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Sanjay Gupta MD

Roe V. Wade, Revisited; Rare Look Inside "Dementia Village"; Cannabis Versus Cancer

Aired July 21, 2013 - 07:30   ET



Today, we have a rare look inside a village where every single resident has severe dementia. I will tell you -- it's one of the most humane things I've ever seen.

Also, treating cancer with marijuana. I'm going to show you why some doctors don't think it's such a crazy idea.

But, first, a new battle over the rules and the laws surrounding abortion.


GUPTA (voice-over): In Texas, they filibustered, talking for 11 hours straight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that the physician should give a report.

GUPTA: In North Carolina, they rallied.

According to Guttmacher Institute, about one in three American women has had an abortion, but today, more than 20 states are implementing laws to restrict the procedure.

Most dramatic, North Dakota, they say no abortions allowed once the heartbeat can be heard, and that's usually around six weeks. Sometimes before a woman even knows she's pregnant. That law is being challenged in court.

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry signed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Most people I think in this country and in Texas certainly believe that six months is too late to be deciding whether or not these babies should be aborted or not, and we put the limit at five months in this bill.

JENNIFER POPICK, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE: At 20 weeks the unborn child exhibits certain things that we would all recognize as reaction to painful stimuli, and as a society we look at that pain-capable child and we say, you know, enough's enough.

DR. ANNE DAVIS, PHYSICIANS FOR REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE: We know very clearly at that time that the brain which is the part of the body that experiences pain isn't connected to the rest of the nervous system in the way we understand it to be for adults.

GUPTA: The vast majority of babies born at 20 weeks won't survive. Just last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own bill to limit abortions after 20 weeks -- unless the mother's life is in danger.


GUPTA: And joining me now is Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas. He does support tighter restrictions. He's also a licensed obstetrician.

And Dr. Nancy Stanwood, who chair the group Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. It's generating a lot of discussion.


GUPTA: Representative Burgess, let me start with you, you support the recent House bill limiting abortions past 22 weeks.

Let me start there. Why 22 weeks? Where does that come from?

BURGESS: Well, actually it's 20 weeks after conception, most of us working in the clinical field would say that's 22 weeks gestational age. The date that was chosen was for a reason, you're about a week away from viability at that point. Why not err on the side of giving the baby the benefit of the doubt.

I guess the other part is, you know, some of this was drafted around the concept of can a baby at 20 weeks post-conception feel pain? We go to great lengths to make certain that condemned killers will not feel any pain. When their life is taken, shouldn't we go to some of those same protections for a baby 20 weeks after conception?

GUPTA: Dr. Stanwood, let me pull you in here and just talking about limits --


GUPTA: -- in general, these limits that you hear Representative Burgess talking about, what do you think of them from a physician's perspective again, are they concerning to you? And if so, why?

STANWOOD: Well, they are concerning, I think in particular the premise that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks is just not based on scientific evidence. The most recent evidence and rigorous data show that a fetus is not capable of feeling pain until about the third trimester, 28 weeks.

GUPTA: Let me ask both of you. But Dr. Stanwood first, there are some genetic conditions, chromosomal and abnormalities that cannot be detected until after 22 weeks. First of all, is that common, and what would happen in a situation if these restrictions are in place?

STANWOOD: I think that's a very concerning point that you bring up, in that a large part of my practice when I have patients referred to me for second trimester abortions has to do with desired pregnancies where they've gotten terrible news. Most ultrasounds that are done to detect abnormal fetal anatomy are done at about 20 weeks gestation, so that patients thought they were having a normal pregnancy and then they got devastating news.

And part of the concern with these restrictions is sometimes the news that they get is preliminary, they need a second opinion, they need to see additional experts, they need to have testing maybe like chromosomal testing like an amniocentesis, and to have a scientifically unfounded arbitrary restriction on that process really robs those patients of the time and dignity that they need to come to grips to the situation and make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

GUPTA: So, Representative Burgess, I mean, the scenario is a woman gets this devastating news, and it's a devastating chromosomal or genetic abnormality found in child and more testing necessary, but in the meantime it's past 22 weeks now. What do you tell that family, that woman?

BURGESS: The most second trimester amniocentesis is done at 16 weeks gestational age, that's 14 weeks after conception. Yes, it does take two or three weeks to get the results back. Yes, you are pushing up against mid-pregnancy.

But the time window there is one in which it is reasonable to consider having this type of restriction because, you know, the problem we get into here is at what age are we going to confer humanity and at what gestational age? And for anyone who has practiced obstetrics and spent time in the dark in the sonogram room, you see distinct human characteristics really even much earlier than 20 weeks after conception.

GUPTA: Dr. Stanwood, Representative Burgess, this remains one of the most polarizing issues in America so many years. Thank you both for joining us.

BURGESS: Thank you, Dr. Gupta.

STANWOOD: Thank you.

GUPTA: And up next on SGMD, an entire village where every resident living there has severe dementia.


GUPTA: The Alzheimer's conference took place this week in Boston. And while new studies generated a lot of buzz, it's still fair to say this, an effective treatment to reverse or even delay dementia still a long way off.

In the Netherlands recently, near Amsterdam, I caught what might be a glimpse of the future, a humane future as I say, the way that we might care for aging relatives, the way that we might like to be cared for ourselves.


GUPTA (voice-over): At first glance, it looks like any other small Dutch town. But look closer. It's not. Outsiders aren't allowed here. And everyone who lives within these walls has something in common -- it's the last place any of them will ever call home.

(on camera): So, this is a neighborhood?


GUPTA: A neighborhood for people with dementia.


GUPTA: What makes this place better?

THEO VISSER, WIFE CORRIE IS A RESIDENT AT HOGEWEY (through a translator): This place is open. People can enjoy the seasons. They can really feel if it's cold or warm. They can visit a restaurant. They can drink a cup of tea and they are free to go wherever they want to go.

GUPTA (voice-over): Wherever they want to go, except back into the real world. These sliding glass doors are the only doors that lock here at Hogewey. This is the only way in and the only way out.

Creating a sense of normalcy is the number one goal here at Hogewey. Oftentimes, that means creating a routine and sticking to it.

Well, if you walk in here, this will look just like any other grocery store to you, but I want to point out a few things that are different. You do see the same products, juices -- you can buy anything you want, cleaning products, but you notice very quickly there's no prices on anything. And as you're about to see there's no money that exchanges hands either.

The customers as you might guess, a very different type of clientele here. They are residents of this village. They all have severe dementia, oftentimes they come here with their caregivers.

Ultimately, when they come up to the front desk after buying all their products, they don't exchange any money, and, Trudy, who is a staff member, is trained specifically to handle people with dementia.

JIM CARREY, ACTOR: Oh, in case, I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

GUPTA: Some compare this manufactured reality to the movie "The Truman Show."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the whole kit and caboodle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Catch you later.


GUPTA: A man played by Jim Carrey discovers his entire life is actually a TV program. Everything he thinks is real is a mirage, created by television producers.

(on camera): Do the people here ever feel -- I mean, did you ever -- did you ever get the impression that they feel like they're being fooled or duped in any way?

VAN AMERONGEN: Why should they feel they are fooled? We have a society here. A supermarket is not a show. It's a real supermarket.

GUPTA: Right.

VAN AMERONGEN: Maybe we're fooling them and we say it's OK what you're doing. But that's because we want to help people enjoy life and feel that they are welcome here on this earth.

GUPTA: For the rest of their lives, because here at Hogewey, a vacancy only becomes available when a current resident passes away.


GUPTA: I tell you, this pace, it's truly unique. But keep in mind -- any full-time care in the United States can easily cost between $70,000 or $80,000 a year, many families simply can't afford that. If you are caring for someone with significant dementia or Alzheimer's at your home, here's a few tips, reduce clutter and noise as much as you can, create rituals and routines and really stick to them.

And also these are things that we learned -- don't go around correcting someone with dementia or trying to convince them that they're being irrational. You're better off trying to just redirect the situation.

Again, an amazing place, Hogewey.

GUPTA: Now, coming up, a controversial project that's looking at marijuana as a possible treatment for cancer.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: You know, I get asked a lot is medical marijuana just a hoax -- an excuse to smoke pot. Well, it's true, you know, some doctors are going to prescribe it for just about anything, but when I dug into this, I also found something else -- serious physicians out there who think cannabis could become a real tool to fight all sorts of things including cancer.


SIERRA RIDDLE, LANDON'S MOTHER: Good job. GUPTA (voice-over): Landon Riddle was a normal 2-year-old boy until he was diagnosed with leukemia.

RIDDLE: He doesn't look very sick to you all, but, you know, he's on the brink of death.

GUPTA: Doctors in Salt Lake City immediately started intense chemotherapy and radiation.

RIDDLE: But told us that he probably wasn't going to make it, that he only had, like, an 8 percent chance to live 24 to 48 hours.

GUPTA: The chemo made him violently ill. He was in intense pain. He suffered nerve damage in his legs and he went 25 days without eating.

RIDDLE: Around the clock, he's usually on liquid morphine, Ativan, Promethexane. And it just really didn't seem to be helping.

GUPTA: And then she heard about medical marijuana.

RIDDLE: We didn't have anything else to lose.

GUPTA: One chemical in marijuana, THC, is responsible for the psychoactive effects or the high. It also combats nausea and the pain. But another chemical called CBD seemed to have additional benefits.

RIDDLE: Love you.

GUPTA: In January, Landon began taking both as an oil.

RIDDLE: As soon as we started taking the oil, his platelets have been a regular healthy person's level and they can't understand why.

GUPTA: And it's this effect that has intrigued researchers. In San Francisco, these researchers say that compound CBD can kill cancer cells and stop them from metastasizing in human cells and mice at least in the lab.

SEAN MCALLISTER, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER RESEARCH INSTITUTE: This compound that appears to be quite effective in inhibiting cancer in the dish.

GUPTA: And they're ready now to take the next step which is large- scale clinical trials. Of course, many cancer therapies do make it to this step. And some say it is too early to get excited.

DR. ALAN SHACKELFORD, AMERIMED: So, we're at a place now where there aren't enough data, we're beginning to gather more, and I think as in so many things, people are now beginning to demand other treatment options.


GUPTA: Now, it's worth pointing out, Landon has been off chemo for three weeks, and whether or not the cannabis actually played a role, his mother says his leukemia is currently in remission. So, is marijuana bad for you? That's the other question, or can pot actually do some good.

I travel all over the world looking for answers to these questions and you're going to see what I uncovered at Sunday, August 11th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Jon Lester is not only a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, he's also a cancer survivor. Maybe you did the know that. His experience with cancer as well as a very significant change in his life moved him to help the youngest of cancer patients.


GUPTA (voice-over): Jon Lester was a 22-year-old rookie pitcher for the Boston Red Sox when a trip to Fenway Park back in 2006 changed his life.

JON LESTER, BOSTON RED SOX: I got in a car accident here driving to the field.

GUPTA: The accident seemed to make some lingering back pain even worse sending Lester to the hospital where doctors threw him a curve ball.

LESTER: You're sitting there one minute thinking in my case, I just have some back pain just need to get anti-inflammatories, maybe some rest or something like that to you have cancer.

GUPTA: Lester was diagnosed with anti-plastic large cell lymphoma. It's a rare, fast spreading, yet treatable form of blood cancer that affects the lymph nodes. He endured six rounds of chemotherapy and by the end of the year, CT scans showed the cancer was gone.

Soon after Lester met with then Red Sox Manager, Terry Francona, eager to get back in the game.

LESTER: He sat me down. We're going to take this as slow as we possibly can. Obviously that's the last thing I want to hear.

GUPTA: In 2007, just a year after his cancer diagnosis, Lester started and won game four of the World Series clinching the championship for the Red Sox. At first, Lester was reluctant to talk about his cancer.

LESTER: At the time, you know, I just wanted to move on. Wanted to be -- wanted to get back to doing what I loved to do and play baseball and not be the cancer patient anymore.

GUPTA: But that changed in 2010.

LESTER: We had just had our first son. I can only imagine what it would be like for him to go through something like this.

GUPTA: So Lester helped launch NVRQT or Never Quit, in collaboration with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. LESTER: I fought and beat cancer. Now it's time to fight for the kids.

GUPTA: Never Quit raises awareness and money for pediatric cancer research.

LESTER: Each ball represents a child diagnosed with cancer -- over 125,000 in the last decade. Children's cancer is a monster we all need to bring down.

GUPTA: Having beaten cancer himself, Lester's mission now is to strike out cancer for children.


GUPTA: Now, still ahead, a 100-year-old tennis champ, an 86-year-old pole vaulter and a rough-and-tumble basketball granny -- all of them triumph over the limits of age.


GUPTA: Every two years thousands of athletes from across America gather to compete in the national senior games. They range in age from 50 to 100 years old and they compete in 19 different sports events, including tennis, track and field and swimming and they are a true testament to chasing life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Roger Jalo (ph). I am now 100 years old and the fellow I am playing today is only 94 years old, so playing a youngster again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy that beat me is a guy named Adolph Hoffman (ph). He's one of the best athletes I've ever seen, and he beat me bad in most of them, but he cheated a little bit in the javelin.

CROWD: One, two, three!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every time we go to tournament, we know the teams that we're coming up against are just as ready to play as we are. They're getting tougher and tougher and meaner and meaner.

CROWD: Defense!


GUPTA: How can you not smile at this? Joining me now to talk about are the very young-looking filmmakers, Keith Ochwat and Christopher Rufo.

Welcome to the show. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. GUPTA: Keith, how did you find the stories? Because there's a lot of athletes who compete. You drilled down on a few specific stories here.

KEITH OCHWAT, PRODUCER, "AGE OF CHAMPIONS": Absolutely. You know, we think that the senior games is one of the best-kept secrets in sports over 300,000 athletes across the country compete who are 50 and older. And what we did, we partnered with the association that puts on the games and they sent out a casting call on our behalf.

We had over 1,000 responses to the call, people send photos, bios, stories about their competition. And we ended up sifting through all those -- all those applications and we ended choosing a 100-year-old tennis player and an 86-year-old pole vaulter and several others.

GUPTA: I couldn't believe that guy could actually pole vault. I don't think I could do that now and he's 86 years old.

OCHWAT: He invited us to try and we were a little too intimidated to do it ourselves.

GUPTA: Which kind of raises the question, were these guys and women athletes beforehand?

CHRISTOPHER RUFO, DIRECTOR, "AGE OF CHAMPION": Some of them were, some of them weren't. Adolph the pole vaulter, he learned how to pole vault with a garden hoe over barbed wire fences when he was 5 years old, that was his kind of trial by fire.

But on the other hand, you have someone like Roger who saw a coupon in the newspaper for tennis rackets, decided to give it a try and picked it up at 75.

GUPTA: That's the 100-year-old tennis player, but he picked it up at 75 years old.

RUFO: But he's been playing for 25 years now.

GUPTA: We saw him get a winner against a 94-year-old.

RUFO: Yes.

GUPTA: Have you guys changed yourself, Keith, as a result of doing this documentary?

OCHWAT: People ask, how do you become a senior athlete, is it what they eat or their eating or sleeping patterns? We kind of had that in the back of our head as we did the filming, what realize is what sets these senior athletes apart from maybe other older adults that we have met is they have goals, they are looking forward to something. They're moving towards something, something that keeps them -- when they wake up, all right, what I'm going to do is this today.

Too often you see older adults too often who feel their life is behind them, but the characters that we featured in the film and all the senior athletes we met, are looking forward to life. GUPTA: Congratulations to you. I hope everyone gets to watch it. It's inspiring and I think, again, as people get older, to have the thing to look forward to. It's so important.

Keith, Christopher, thank you for joining us.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD. But stay connected with me at Let's keep the conversation going on Twitter as well @DrSanjayGupta.

Time now, though, to get you back into the "CNN NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon.