The morning again begins slowly. But among others:

* MONITORING DOCTORS’ PRESCRIPTION PRACTICES: Pro Publica has published with the Washington Post a deep look at doctors’ prescription practices under Medicare.

But an investigation by ProPublica has found the program, in its drive to get drugs into patients’ hands, has failed to properly monitor safety. An analysis of four years of Medicare prescription records shows that some doctors and other health professionals across the country prescribe large quantities of drugs that are potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive. Federal officials have done little to detect or deter these hazardous prescribing patterns.

But here’s the locally interesting thing. You can plug in the name of an Arkansas doctor and review their prescription record for 2010. It shows prescription claims filed and the percentage filled for narcotics and antipsychotic drugs, two areas of particular interest in the article.

* WHEN RELIGION AND HEALTH CARE MIX: The New York Times focuses on the state of Washington where hospital takeovers by Catholic health care organizations are raising concern not only about access to abortion and other reproductive health services in a state that is legally pro-choice, but about end-of-life care as well. It is another issue not yet fully explored in the discussion of a UAMS-St. Vincent merger of clinical services.


“It’s a collision course,” said Suzanne Holland, a science and values professor in the department of religion at the University of Puget Sound, referring to the potential of constriction in health care options from economic change, and at the same time restricted choice on moral grounds at hospitals operated through a lens of religious doctrine.

Professor Holland, a Catholic and a lesbian, said she already tried to avoid going to a Catholic hospital near her because she was concerned that administrators there would not recognize the rights of her civil union partner.

…Washington’s assisted suicide law, passed by the voters in 2008, gives all hospitals and individual caregivers the option to participate. And that creates a very mixed, complicated picture on the merger front, with physicians and pharmacists, even in secular hospitals that back the program, able to decide for themselves whether to be involved.

The question at formerly secular hospitals under new Catholic control is therefore not whether helping terminal patients die would be allowed on the premises — clearly not, church authorities said — but what kind of private, confidential advice a physician would have the authority to give about end-of-life options under the state law, including where legal services to ease death might be obtained.

* ROAD RAGE: Fox 16 has more reporting on that road rage shooting, including interviews with family of victim and shooter. Never know when you might need to carry a gun on a journey to shoot somebody who cut you off in traffic, right NRA?

* SCREENING OF FILM ON LGBT POLITICIANS: Former state Rep. Kathy Webb sends notice of local screenings of “Breaking Through,” a movie about LGBT elected officials that features Webb among others. It will screen at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Argenta Community Theater as part of the Little Rock Film Festival and Webb and filmmaker Cindy Abel will talk after the movie. It is also to be shown at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Vince Insalaco’s home as part of a fund-raising event for the movie. A brief clip follows.