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Sanjay Gupta MD

Senator Baucus Bill's Impact on Families and Individuals; Couple Sues IVF Clinic; H1N1 Vaccine: Should You Get the Shot?

Aired October 03, 2009 - 07:30   ET


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Elizabeth Cohen. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment.

First up, a couple struggling to get pregnant learns that the clinic they relied on to give them a child has actually lost their embryos. They're talking to us here on HOUSE CALL.

Plus, the H1N1 vaccine is heading your way. But should you get the shot? We take your questions to the experts and we'll have answers.

And we're breaking down what the Baucus bill means to you and your insurance premiums.



COHEN: As I mentioned, Sanjay is on assignment this week very far away doing some very amazing reporting -- Sanjay?


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I've just arrived here in the town of Tromso, Norway, which is north of the Arctic Circle. To give you an idea of where we are exactly, we match up with the latitude of northern Siberia, as you can see there. It is very cold out here and part of the reason that I'm here is to try and study a fascinating phenomenon in medicine -- this idea that hypothermia or extreme cold can actually improve your chances for survival.

Take a look at the snowy mountains over here behind me. And this frigid water -- this is where rescue doctors are constantly doing their work.

And the story I'm about to tell you is of a woman who was skiing across country not too far from here when she lost control. Her head ended up going through a block of ice in a frozen pond and she was trapped for more than an hour. Her heart stopped beating for more than three hours and her body temperature began to fall. In fact, her body temperature went to 56 degrees, which is more than 40 degrees below normal. It is the coldest recorded temperature for someone who lived.

It's the story of Anna Bagenholm and the doctor who saved her, Mads Gilbert. What they were able to do carries an important lesson for medicine and really for all of us. It's all part of upcoming special called "Another Day Cheating Death," that's October 17th. Stories of people who survived and the doctors who were able to buy time and save lives.

Back to you.


COHEN: Thanks, Sanjay.

Now, overhauling the health care system is progressing. It really is. This week, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on its long-awaited proposal. Now, once that happens, it really gets the ball rolling toward having the bill reach the Senate floor. This could happen as soon as mid-October.

Now, while all these senators debate this bill, we want to talk about what the Baucus bill -- that's what it's called, the Baucus bill -- what it means to you and your wallet. Now, in order to do that, what we've done is we've invented some families. So, I'd like to introduce you to the Smith family. We're going to talk about what the Baucus bill means to them.

As you can see, the Smith family, they have newborn babies, and also, they have their own company. They started a high-tech company. They're not making all that much money yet. They're just at the beginning and they're having trouble affording insurance.

So, let's take a look at how much the Smith family makes. They currently make $44,000 per year. Now, for them to get a decent insurance policy to cover all four of them, that would cost them about $15,800. That is a lot of money. Now, that's about a third of their income.

So, let's take a look at what the Baucus bill does for them. What it does is it allows them to buy insurance for $3,000 by giving them subsidies. Obviously, that is a huge difference. Also, here's another thing -- these two little cutie pies would be eligible under the Baucus bill for CHIP, which is the Children's Health Insurance Policy.

So, that's what the Baucus bill does for one fictitious American family.

Now, if you have a pre-existing condition, the Baucus bill also will do something for you. We'll talk about that. That's coming up.

But, first, Raul Ruiz is like any other doctor, but how he got to be doctor is quite exceptional. His story is one of determination and a commitment to give back. That's after the break.

And you've been hearing the stories of IVF clinics having mix-ups with embryos. Later in the show, a couple whose embryos have actually been lost -- they're telling their story to HOUSE CALL.


COHEN: Twenty years ago, the small, mostly Spanish-speaking town of Coachella, California (ph), made an investment, not in stocks, not in real estate, but in a teenaged boy who dreamed of becoming a doctor. Now, as Soledad O'Brien tells us, their investment is paying off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever you're ready.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Raul Ruiz is a busy E.R. doctor.

DR. RAUL RUIZ, EISENHOWER MEDICAL CENTER: Did you have that pain up here?

O'BRIEN: He's the only full-time Latino physician on staff at Eisenhower Medical Center, the Coachella Valley's only non-profit hospital.

(on camera): How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a doctor?

RUIZ: Four years old.

O'BRIEN: Four?

RUIZ: Uh-huh.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Not an easy peat for the son of migrant farm workers.

RUIZ: I used to type it as my practice typing, all things are possible. All things are possible.

O'BRIEN: He was a good student but a terrible test taker. English was his first language.

RUIZ: According to my SAT scores, I should have never gone to college.

O'BRIEN: And what were your scores?

RUIZ: I'd rather not say.


O'BRIEN: The biggest obstacle wasn't grades. It was money.

A family friend paid for him to apply to UCLA. But it was the community of Coachella that helped to put Dr. Ruiz through school. Coachella is a small farming town, with mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants. The average family income is less than $25,000 a year. RUIZ: I'd start knocking on doors and saying, "I'm from this community. I want to become a physician, and I'm going to come back. I want to offer you the opportunity to invest in your community."

O'BRIEN: He handed out homemade contracts to sponsors like Juan Torres, owner of the local hardware store.

RUIZ: I was able to raise about $2,000.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Wow! That's a lot of dough.

RUIZ: Twenty dollars, $50, $100 at a time.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): He was 17 years old. With the money and, more importantly, the community backing, Raul Ruiz went off to UCLA. After graduation, he went to Harvard Medical School to become a doctor. And that's not all.

RUIZ: I have a master in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, it's the school of government, and I have a master in public health from Harvard School of Public Health.

O'BRIEN: Three degrees from Harvard, the first Mexican-American ever to achieve that.

RUIZ: My efforts are not just my own alone; it's my family's and my community's. So, you know, we worked hard.

O'BRIEN: He could have practiced anywhere, but he came back.

RUIZ: A promise is a promise.

O'BRIEN: And he continues to give back, mentoring eight Coachella teenagers.

RUIZ: There's only two obligations, one is that they show up, and two, that they participate with me in community service. And then we'll see if we can make a difference.

O'BRIEN: To insure they'll be a next generation of Coachella who will also give back.

Soledad O'Brien, CNN, Coachella, California.


COHEN: And later this month, watch for CNN's "Latino in America." We'll explore how Latinos are reshaping our communities and our culture. "Latino in America," this month on CNN.

Now, sadly, there are plenty of people who never make it to a doctor like Raul because -- well, they can't afford it. That's why we're going to introduce you to Heart Attack Harry. He's going to help explain what the Baucus bill will do.

Now, Heart Attack Harry can't get insurance because, well, he just had a heart attack. No insurance company will take him because of this pre-existing condition. What the Baucus bill will do is that, first of all, they're going to say to insurance companies, you have to take people like him. You don't have a choice.

Now, secondly, let's look at this. Harry makes $60,000 a year. He's self-employed so he doesn't get insurance through his employer.

What this bill is going to do is they're going to say, "You have a limit on how much you have to spend out of pocket." He has a lot of expenses in front of him. They said this bill will say that he will spend $6,300 and then after that, he doesn't have to spend anymore. Now, some people would say, $6,300 is a big chunk of change. Other people would say, "Yes, that's true, but at least Harry has insurance," which he doesn't now.

Now, imagine that you've been struggling to get pregnant. Nothing has worked. So, you turn to in vitro fertilization as your last hope. Then the clinic calls to tell you -- well, they've lost those embryos. It's an amazing story and that's just ahead.

And, they refused to get the swine flu vaccine. That could wind up costing some health care workers their jobs. A growing controversy pitting public health against private concerns.


COHEN: In vitro fertilization clinics are under scrutiny after recent reports of medical mix-ups. In Ohio, a woman gives birth to a baby that isn't hers after being implanted with another couple's embryo.

Now, in New Orleans, as many as 100 patients are being told that their embryos may have been misplaced. The clinic says that's because of a, quote, "significant labeling issue, which makes us unable to account for all the frozen embryos in our IVF center," unquote.

Kim and Abraham Whitney are just one of the couples grappling with this news. They join me now from New Orleans, along with their attorney, Melanie LaGarde.

Kim, you and your husband made four embryos that were frozen in this IVF clinic. You were about to become pregnant with them. They were about to implant them and then you got a phone call. Tell me what the phone call said.

KIM WHITNEY, SUING HOSPITAL OVER LOST EMBRYOS: It was the doctor from the lab. He called to tell us that a week -- two weeks before we were supposed to start the medicine that he lost our -- they lost our embryos.

COHEN: Lost your embryos. What did you think...

K. WHITNEY: They were misplaced.

COHEN: ... when you heard that phrase?

K. WHITNEY: I didn't know what to think. It's heartbreaking.

COHEN: And did they explain to you how in the world they lost your embryos?

K. WHITNEY: They had -- they had no answers. They never gave us any explanation. And to this day, we still haven't gotten an explanation. We found out close to a year ago that they were misplaced, and to this day, we haven't been told where they could possibly be.

COHEN: Now, Mr. Abraham, what did you think when you got that phone call saying that your embryos were just missing in action?

ABRAHAM WHITNEY, SUING HOSPITAL OVER LOST EMBRYOS: I couldn't believe it when I first heard it. I mean, it was unbelievable. I don't understand how anybody could do this to another person, or how you can misplace something that's so important to certain people. I just don't understand it. I don't understand how it can be allowed to happen.

COHEN: How much money and how much time had you and your wife invested in this process at the time you found out your embryos were missing?

A. WHITNEY: We've invested -- it's hard to say exactly how much money, but pretty much for the last five years since we've been married, we've wanted children and we've invested everything we've had extra and everything I worked for into having a family, and into in vitro fertilization because it's the only way that we may have children on our own.

COHEN: Now, you already have a daughter who's about to turn two, and so, you were hoping for...

A. WHITNEY: Yes, ma'am.

COHEN: ... a sibling for that daughter, a brother or a sister?

A. WHITNEY: Yes, ma'am.

COHEN: Do you think will ever happen now?

A. WHITNEY: Yes, ma'am. I believe without a doubt we will have another child through in vitro fertilization. As to when that might happen, I have no idea. I mean, it's really, really scary for us right now to even think about trying to do it at this very moment or investing any more of our time or life into something that has failed us once.

COHEN: Now, as far as you know, your embryos were not given to the wrong family, correct?

A. WHITNEY: Correct. That's what they're saying. But as of right now, they have shown us no proof that they haven't been given to another couple or where they might have ended up or how they might have lost them or anything. COHEN: And you are suing the clinic. What do you hope to get out of it?

K. WHITNEY: Answers. We want answers. I would like to know where our babies went. They couldn't have walked away. Someone knows where they went.

COHEN: Kim and Abraham Whitney, thank you. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to try to expand your family.

We should point out the hospital has apologized to the Whitneys and to the other families, and they say they're going to check every IVF clinic dating back to when they opened in 2003.

So, just how safe are these clinics? I had a chance to go to an IVF clinic here in Atlanta.


COHEN: So this is where it all starts. On the other side of this door is dad giving his sperm sample.

DR. ANDREW A. TOLEDO, REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY ASSOCIATION: We don't accept any sperm sample that's unlabeled or labeled inappropriately.

COHEN: So this is where the eggs come in.

TOLEDO: Right.

COHEN: Right here in this test tube, both labeled, both with the same identifier number. And then show me where you put them together.

TOLEDO: This dish has scratched in the last name of the couple. And, again, let's make sure we understand this is a theoretical couple, not a real couple.

COHEN: Right. That name is someone's cat.

TOLEDO: Somebody's cat.

COHEN: So, eggs which have been in here...

TOLEDO: Right.

COHEN: And eggs in their own container are put into this dish.

TOLEDO: That's correct.

COHEN: The name -- I don't know if you can see this -- but the name is etched onto the dish.

TOLEDO: That's correct.

COHEN: And you can see it. It's very clear to me and the number is on there as well.

So, I've got a dish with an embryo that has a name and a number on it.

TOLEDO: That's correct.

COHEN: And I'm putting it into an incubator that has a name and a number on it.

TOLEDO: That's correct. They got a label in here as well. So, you are now in charge, Elizabeth, of putting them into the incubator. They stay in there until the day these embryos are ready to go back into this particular patient.

COHEN: If you want to store them and keep them for a while, you put them in here.

TOLEDO: Here's a storage straw that has basically the patient's name.

COHEN: So, once again we see Kumvia (ph) and the number...

TOLEDO: That's right.

COHEN: ... on the outer part.

TOLEDO: On the outer storage and then the inner and the straw itself.

COHEN: You can set up all the systems you want, but if your people don't follow the steps, bad things can happen.

TOLEDO: Right.

COHEN: Embryos can get mixed up.

TOLEDO: Absolutely.


COHEN: Now, we want you to note that all those names you saw and all those stickers, they are completely made up.

Now, if the process doesn't work, like we just saw, and there is a mix-up, what are the options here?

CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom has some answers.

Lisa, if a fertility clinic loses my embryos, what's my recourse?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Your recourse is a civil lawsuit and some people have already taken that route. They're saying, "Look, I'm entitled to substantial money damages for the negligence of this clinic."

The interesting legal question is whether embryos are persons. And there are some laws in Louisiana suggesting that they are, or whether they're property which is I would expect under most state laws. I think this is a brand new area for judges to delve into, to try to decide these cases. But ultimately, I think juries would be very receptive to a claim, "Look, they lost our embryos, we're devastated, we're very upset and we're entitled to a lot of money damages for that."

COHEN: So, technically is this medical malpractice or is this a property issue? Or what exactly is it?

BLOOM: Well, the defense is always going to say this is a medical malpractice issues because there are caps on medical malpractice cases, generally about $250,000. But it doesn't strike as a typical medical malpractice case. This isn't as though a doctor was operating on the patient and left the scalpel inside the patient's body. This is an issue about labeling, about losing embryos somehow in a clinic and not clear how.

So, I think it's a little bit different than medical malpractice, and will probably fall outside those caps.

COHEN: Well, Lisa Bloom, thanks for being with us and explaining this to us.

BLOOM: My pleasure.

COHEN: Appreciate you being here.

BLOOM: Great.

COHEN: Now, health care workers are told to get the swine flu vaccine or risk losing their jobs.

Plus, NFL player Kerry Rhodes taking his message of fitness to Twitter -- 140 characters of motivation.

Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me liberty!



COHEN: In New York, some health care workers are protesting mandatory H1N1 flu vaccinations. While workers say they should have the freedom to opt out if they want to, the state's health commissioner says patients come first and they point out that workers are also required to get other vaccines such as measles and rubella.

Now, a report this week finds that several states could run out of hospital beds during peak flu season. The report is based on a CDC model and it shows, if 35 percent of Americans become seriously ill with H1N1, beds could run out in 15 states.

Now, will concern over H1N1 motivate you to get vaccinated? Here's a question from Kim in Michigan.


KIM, CALLER FROM MICHIGAN: I'm 12 weeks pregnant and getting some pressure from family members to get the H1N1 vaccine. I'm opposed to it mainly because it's so new. I was wondering what possible side effects are they projecting at this point.


COHEN: Now, so far, the National Institutes of Health has tested 60 pregnant women and they say there are no serious side effects. Now, health officials are urging pregnant women to get the H1N1 shot because they say that pregnant women are dying from H1N1.

Take a look at these statistics that just came out. Since April, 100 pregnant women have been in the intensive care unit because of swine flu, and 28 women have died from swine flu. Now, another advantage to getting the shot is that it gives immunity to your baby for a few months after they're born.

We've told you this before but it bears repeating: Your baby cannot get a shot in the first six months of life, can't get vaccinated. So, the only way to get them any immunity in the first few months is to give the shot. But, of course, you can understand pregnant women are hesitant to get a shot that has just come on the market. You have to talk to your obstetrician.

To see the 10 most common questions about the H1N1 vaccine, go to my column at It will help you decide whether or not the vaccine is right for you and your family.

Just ahead: We'll tell you a clever tool one football player is using to promote fitness.

Plus, you got to check this out, pink cleats? What is going on here? We'll talk about how the NFL is promoting breast cancer awareness in a very colorful way.


COHEN: October is breast cancer awareness month and the NFL is kicking it off in a big way. Players, coaches and refs are part of an NFL campaign called "A Crucial Catch," which encourages annual screenings. So, check this out. They're going to have pink cleats and pink hats and pink towels and, of course, these lovely pink gloves -- all to encourage women to get their annual checks. Check with their doctors and mammograms.

The items that you see here will be worn and autographed and auctioned off. All those proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society and team charities.

Now, here's another NFL story. Kerry Rhodes of the New York Jets is making fitness a priority. He's taking his message to the Web, sharing his secret with his Twitter followers and showing what's in his fridge and why he wants to make sure that his message of fitness gets out.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the story.


GUPTA (voice-over): There's no question, for NFL player Kerry Rhodes, fitness is a job, on the field.

KERRY RHODES, NFL PLAYER: I'm big on the food...

GUPTA: Off the field. Even on Twitter.

RHODES: A lot of people have been asking me on Twitter to give them workout tips and what do I do, what do I do eat. TheRealPNasty said, "Looking to lose approximately 25 pounds over the next two months." That right there is just -- that's setting up for failure because you're trying to do to much.

GUPTA: Rhodes' tip number one: map out a fitness plan.

RHODES: I usually do three sets of 10.

GUPTA: And start slow.

RHODES: Work your way up and take your time to get to that point where you can do more.

GUPTA: He says it's all about setting reasonable goals and keeping your routine interesting.

RHODES: Do creative thing to not get tired, and not get used to doing the same thing over and over.

GUPTA: During the off-season, a typical meal for Rhodes, an early morning snack, banana or granola bar, oatmeal and toast for breakfast, a high-protein lunch like lean hamburger patty, and for dinner, a chicken salad.

Also, he loads up on things like water, fruit, green tea, or energy drinks to help stay full throughout the day.

RHODES: I get at least four meals in your system, whether that be a snack for one meal or energy drink for one meal.

GUPTA: His advice for fans who tweet him and to kids who are obese, make fitness a priority.

RHODES: Put on the paper what you want to do, just overall -- overall what you want to be at the end of the day. Just be active and that's the biggest thing.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


COHEN: That's all we have time for today. Now, if you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out our podcast at

Also, check out our Web site at, and you can send us e-mails there as well.

Remember, this is the place for the answers to all your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Elizabeth Cohen.

More news on CNN starts right now.