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Health Highlights: July 31, 2017

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

Back-Seat Car Alarms Would Save Children's Lives: Advocates

The recent deaths of two Arizona children in hot cars show the need for a proposed federal law that would require carmakers to install alarms for back seats, child advocates say.

A 7-month-old boy died Friday after being left in the car in the driveway at home, and a 1-year-old boy died Saturday after being left in a car for hours, the Associated Press reported.

A U.S. Senate bill introduced last week is supported by more than two dozen child and road safety groups. It would require cars to have technology that can alert the driver if a child is left in the back seat after the car's engine is turned off.

"A simple sensor could save the lives of dozens of children killed tragically in overheated cars each year, and our bill would ensure such technology is available in every car sold in the United States," bill sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement, the AP reported. "It can take mere minutes on a hot day for a car to turn into a deathtrap for a small child."

The bill would also improve the criminal process against caregivers involved in the deaths of children left in cars.

"The technology would help because if you're in a vehicle, your child is in the back seat, and you ignore that alarm: Go jail. Do not pass go. You had a chance," Janette Fennell of the advocacy group Kids and Cars, told the AP. "You talk to any of the judges, they'll tell you, they're beyond the hardest things they have to deal with."

The group has examined more than 800 children who have died after being left in cars since 1990 and found that criminal cases vary greatly, even when the circumstances are identical. Ninety percent of cases are accidents, most likely a child forgotten by an adult, according to Fennell.


British Baby With Genetic Disease Dies After Long Legal Battle Over His Care

Charlie Gard, a British baby who suffered from a rare genetic disease that damaged his brain and left him unable to breathe without a ventilator, died Friday.

He would have turned 1 next week, the Associated Press reported.

The infant had been at the center of a months-long legal battle between his parents and the hospital that was caring for him.

His parents had raised close to $2 million to take him to the United States for an experimental treatment, but his doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital objected.The hospital's reasoning was that the treatment wouldn't help him and it could have caused him suffering.

The case made it all the way to Britain's Supreme Court, as Charlie's parents refused to accept a series of rulings that backed the hospital's position. But the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts, saying it was in Charlie's best interests that he be allowed to die, the AP reported.

After both parties could not agree on an end-of-life plan for the baby, a judge ruled Thursday that Charlie could be moved to a hospice and taken off life support so he could die peacefully.


Controversial Inmate Birth Control Program Halted

A controversial inmate birth control program in Tennessee meant to reduce drug addiction in newborns has been halted by the judge who initiated it.

The voluntary program offered inmates 30 days off their sentences if they underwent birth control procedures (vasectomies for men and a contraceptive implant for women) and two days off their sentences if they completed an educational course about addiction in newborns, CBS News reported.

Judge Sam Benningfield in White County, Tennessee said he issued the standing order in May to combat rising numbers of infants born addicted to opioids. As of last week, 38 men and 24 women had taken part in the program.

However, critics said the order amounted to coercive sterilization of inmates and was unconstitutional, CBS News reported.

On Thursday, Benningfield rescinded the original order. However, he said he stood by the program but had to cancel it after the Tennessee Department of Health pulled its services.

"I did not change my mind," he said in a text message to CBS News. "The health department succumbed to the pressure and withdrew their offer of services. I had nothing to offer so rescinded the order. I bet they didn't tell [you] that part."

The health department informed Bennigfield "we would not be able to provide services consistent with his previous order," according to Shelley Walker, the deputy director of the department's office of communication and media relations.

She said "doing so would raise concerns about influences on personal choice and patients' ability to provide informed consent," CBS News reported.

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Posted: July 2017