National briefs 5/22

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Grandson of doctor who treated assassin dies

SAGINAW, Mich. -- Richard D. Mudd, who spent much of his life trying to overturn his grandfather's conviction on charges of aiding Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, died early Tuesday. He was 101.

Mudd, who retired in 1965 after 37 years as an industrial physician and surgeon for General Motors Corp., traveled the nation on speaking engagements, many of them before Civil War historical organizations. He spent decades trying to clear the name of his grandfather, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who treated Booth after the 1865 assassination of President Lincoln at Washington's Ford Theater.

Dr. Mudd was eventually pardoned for setting Booth's broken leg, but his grandson was determined to exonerate him, and he died still trying.

Inspection shows drug maker withheld data

WASHINGTON -- A diet drug maker didn't properly report the death of a Meridia user and certain other risk information to the government, federal inspectors say.

In one case, drug industry attorneys ordered a halt to attempts to check another Meridia patient's autopsy -- while the Food and Drug Administration was told no further information was available, says the FDA inspection report, written in April.

A consumer group used the report Tuesday to ask the government to bring charges against Meridia maker Abbott Laboratories for illegally withholding risk information.

Study says repeat Caesareans safest

CHICAGO -- Another Caesarean section is the safest childbirth method for women who have already had a surgical delivery, although the risks from a vaginal delivery after Caesarean are lower than previously thought, British researchers say.

A study of 313,238 births in Scotland found that for women with previous Caesareans, the delivery-related death rate for subsequent babies was about 11 times higher in vaginal births than in planned repeat Caesareans.

Still, the overall infant death rate for vaginal-after-Caesarean births was about equal to the death rate in first-time vaginal births -- about 1.2 per 1,000 babies, the study found. That compared with 0.1 per 1,000 for repeat Caesareans.

Researchers say this study should reassure women "that the absolute risk to the baby from vaginal birth after Caesarean is very low."

Government seeks $2.2 million fine

WASHINGTON -- The government wants to fine AT&T Wireless Services Inc. $2.2 million for allegedly failing to include technology on new cell phones that allows emergency services to pinpoint the location of a distressed caller.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 4-0 to propose the fine, which was announced Monday.

AT&T Wireless spokesman Mark Siegel said the company "strongly disagrees with the commission's conclusion" and will fight the fine. The company has 30 days to give the FCC a response argument.

The FCC's Enhanced 911 initiative continues to roll out, to be completed over the next several years.

The system requires carriers to insure emergency personnel can determine the site -- to within 300 yards -- of 911 calls from cell phones, using either global positioning or networking.

Suicide prevention reviewed after death

LANHAM, Md. -- A psychiatric institution that specializes in treating Roman Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse is tightening suicide prevention methods after a priest hanged himself there last week.

The suicide of the Rev. Alfred Bietighofer, who was found Thursday in his dormitory room at St. Luke Institute, was the first at the suburban Washington center in its 25-year history.

St. Luke is one of a handful of centers in North America that specialize in treating clergy for sexual disorders and other psychiatric conditions. Officials at the centers say recent public attention on sexual abuse among the clergy has put more pressure on patients already suffering from great shame and often depression.

-- From wire reports

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