their advice. I looked at him and said, "Hey, what's your opinion on this?" And he was leaning on his arm. He had one arm and he said, "Oh, don't worry about me. I'm the lucky guy at the table because I lost my right arm, but I'm a lefty. I'm the lucky guy."

So he didn't say much more. I figured he was a quiet guy. Finally, the meeting ends. And we're thanking everybody and physicians came back and said, "OK, this meeting's over." And they all push themselves back to go away. And he pushes himself back. He has no legs.


KAMEN: And he was the lucky guy.

GUPTA: It gives me chills.

KAMEN: It's not right. We literally -- I told my guys when we were going down there, some of these kids are badly wounded and recently wounded. And we're going to have to give them some encouragement and we're going to have to give them some support.

And the staggering thing is as we left the place I realized, it didn't work that way. They were giving us the encouragement and they were giving us the support. And we'll give them the best arm they've ever had.


HILDRETH: Hopefully.

KAMEN: We will. GUPTA: Thanks, Chuck.


GUPTA: Dean Kamen, just such a remarkable guy, what he's able to do. I think since I was a kid, I've always been fascinated by the bionic man and all the research that goes into developing something like that. Dean Kamen is a guy that's conducting a lot of that research and solving a lot of mysteries in the process.

Speaking of mysteries, there's a mystery out there about what killed King Tut. This is really fascinating in the medical community. He was just a teenager -- King Tut was -- when he died. And many thought for a long time he was murdered.

Well, now, we know the truth. We'll have it for you.


GUPTA: Welcome back to SGMD.

Our medical mystery this week is something that I've been fascinated by for some time. What killed King Tut? And why should you care? How could this possibly impact you?

First of all, let me give you some background. King Tut was young when he died. They speculated around 17 to 19 years old. And there's been a mystery really for some time in the scientific community surrounding what actually killed him.

Some thought he was murdered. There was a hole in his head, after all. But it turns out that was from a mummification process according to a new study.

Doctors did some amazing CT Scans and remarkable studies of his entire body. They also did DNA testing. And what they found was remarkable. First of all, he was the product of inbreeding. So he had different genetic malformations including heart issues likely from bad genetics.

Also in his tomb there are all sorts of sticks that were actually in his tomb. And for a long time, they thought these sticks were used to ward off evil spirits in the after life. And it turns out they were most likely crutches. And the reason being -- and this is where it gets really interesting -- there's a CAT Scan that actually looks at his feet.

What you're looking at there, a CAT Scan of 3,000-year-old feet. I want you to notice some of the arrows there is that he had extra joints, probably from the genetic malformation known as oligodactyly but he also had necrosis or erosion of the bone. That's very painful and walking would have been very painful and that's probably why he used crutches. That's probably why you also see him sitting in a lot of those pictures as well.

The most interesting thing to me though when you think about King Tut and what they're able to tell from him is that when they looked at his DNA, they found the DNA of a parasite that causes malaria from 3,000 years ago. It turns out that he probably had cerebral malaria. And essentially, researchers speculate that the malaria, along with a severely fractured leg, is what killed him.

Now, why should you care? This research could help scientists today give insight into how pathogens like malaria change over time. What we can learn about H1N1, avian flu, lots of pathogens and how they could spread as well. Fascinating stuff.

Now, if you miss any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast,

And, of course, remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.