In Brief

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 21 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2596

Avalanche survival more likely in Switzerland than Canada: People buried in avalanches in Canada have a lower chance of surviving than those in Switzerland, researchers have found after examining data for 301 victims in Canada and 946 in Switzerland (CMAJ; doi:10.1503/cmaj.101435). Trauma and characteristics of the snow contributed to the survival differences. Rescue times, however, were significantly quicker in Canada than in Switzerland (18 minutes versus 35 minutes).

Obama cracks down on abuse of prescription drugs: The Obama administration has announced plans to reduce the non-medical use of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs by 15% over five years. The US Food and Drug Administration has already ordered opioid manufacturers to produce educational materials to help train doctors and counsel patients about the correct use of opioids. Prescription drug monitoring programmes and efforts to tackle doctor shopping and pill mills will also be beefed up.

Three parent babies one step closer: A review by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority ( has found no evidence that mitochondrial transfer is unsafe. The technique would enable women carriers of mitochondrial disease to have healthy children by transferring the nucleus of an egg into a donor egg where the nucleus has been removed, which would then be fertilised by her partner’s sperm. The secretary of state for health will now consider holding a public consultation on changing the regulations.

More Britons travelling to Dignitas clinic: Figures from Dignitas show that since the first Briton travelled to the Zurich clinic to commit suicide in 2002, the number of British suicides there has increased from around 13 a year between 2003 and 2005 to about 25 a year between 2008 and 2010. No individual has yet been prosecuted over any of the Britons who have died at Dignitas.

Measles outbreak hits Europe: Thirty countries in the World Health Organization’s European Region have reported a marked increase in measles cases. In Belgium there have been 100 cases of measles so far in 2011 compared with only 40 in 2010. France faces the largest outbreak with 4937 measles cases officially reported from January to March 2011, a figure almost equal to the 5090 cases reported for the whole of 2010.

Shared decision making insights go online: Health Talk Online (, a website featuring patients’ experiences, has launched a new section on the role of shared decision making between doctors and patients. On the basis of extensive analysis of patient interviews across a spectrum of illnesses the module showed wide variations in the degree to which patients want to be involved in decisions about their treatment—from wanting fairly directive approaches from their doctors through shared decisions to a more consumerist model.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2596

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