The top 10 medical news stories of 2022

By Joe Hannan | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published December 14, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • From a medical news standpoint, 2022 was anything but boring; many stories that emerged could have long-lasting implications.

  • From the overturning of Roe v Wade to an RN’s high-profile criminal case, the courts played a central role in some of these dramas.

  • Nearly 3 years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, several medical stories of note stem from the fallout of COVID-19.

From sweeping legislative changes to emergent disease to economic strife, 2022 will likely be remembered as a challenging year in the history of modern medicine. Clinicians have had to contend with changes in the American social fabric along with radical shifts in their work and workforce.

The year may be winding down, but the long-term implications of these medical news stories may endure for a while. Here are the top 10 medical news stories of 2022.

Roe v Wade overturned

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, a decision that had stood since 1973. At the time, a plaintiff using the pseudonym Jane Roe had challenged the legality of a Texas law that banned abortion except under lifesaving circumstances.

Roe contested that the law violated her 1st, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 14th Amendment rights, and the court, in a 7–2 majority, agreed, saying that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment protects a woman’s right to privacy, which applies to the decision to have an abortion. The decision left the door open to state legislation for abortion in the second and third trimesters.

All of that changed nearly 50 years later. As of this writing, 13 states have outlawed abortion and Georgia has barred abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy, according to the New York Times.[] The Supreme Court decision has left doctors “confused and fearful” about practicing in these states, according to an August 2022 BMJ news analysis.[]

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the AMA, the American College of Physicians, and dozens of other healthcare groups have voiced support for abortion and opposition to state legislation banning it.

Supply chain woes

Supply shortages have been an ongoing medical story since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May of 2022, MDLinx broke national news about a shortage of IV contrast that hit the US healthcare system after a GE facility in Shanghai was shuttered following a COVID-19 lockdown.

Since then, supplies of amoxicillin, albuterol, and oseltamivir have been running low amid rising numbers of influenza and RSV cases. As of this writing, the FDA’s list of current and resolved drug shortages includes 185 entries.

According to a CNN report, generic-drug buyers place their fall and winter orders early in the year.[] Orders for 2022 did not account for such robust fall and winter viral activity. Manufacturers have since been playing catch-up.

The amoxicillin shortage also raised questions about why an antibiotic is in short supply amid an uptick in viral illness. However, it is possible that the prescriptions are for more opportunistic infections that occur following or concurrently with a viral illness.

Related: Expert opinion: Will the revised CDC pain guidelines help your patients?

Opioid adjustments

After 6 years, the CDC issued new clinical practice guidelines for prescribing opioids for pain. The new guidelines are intended to correct some problems that arose from the last update in 2016, which included rapid tapering or discontinuation for some patients.

The CDC’s 2022 guidance, which the organization says is “voluntary,” covers 12 recommendations clustered into four major categories:

  • Determining whether to use opioids for pain management

  • Choosing opioids and setting dosages

  • Setting the duration of initial opioid use and scheduling a follow-up

  • Assessing the risks and harms of opioid use

At the heart of the changes are enhancing patient-clinician communication, exploring multimodal and multidisciplinary analgesia, and patient safety, one expert told MDLinx.

Related: Bold advances in pain management include drug-free solutions

Lethal medical errors

Accidents will happen. But in medicine, mistakes can prove to be fatal. And in the case of RaDonda Vaught, a former Tennessee RN, one mistake proved to be criminal, as reported by Kaiser Health News.[]

Vaught was sentenced in May 2022 to 3 years of probation following her conviction on two felonies stemming from a fatal drug error. While she avoided prison time, her case became a focal point for nurses and other clinicians concerned about its implications. What would happen if it set a legal precedent, making medical errors a criminal matter?

Hundreds of protestors gathered for Vaught’s sentencing, and they celebrated when the former RN avoided jail time. She also received a judicial diversion, which will lead to the expungement of her conviction if she completes her probation.

Related: These climate change effects could cause illness in patients. Here’s how

Physician burnout

Mental well-being for American physicians was low in 2022, according to survey results published by The Physicians Foundation.[] The survey contained data from 1,509 physician responses. Among the findings:

  • Six out of 10 doctors said they experienced inappropriate levels of anxiety, anger, or tearfulness.

  • A third said they felt purposelessness or hopelessness.

  • Half said they had withdrawn from coworkers, friends, and loved ones.

  • Six out of 10 said they were feeling burned out (up from four out of 10 in 2018).

Moreover, many of these doctors said help isn’t as readily available as it could be. One problem is the stigma concerning mental health issues among physicians, which eight out of 10 doctors said persists. And only a third of doctors said their employer makes physician well-being a priority.

Related: Why the travel nurse shortage continues as wages decrease

Lightning round

Here are five other high-impact medical news stories from 2022 that made (and likely will continue to make) headlines:

  • Inflation: Rising inflation (and interest rates) left no industry unscathed. As a Harvard Business Review article explained, consumers tend to spend less on their health when everything else gets more expensive.

  • 988 crisis line: The new crisis hotline may prove to be a lifesaver in a nation that’s struggling with mental health. Time will reveal the hotline’s efficacy and areas for improvement.

  • Trans youth legislation: An NPR analysis found that 306 bills have been drafted by state lawmakers that would affect the care that trans people can receive. Eighty-six percent of these bills target trans youth.

  • Physician shortage: It’s here, and it isn’t going anywhere. The Association of American Medical Colleges expects a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 doctors to occur over the next 12 years.

  • Another outbreak: Did anyone anticipate a pox virus outbreak in 2022? The WHO has since renamed the virus “mpox,” saying that the outbreak prompted “racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities.” The WHO is encouraging “others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name.”

What this means for you

The central issues at the heart of each of these high-profile news stories are unresolved. It’s plausible, if not probable, that they will continue to evolve. While their ultimate resolutions are uncertain, MDLinx will certainly continue to provide updates.

Read Next: Opioid crisis update: What's changed and where are we?

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