Health Highlights: Sept. 20, 2012

HealthDay SHARE
  • Many Discarded Kidneys Could Be Transplanted: Experts
  • Six Million Face Health Insurance Tax Penalty: Report
  • Kroger Spinach Recalled
  • Parents Warned Not to Use SimplyThick
  • Parkinson's Drug May Raise Heart Failure Risk: FDA
  • FDA Testing Arsenic Levels in Rice

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Many Discarded Kidneys Could Be Transplanted: Experts

In each of the last five years, more than 2,600 kidneys recovered from deceased donors in the United States were discarded without being transplanted, according to federal government data.

This occurred despite the huge number of people waiting for deceased donor kidneys. As of Wednesday, that wait list was 93,413, The New York Times reported.

Last year, 2,644 (nearly 18 percent) of the 14,784 kidneys recovered from deceased donors were discarded, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Nearly 500 of those kidney were not transplanted because a recipient could not be found.

The unused kidneys typically ended up in a research laboratory or medical waste incinerator. In many cases, the kidneys seemed promising for transplant based on the age and health of the donor but were found to have problems that doctors decided made them unsuitable for transplant.

However, some experts believe that as many as half of those discarded kidneys could be transplanted if the system for distributing them better matched the right organ to the proper recipient in a suitable amount of time, The Times reported.

Critics say the current kidney allocation process is inefficient due to issues such as an outdated computer matching program, stifling government oversight, doctors' overreliance on inconclusive tests, and even federal age discrimination laws.

These factors have led to medical rationing system that supposedly gives all transplant candidates a fair chance of receiving a kidney but may not save as many lives as it could.

"There is no doubt that organs that can help somebody and have a survival benefit are being discarded every day," Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told The Times.

The current federal system -- which amounts largely to first-come, first-served -- is considered simple and transparent, but many experts contend that it wastes precious opportunities for transplants.

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Six Million Face Health Insurance Tax Penalty: Report

Nearly six million Americans will face a tax penalty under the new health care law for not having health insurance, according to an estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The penalty will average about $1,200 per person in 2016, the first year that the penalty is fully in effect, the Associated Press reported.

In an estimate released in 2010 shortly after the new health care law was passed, the budget office estimated that four million people would face a tax penalty for not having insurance.

The law requires that, as of 2014, almost every legal resident of the U.S. must have health insurance or face a tax penalty. There will be exemptions for certain circumstances, including financial hardship and religious objections.

Ninety-eight percent of Americans will not be affected by the tax penalty, Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt told the AP.

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Kroger Spinach Recalled

Packages of Kroger Fresh Selections Tender Spinach sold at grocery stores in 15 states are being recalled due to possible Listeria contamination.

The 10-oz. bags of spinach have a "best if used by" date of Sept. 16 and a universal product code (UPC) of 011110916495, the Associated Press reported.

The spinach was sold at Kroger, Jay C. Owen's, Pay Less, Scott's, Food 4 Less, Dillons, Baker's, and Gerbes stores in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.

The Kroger Co. said consumers who bought the spinach should return it to stores for a full refund or replacement.