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Health Highlights: May 5, 2010

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

D.C. Council Approves Medical Marijuana Use

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the 13-member District of Columbia Council voted to allow people with cancer, glaucoma or a "chronic and long-lasting disease" to obtain medical marijuana from up to eight dispensaries regulated by the city.

The legislation would allow patients to receive two ounces of marijuana a month and gives the mayor the power to raise that amount to four ounces without further council action, The New York Times reported.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is expected to sign the measure into law. Congress and the White House would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the city to proceed with the medical marijuana plan.

In order to block the law, the House and Senate must pass a joint resolution that would then need the approval of President Barack Obama, The Times reported.

Currently, 14 states allow residents to use marijuana for medical purposes.


Bret Michaels Released From Hospital

Reality TV and rock star Bret Michaels was released from the hospital Tuesday, less than three weeks after he suffered a potentially deadly bleed at the base of his brain stem.

At a press conference, doctors said Michaels can walk and talk but is not yet fully recovered and will continue to receive care outside the hospital, ABC News reported.

He was treated at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

"It was a combination of Bret's fight to stay conscious during the hemorrhage and get to the emergency room and the immediate medical attention provided by our staff at Barrow that enabled us to stabilize his condition," Dr. Joseph Zabramski, who led the treatment team, said at the press conference.

He added that Michaels should wait at least four to six weeks before resuming normal activity, ABC News reported.


Face Transplant Patient Makes Public Appearance

A Spanish man who received a partial face transplant in January made his first public appearance at a news conference Tuesday and thanked his surgeons and the donor's family.

The man, identified only as Rafael, underwent the 30-hour surgery at Seville's Virgen del Rocio Hospital to replace the bottom two-thirds of his face, which was deformed with benign tumors from a congenital disease, the Associated Press reported.

He has to undergo months of rehabilitation, but Rafael said he can now feel pain in his lips and distinguish between hot and cold.

One reason Rafael decided to appear at a news conference was because he believed it may encourage donations that would help others who need these types of transplants, the AP reported.


Insurance Pool Program Refused by 18 States

As of Monday, 18 states said they won't administer an insurance pool for people who can't get health insurance because they have preexisting conditions. The federal government will have to run the program in those states.

The new U.S. health care law includes a $5 billion provision to extend temporary help to people with preexisting medical conditions beginning this year, rather than making them wait until 2014. That's when insurers will be forbidden to refuse people or charge higher premiums based on a person's health status, the Washington Post reported.

The federal government wants to use state programs to run the insurance pool and gave governors until April 30 to say whether they would participate. So far, 29 states and the District of Columbia have agreed.

Among those who have refused, some said they didn't want to take on the task because they believe Congress has allocated too little money for it, the Post reported.


World's Oldest Person Dies

The world's oldest person died Sunday, a week before her 115th birthday.

Kama Chinen, who was born May 10, 1895, died at her care facility on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the Associated Press reported.

She became the world's oldest person last September after the death of 115-year-old Gertrude Baines of California.

A French woman, 114-year-old Eugenie Blanchard, is now the oldest living person, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She was born on Feb. 16, 1896, the AP reported.

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Posted: May 2010