Review Category : Health

Legal Battle Rages Over Whether to Force 17-Year-Old Cancer Patient to Have Chemo

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A court will determine whether a 17-year-old girl, under something called the “mature minor doctrine,” can be forced to undergo chemotherapy after refusing treatment for her cancer.

The case will go to the Connecticut Supreme Court this week to determine whether the teen, identified in court papers as Cassandra, has “the fundamental right to have a say about what goes on with your [her] body,” attorney Michael Taylor, who represents the teen’s mother, told ABC News. Taylor was appointed by the public defender’s office, and Cassandra has her own court-appointed lawyer, but they’ve filed joint appeals.

Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in September, but decided she didn’t want to complete the prescribed treatment, according to a court summary. Her mother supported this decision, but the Department of Children and Families stepped in and ordered her mother to comply with the doctor’s treatment recommendation.

“It’s really for all the reasons you might imagine,” said Taylor, adding that he couldn’t go into more detail.

Although chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells, its side effects include hair loss, nausea, pain and fertility changes, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Cassandra underwent two chemotherapy treatments in November and then ran away from home and refused to continue treatments, according to the court summary.

A court hearing ensued in which Cassandra’s doctors testified, and she was removed from her mother’s home and placed in state custody so that the state could make medical decisions for her.

She has been has been living at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and forced to undergo chemotherapy for about three weeks.

The Hartford Courant reported that Cassandra has an 80- to 85-percent chance of surviving her cancer if she continues with her chemotherapy.

The state Department of Children and Families issued the following statement:

“When experts — such as the several physicians involved in this case — tell us with certainty that a child will die as a result of leaving a decision up to a parent, then the Department has a responsibility to take action. Even if the decision might result in criticism, we have an obligation to protect the life of the child when there is consensus among the medical experts that action is required. Much of the improvements in Connecticut’s child welfare system have come from working with families voluntarily to realize solutions to family challenges. Unfortunately that can’t happen in every situation, especially when the life of a child is at stake.”

“No one is disputing that it’s very serious,” Taylor said. He said there’s “a good chance” Cassandra could survive her cancer with treatment, and “there’s a good chance she could die if she doesn’t. None of us disagree about that.”

Taylor said they’re trying to argue that because Cassandra is competent, she should be allowed to make this decision for herself through something called the “mature minor doctrine,” which has been adopted in Illinois and a few other states but rejected in Texas. The doctrine holds that some children are mature enough to make key life decisions for themselves.

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King Cakes Return with New Old-School Style

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) — Just when you thought it was safe to resolve swearing off sweets, King Cake season has returned to tempt your palate with French pastry and frangipane.

Dating back to the Roman era, and eaten as part of pre-Lenten festivities between Epiphany Day on Jan. 6 and Mardi Gras, King Cakes come in many variations all over the world. But one element of the recipe unifies almost all of them: A porcelain or plastic trinket is hidden inside of the cake, and whoever discovers it is crowned “king for a day.” Hence, the name.

In the U.S., King Cakes are perhaps most recognizable by the style popularized in New Orleans in which a braided, ring-shaped yeast cake, slick with white icing, has been doused in purple, green and yellow crystallized sugar.

Because of FDA health code regulations, many American versions of the cake do not contain the surprise trinket either, as it is considered a choking hazard. Instead, the knickknack is often offered on the side or underneath.

But that may be changing.

A bevy of French bakeries in the U.S. are finding an increased demand for the traditional European version of the King Cake, a golden-brown disc made of buttery puff pastry and almond filling, known as a Galettes des Rois.

Some of these galettes are presented on cake stands with a paper crown on top. Others arrive in a paper bag sleeve for handheld enjoyment. Still others are baked with a single fava on the inside, as a substitute for the small toy.

While these King Cakes all look delicious, children (and adults) may be somewhat less excited to discover a surprise bean in their dessert.

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‘Photo Doggies for Anthony’ Sends Pictures and Well-Wishes to Teen with Cancer

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) — In just a few short days, a Phoenix-area teen named Anthony Lyons has been the recipient of half a million dog photos — and just as many well-wishes — from complete strangers.

The event “Photo Doggies for Anthony” is not an event at all, but rather an invitation to Facebook users to post photos of their pooches and a message for a 16-year-old undergoing chemo treatments at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Anthony is undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Some days, he gets dog visits at the hospital, but some days he doesn’t. So a family friend created the page to “to help make him smile,” according to the Facebook page.

He has been in and out of the hospital, but returned Friday and was expected to be there for a week.
Anthony had been sent half a million photos from all over the world as of Sunday, according to the Facebook page.

“God Bless you and God Bless the world wide web…we are over 1/2 million photos…Anthony is smiling joyfully because of YOU,” Roberta Lucero-Koron, the family friend who started the page, wrote.

Anthony’s mother, Kristen Lyons, wrote, “I am amazed at how quickly this event has blown up and it makes me so happy to know how many people enjoy their pets as much as Anthony and I do. Your pets have brightened our days so much and it just shows you the power of pet therapy and animal healing. This just shows what great people animal lovers are and we are really feeling the love from you and your pets in this difficult time. Thank you all so much from the bottom of our hearts. Love Kris10 [sic] and Anthony.”

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Flu Activity Worsens Nationwide, CDC Reports

CandyBoxImages/iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — The 2014-15 flu season continues to be especially bad in the United States, with 43 states now reporting either high or widespread flu activity, according to the latest flu surveillance report released on Monday.

This year’s predominant flu strain, called H3N2, is partially to blame for the bad flu season, accounting for 95 percent of all cases reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This strain is associated with more severe illness and more deaths.

On top of that, this year’s flu vaccine is considered a “very bad match” for the H3N2 strain, Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, said.

“People say put those together, and it could be a very bad year,” Besser said.

This year’s flu vaccine isn’t as effective as in years past because the virus mutated after the shot was developed and manufactured, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. As a result, it’s only 33 percent effective at preventing the flu.

Still, he said, it’s wise to get the flu vaccine anyway because it offers more protection than not getting the shot at all. Adults older than 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with medical conditions, including asthma and liver disorders, are at the highest risk for developing flu complications and should be sure to get the shot as soon as possible.

Hospitalizations from flu-like symptoms have climbed to 5.9 percent, and 21 children have died from the flu since the flu season began.

The flu season started early this year, Fauci said, and although it usually tapers off a bit around the holidays, when people stay home from the office, that didn’t happen this year.

“The one thing about the flu that you can be sure, it’s really unpredictable,” Fauci said on ABC News’ This Week Sunday. “At the end of the day, it just devolves and it’s difficult to predict.”

As of Dec. 27, this year’s flu levels are “almost even” with peak levels from the last time H3N2 was the dominant strain, in 2012-13, according to Monday’s report.

The Southern states and the Midwest have been hit hardest so far, and the flu is expected to reach higher activity levels in other parts of the country before the flu season ends, the report reads.

“Most of the Northeast and West of the country has yet to experience the full brunt of the flu season,” according to the CDC report.

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Why It May Be Normal to Google Your Ex

hillaryfox/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Do you Google your exes? If you said “yes,” you’re not the only one.

Amy, a 31-year-old who didn’t want ABC News’ Good Morning America to use her last name or show her face, said she’s guilty of doing it.

“It’s very hard to resist looking. If it’s out there, I want to see it,” she said. “I Google pretty much everyone — my exes — and if I know who they’re dating then I Google them too.”

Amy admitted that she looks up her most recent ex about once a week.

“I think it’s probably a little out of control that I Google my exes. I probably should just be satisfied with the actual break-up being the closure, but I think everybody does it,” she said. “I mean it’s there. Everyone looks.”

Facilitated by websites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, cyber-snooping has become quite common. According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 48 percent of social networking site users between the ages of 18 and 29 have used social networking sites to check up on someone they dated in the past.

Relationship expert Stacy Kaiser said it’s normal to search occasionally for information about a former flame.

“It is healthy and normal to be curious about an ex and want to Google them,” said Kaiser, a licensed psychotherapist. “It becomes unhealthy when it’s hurting your current relationship or impacting your daily activities.”

Should people who search for exes online be worried that they’ll be found out?

Not really, said Eric Limer, associate editor of Gizmodo, a technology blog.

“It’s almost impossible to find out if anybody has been searching for you and it’s even more impossible to find out if a specific person has,” he said. “The only way that someone would find out that you’re looking at their Instagram or their Facebook page is if you slip up and accidentally like something.”

As for Amy, she said, “In the end the information is there and I’m going to look at it, and I want to know.”

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Pregnancy Book Informs and Inspires Mothers-to-Be

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For new moms-to-be, the life-changing nine months in anticipation of childbirth can be both magical and overwhelming. And at some point, women all over the world find themselves wondering, “What exactly is going on in there?”

To help demystify everything taking place both inside and outside of an expectant mother’s body, Dentsu Nagoya designed an artful papercraft calendar called Mother Book that provides women with a week-by-week visualization of what is happening.

As the mother turns the page each week, she will watch an embossed paper belly grow and read exciting updates on the baby’s progress, such as when the child first becomes measurable at week six and when it begins to form fingerprints at week 15.

Designers are encouraging women to write their own experiences and feelings on the pages of the calendar to share with their child later, as a memento.

The books have been distributed to mothers-to-be in Japan by Kishokai Medical Corporation, a Japanese medical services firm, since September and have since been awarded various design honors at Cannes and elsewhere.

They are currently unavailable in the U.S.

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Your Top Three Flu Questions Answered

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a brutal flu season underway, Americans are wondering about the best ways to protect themselves from the illness.

Below, your top questions to ABC News about the flu answered by the experts:

Why was the vaccine so ineffective?

This year’s vaccine is only 33 percent effective in preventing the flu because the virus started to “drift” and mutate after the vaccine was already manufactured, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News.

“The one thing about the flu that you can be sure, it’s really unpredictable,” Fauci said.

Though this year’s vaccine is not a strong match for the most prevalent strain of the flu, experts still recommended people get vaccinated because different strains of the virus will come into play as the season progresses. The shot may be a better match for the subtypes that dominate later in the year.

“There may be some level of cross-protection,” Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, said. ” But we won’t know until March or so until we look back.”

.@joegooding Another early flu season. Started in SE => MidWest. High risk: >65yo, <5yo, pregnant, Med probs. If sick + high risk, call doc.

— #Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) January 3, 2015

Can I build immunity to a strain of the flu that’s been around before?

When the H1N1 strain hit in 2009, a lot of people got sick, explained Patsy Stinchfield, the director of infection prevention and control with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

“Since then, everyone got sick or was vaccinated against that particular strain so you hardly see it going around,” she said.

Immunity may not be life-long though, Strinchfield added. And even though having any kind of flu can help mitigate future bouts regardless of the subtype, some protection is not total protection.

.@shannonmholmes While you are right that most people will fight it off, each year thousands die from the flu. I take it very seriously.

— #Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) January 5, 2015


Other than hand washing, what’s the best way to avoid the flu?

According to the CDC, the single best way to prevent the flu is immunization. Frequent and thorough hand washing can also help prevent the spread. You should also steer clear of sick people when you can, and stay home yourself when you don’t feel well. Because the influenza virus is airborne, take care to cover coughs and sneezes.

.@MBEsposito Good hand washing very important. People who are sick should stay home. If norovirus, may need to disinfect bathrooms as well.

— #Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) January 3, 2015

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Find Out How Kirstie Alley Lost 50 Pounds

GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images(NEW YORK) — Kirstie Alley is starting out the new year having already reached her weight-loss goal — and more.

The 63-year-old actress went back on Jenny Craig last April.

“It was so easy for me when I did it before,” Alley told People, referring to the 75 pounds she lost from 2004 to 2007 as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig.

Though she intended to trim 30 pounds this time, she instead dropped a whopping 50 pounds — going from a size 12-14 to a size 6-8.

“There’s this certain place I hit where I felt really energetic and agile. I was like, I want to keep going with this!” the Dancing With the Stars alum said.

She had fun doing it too, with a new set of wheels.

“I got a yellow townie bike and I ride over to friends’ houses,” she told People. “I bribe people. I’ll say, ‘Let’s ride to this restaurant and I’ll pay for dinner.’ And believe me: If I bike four miles to a restaurant, I don’t wreck it with my order!”

Besides managing her portions and exercising, Alley hired a coach to help her stay the course.

“I started looking at myself as an athlete. I was a competitive swimmer for a very long time and I remember that I wouldn’t have won anything or done well in swimming if I didn’t have a coach,” she said.

“I want it to be part of my life this time,” she said of her new, healthier lifestyle. “I’m just trying to make it fun.”

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Some Obese People Avoid Ill-Effects of Overeating

iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) — Have we all been scammed about the dangers of overeating?

Washington University School of Medicine scientists aren’t willing to go that far but an experiment they conducted with 20 obese people is raising some eyebrows.

The study involved the participants consuming an extra 1,000 calories a day for several months, primarily by dining on fast food.

The point of the research was to see if their health would be damaged by adding an extra six percent to their body weight.

What happened was that a quarter of the people who tacked on 15 more pounds to their girth suffered no ill-effects such as insulin resistance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess liver fat.

These results were similar to conclusions of other studies that 25 percent of obese people are not prone to metabolic complications that result in heart problems, stroke and diabetes.

However, the Washington University scientists did note obese participants with metabolic complications who put on extra weight made their existing problems worse.

The simple explanation, according to researchers, is that obese people with abnormal metabolisms do not have the same fat-regulating genes as those with normal metabolisms.

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One Family’s Method to Kick Their Kid’s Soda Habit

iStock/Thinkstock(LIVINGSTON, Mont.) — Jonathan Sarisky proved that all it takes to avoid the lure of cold sugary beverages is the promise of cold hard cash.

The 11-year-old Livingston, Montana, boy made $500 by eschewing soda, juices and energy drinks for a full year and opting instead for only milk and water.

It was his mother Renee Shifley, stepfather Rick Shifley and father Jason Sarisky who made the offer to Jonathan to swear off sugary drink for the entire year.

Actually, Jonathan could have made $100 right away, like his brother Andrew did, and spent 2014 sipping the sweet concoctions that health experts have blamed on childhood obesity crisis and all the health problems associated with it.

But he opted for the bigger cash prize and managed to complete the challenge without cheating.

Jonathan’s mom said that waitresses in restaurants admired his willpower.

As for what happens now, Jonathan said he might indulge in a sugary drink once in a while but swears he won’t overdo it.

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