Sunday, July 22, 2001

Kentucky Digest


Prognosis unclear for artificial heart

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — For three weeks, a mechanical heart has performed up to expectations inside the first human recipient, his surgeons said.

        The long-term prognosis is less clear for the AbioCor artificial heart — whether the metal-and-plastic pump will ever become a common option for people with failing hearts, doctors said.

        “It's like asking Neil Armstrong: "Are you guys going to Mars next?'” said Dr. Robert Dowling, who implanted the AbioCor in a seriously ill man in a seven-hour surgery July 2 at Jewish Hospital. “Well, I don't know about that. We're going to go to the moon a couple times first.”

        The first round of implants is restricted to only the sickest patients with little hope for survival and no other treatment choices.

        Dr. Dowling agrees that medical ethics require such limitations for the experimental implants. Still, Dr. Dowling is hopeful that the artificial heart might someday become an option in treating chronic heart disease.

        “It's our final goal to have a device that you can pull off the shelf that's a reasonable alternative to transplant, or an option for people who can't have a transplant,” Dr. Dowling said.
       

Woman allowed to see sealed files

               FRANKFORT — Three Kentucky newspapers are demanding that records connected to the investigation of a former legislative official be made public after a woman was allowed to view the sealed files.

        Franklin Circuit Judge William L. Graham said on Friday that an anonymous woman he called “Jane Doe” had seen the records of a sex-and-gambling investigation of Kent Downey.

        The woman will be allowed to request that passages involving her be deleted before they are made public, Judge Graham said.

        The judge has been asked by attorneys for the Frankfort State-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal to make the files public immediately.

        Judge Graham's unusual ruling to allow “Jane Doe,” who had not been a party to the proceedings previously, to review the files came after the woman approached him on her own, the judge said during the Friday hearing.

        Attorneys for the three newspapers objected that they had not been given a chance to argue whether “Jane Doe” had a right to read the files.

        Attorney General Ben Chandler's public corruption unit developed 500 pages of witness interviews and several volumes of documented material during its investigation of Mr. Downey.

        News of that investigation became public in October 1996 and led to several inquiries.
       

County won't face inmate-death lawsuit

               LOUISVILLE — A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed claims against Jefferson County in a lawsuit over an inmate who died in a struggle with a corrections officer.

        But the five officers involved, as well as two commanding officers, still face claims of excessive force and wrongful death, among others.

        Judge John G. Heyburn II dismissed the claims in a ruling last week against Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong, who was Jefferson County judge-executive at the time of Adrian Reynolds' death, and other top county officials.

        Attorneys representing Mr. Reynolds' estate had argued that county officials failed to imple ment adequate procedures for handling inmates and failed to provide adequate training regarding the use of force.

        Mr. Reynolds died of a head injury early on Jan. 7, 1998, after struggling with corrections officers outside his jail cell in the basement of the Hall of Justice.

        One of the corrections officers, Timothy Barnes, is charged with Mr. Reynolds' murder. He went on trial last fall, but that trial, held in Lexington, ended in a hung jury. He is scheduled to be retried Jan. 28.
       

Radical group claims power-plant vandalism

               LA GRANGE, Ky. — A radical environmentalist group has claimed responsibility for vandalizing 15 vehicles at the site of a natural-gas power plant being built in Oldham County.

        The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is an anonymous group that destroys property to prevent harm to the environment. The group has claimed responsibility for numerous fires and other vandalism from Oregon to New York since 1996, including the arson of a Colorado ski resort that caused $12 million in damage.

        The plant project has run into fierce opposition from area residents, who fear it will ruin their air quality. The plant is being built by Dynegy Inc., which is based in Houston.

        The group claimed in an anonymous statement sent to media outlets that it slashed tires, spray-painted messages and broke windows on construction vehicles early Saturday.

        Oldham County police spokesman John Meadors would not confirm the claims, but did say an investigation into an incident at the plant site was under way.

        He said no arrests have been made.
       

Hearing to decide if inmate can be retried

               EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A judge has ordered a hearing to determine if a former death-row inmate is competent to stand trial a second time on murder charges.

        The Indiana Supreme Court in January overturned Vincent J. Prowell's conviction in the 1993 killings of Christopher Fillbright and Denise Powers, who were both 22. Mr. Prowell had pleaded guilty to murdering the two outside an Evansville apartment complex.

        The Supreme Court sent the case back to trial in Vanderburgh County, ruling his trial attorneys failed to introduce enough evidence about his documented mental illness.

        Vanderburgh Circuit Court Judge Carl Heldt has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 19 to determine if Mr. Prowell is competent to stand trial.
       

Red Cross drive irks blood bank

               HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — An American Red Cross blood drive scheduled for Saturday has sparked a territorial dispute with a local blood bank.

        The Western Kentucky Regional Blood Center supplies blood to the Jennie Stuart Medical Center.

        Officials at the blood bank say the Red Cross drive will pull donors away from their center and ultimately cost the hospital that supply.

        “We are concerned it will create a local shortage just to help with a national shortage,” said Janet Howard, administrator of the Owensboro-based blood bank, which has a local office in Hopkinsville.

        A Red Cross spokeswoman said the blood it draws from an 84-county area around Nashville, Tenn., is available to any hospital, including Jennie Stuart.

       



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