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William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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In California, nursing home stakeholders are wrestling over what kind of guidelines to put in place for the prescription of antipsychotic drugs. A key question: What level of consent is appropriate and who should give it?

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Industry groups have argued for a drug form that does not require a patient or family member signature. That possibility has raised deep concerns among some patient advocates, who point out the drugs' potential dangers.

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ER visits are growing and the number of emergency departments is shrinking. Does that mean more people will be denied urgent care and suffer or die as a result? The effects might be smaller than you think, and a good reminder to question our assumptions as reporters.

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Jenna Russell's recent three-part series for The Boston Globe presents a remarkably intimate, revealing portrait of a man and his family as they struggle to cope with his mental illness. Her reporting holds a number of lessons for journalists taking on projects that deal with mental health.

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As The Boston Globe readied a new three-part series for publication, a regional hospital chain tried suing a newspaper and a patient after it was prevented from disclosing a mentally ill patient's records. The suit was part of a series of serious miscalculations on the hospital's part.

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When a hospital closes in a low-income area, reporters often assume that the care was essential for the poor communities it was serving. But there are several problems with that assumption, including the equation that health equals health care.

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A private company bought the local hospital from a community group in Belhaven, North Carolina, and then announced it was closing the facility. Many in the community were outraged. But what obligations do private companies have to the community in such cases?

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Are reporters placing too much emphasis on hospitals and not enough emphasis on the overall health of the community and the factors that influence it? The forces ultimately shaping our health aren't always the obvious ones.

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Is a bit overweight actually the healthiest weight of all? A recent JAMA study suggested as much. But a new analysis of the data reveals a deep flaw in the original study, and provides a lesson in the value of questioning how data are collected and used in any given study.

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Ireland is on the verge of allowing death certificates to omit the cause of death, largely to spare family members of suicide victims from seeing the word "suicide" on the form. But is that reason enough to conceal the facts on such a critical document?

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