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ARTHUR CAPLAN, renowned expert on biotechnology and bioethics, will discuss "Can Americans Ever Manage Dying: From Karen Ann Quinlan to Terri Schiavo," 6 to 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Wyndham Harbour Island Hotel, 725 S Harbour Island Blvd., in Tampa. The event is free and sponsored by the University of South Florida Health Sciences Center and Tampa General Hospital. Caplan is a frequent commentator on NPR, CNN and MSNBC and is the author and editor of 24 books, including The Human Cloning Debate and Moral Matters: Ethical Issues in Medicine and the Life Sciences. For information, call (813) 974-4296.

MINI-MED SCHOOL returns for its ninth year beginning Jan. 31 with a presentation on the future of medicine and health care. Mini-Med School features experts from the University of South Florida's Health Sciences Center and College of Medicine _ the people who teach future doctors _ who share their knowledge with the public. Sessions are 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Ferguson Hall in Tampa. This year's topics include emerging infectious diseases, stem cells for brain and heart repair, back pain, migraines and how to avoid falling victim to medical errors. The series is free. For information or to register, call (813) 974-3300 or go to

THE HOMELESS POPULATION is changing, report experts studying the homeless in St. Louis. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine have been researching the the topic for more than 20 years. They found that only a fraction of 1 percent of the homeless were on the streets because they were discharged from mental hospitals, a cause commonly blamed for homelessness. The homeless often did have mental health issues: The most common psychiatric problem was not schizophrenia, but substance abuse and depression. In the 1980s, cocaine use was almost nonexistent. Today, crack cocaine has become the drug of choice, said principal investigator Dr. Carol S. North, a professor of psychiatry at the university.

HIGH-PROTEIN DIETS may be a favored way to shed pounds, but people with diabetes or other conditions that put them at risk for kidney disease need to discuss their protein intake with their physician, reports Eating Well in its "Nutrition Watch" column. A high-protein diet can put a strain on kidney function as the organs work harder to eliminate large amounts of urea produced when the digestive system breaks down protein into amino acids. Urea, a waste product, is dumped into the blood stream. A simple blood test can measure kidney function. The good news? High protein consumption means it takes longer after eating to become hungry, and some studies say it may help, not hinder, calcium retention.

_ Staff writer SUSAN ASCHOFF and Times wires