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3 To Know: Life expectancy falls, pink iguanas found

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Death Certificate

1. Life expectancy continues to fall, erasing health gains of the last quarter century

Average American life expectancy fell from 77 to 76.4 years last year, bringing U.S. figures back to where they were in 1996, according to federal data released last week.

That means all the medical advances over the past quarter century have been erased, said Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University, who was not involved in the new study.

For American men, life expectancy fell by more than eight months, and for women the loss was about seven months, the study found. Life expectancy, which is actually a measure of death rates, dropped in every age category over age 1.

Though the rate of decline in life expectancy wasn't as dramatic as in 2020, Woolf said, the fall-off in 2021 was actually worse because it came on top of that year's 17% decline.

The latest decline came as other wealthy countries saw a rebound after the first year of the pandemic, Woolf said. He blames a variety of factors, including low COVID-19 vaccination rates and the general poor health of Americans.

Causes of death remained largely the same between 2020 and 2021, led by heart disease, cancer and COVID-19, all three of which occurred more often last year.

Eight of the top 10 causes of death saw statistically significant increases in 2021 over 2020, including unintentional injury and stroke. Only Alzheimer's disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases declined among the leading causes of death.

Death rates from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, which are often alcohol-related, also rose during the pandemic, the data showed. Woolf said people might have turned to alcohol to reduce economic, social and other stresses of the previous two years.

Drug overdoses increased during the pandemic, but Woolf doesn't like the common term "deaths of despair" because many people start taking addictive painkillers on a doctor's orders after a surgery. Karen Weintraub/USA Today

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2. Second lawsuit filed against slain Naples physician's estate accused of sexual assault

A slain Naples physician accused of sexually assaulting at least 14 victims at his Naples clinic faces a second lawsuit after the first victim to report him to authorities filed a complaint against his estate.

Eric Salata, 54, had been arrested Nov. 21 and accused of sexually assaulting at least two women during medical procedures at his Pura Vida Medical Spa on Fifth Avenue South.

Collier Circuit Judge Michael Provost had set a $100,000 bond and records indicate he paid cash and was released from the Collier County Jail.

He was found dead a week later at his Naples home. The medical examiner ruled he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The lawsuit, filed by Naples-based Colina Law on Dec. 5 in Collier circuit court on behalf of the victim, claims vicarious liability; negligent retention of Salata by Pura Vida Medical Spa; negligent supervision of Salata; and negligence by Pura Vida Medical Spa in failing to provide a safe environment stemming from the alleged Oct. 22 sexual assault.

Salata administered laughing gas and an alcoholic beverage to the victim, the lawsuit says.

She's represented by Mary Colina-Fowler and seeks a jury trial, according to the nine-page suit.

It's the second lawsuit filed against Salata's estate. Both seek more than $100,000 in damages.

According to the first lawsuit, filed Dec. 2 by Adam Horowitz, of Fort Lauderdale-based Horowitz Law, the plaintiff had been a patient receiving cosmetic medical treatments at Pura Vida for several years and was treated by Salata and Jill Salata, registered nurse, multiple times.

It states that the spa did not have reasonable policies and procedures in place to protect its female patients from sexual misconduct by its medical doctor. Tomas Rodriguez/Staff

3. Researchers discover first-ever endangered pink iguana hatchlings, why their numbers are dwindling

After over 10 months of searching, researchers at Galápagos National Park have found juvenile pink iguanas, part of an endangered species.

Previously, only adult or subadult pink iguanas were found in the area.

An adult pink iguana at Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island.

That changed recently when wildlife experts from the Galápagos National Park Directorate and Galápagos Conservancy documented the first-ever hatchlings and juvenile iguanas at Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island.

Bárbara Arizaga, a spokesperson for the Galápagos Conservancy, said the first pink iguana hatchlings were found in February 2022. Around 10 hatchling iguanas have been found since February and they were only a few weeks old.

The find was part of the Iniciativa Galápagos program, a series of expeditions to learn more about the species.

Hidden trail cameras also captured the iguanas' nesting activity and allowed the team to pinpoint threats to the species - feral cats. Saleen Martin/USA Today

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