Was it an "absolutely staggering" breach of medical ethics or "a gross aberration," as doctors suggested to WebMD? Or is Nadya Suleman right that it was "absolutely appropriate" for her fertility doctor to enable the unmarried, unemployed 33-year-old mother of six to give birth to octuplets?
Nadya Suleman shows the hospital ID bracelets for her eight newborn babies.
No. 9: AIDS Vaccine's ‘Modest’ Success
In a trial of 16,000 Thai men and women, an HIV vaccine showed only very slight signs of success in protecting against infection with the AIDS virus. Researchers hope to build on that success -- with other vaccines.
Technician examines blood samples at lab in Bangkok, Thailand.
No. 8: Brown Fat for Easy Weight Loss?
You could lose 9 pounds of fat every year -- without having to diet or exercise -- if the tiny amount of brown fat in your body were activated. Once thought to be nature's way of keeping babies warm, adults weren't believed to have brown fat. Now the race is on to find a way to make brown fat more active.
Scanning electron micrograph of a brown fat cell surrounded by capillaries.
No. 7: Acetaminophen Trouble
2009 brought troubling news about acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Citing 56,000 emergency room visits each year for overdoses, an FDA panel recommended lowering the approved dose for adults. It's easy to take too much by mixing medicines. Dozens of over-the-counter and prescription cold, flu, allergy, headache, and arthritis remedies contain acetaminophen.
No. 6: Mammogram Guidelines Controversy
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that routine screening mammograms start at age 50 for women at average risk. It reversed a previous recommendation to start at age 40, explaining that harms such as radiation exposure, false positives, overtreatment, and psychological harm outweigh the benefit. Backlash was quick and sharp from other medical groups.
No. 5: Celebrity Cancer Deaths
Actor Farrah Fawcett, died at age 62 of anal cancer. She gained fame in TV's Charlie's Angels and shared her long cancer fight with the public. Pancreatic cancer took Patrick Swayze in 2009 at age 57; after being diagnosed in 2008 he was able to shoot 13 new episodes of his TV series. Senator Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer at age 77. He represented Massachusetts for 46 years and appeared for a key vote just a few weeks after surgery.
Farrah Fawcett, June 15, 1976.
No. 4: Michael Jackson Propofol Death
"Acute propofol intoxication" killed Michael Jackson, age 50. The anesthetic, along with sedatives, allegedly was administered by Jackson's doctor to help him sleep. The death was ruled a homicide; criminal charges have not yet been filed.
Michael Jackson at a news conference on March 5, 2009 in London.
No. 3: Salmonella Peanut Recall
In early 2009, Minnesota health investigators linked mysterious salmonella infections to peanut products. Soon it became clear that all kinds of products, from ice cream to dog food, might carry salmonella-contaminated peanuts. The final count: 3,919 recalled products, 714 illnesses in 46 states, and at least nine deaths.
No. 2: Health Reform
Health care reform is the most important yet least understood domestic issue in the U.S. One reason: It's complicated. Another reason: misinformation abounds. Keeping up with the real issues in health care reform remains a daunting task for most citizens.
No. 1: Swine Flu Sweeps World
This year’s top health news story started on April 21, when WebMD learned that the CDC was investigating two human cases of a new strain of flu. Soon the 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus circled the globe, striking the U.S. hard in late summer and early fall. Will there be another pandemic wave? Stay tuned at WebMD's H1N1 swine flu center.
Seven-month-old Alexa Zuniga at the airport in Tijuana, Mexico, April 28, 2009.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.