Posted On: March 30, 2010

New Taxes on Tanning Beds

Included in the healthcare reform bill that President Obama signed into law recently is a new 10% tax on sunbeds that is hoped to deter young people from using the indoor tanning machines, reports USA Today’s Liz Szabo.

Used by about one in three 17-year-old girls in the country, these ultraviolet radiation-emitting beds actually pose grave dangers to human health, resulting in skin and eye cancer. According to Szabo, the tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancer by 75% for users under the age of 30.

In a USA Today article from July 2009, it was reported that “international cancer experts have moved tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, deeming them as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas.”

In addition to the new tax, the FDA is considering putting restrictions such as requiring teens to get parental consent before using the sunbeds. The FDA may eventually ban the use of tanning beds among teenagers.

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Posted On: March 26, 2010

C-Section versus Vaginal Births: What Is the Safest?

The rate of C-section births in the United States has been increasing every year since 1996 for women of all ages and racial and ethnic groups, and now the procedure is the most common operation in the country. In 2007 alone, 1.4 million Caesareans were performed, representing 32 percent of all births. However, although C-sections can be life-saving in some instances, experts are concerned with the ever-increasing number of the procedures, reports Denise Grady of the New York Times.

Joining other critics, Dr. George Macones, spokesman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is worried that the rise in number of C-sections “is not going to be good for anybody.” The procedure, a costly major surgery, poses health risks to the mother as well as the baby:

Risks to the mother increase with each subsequent Caesarean, because the surgery raises the odds that the uterus will rupture in the next pregnancy, an event that can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby. Caesareans also increase the risk of dangerous abnormalities in the placenta during later pregnancies, which can cause hemorrhaging and lead to a hysterectomy. Repeated Caesareans can make it risky or even impossible to have a large family.

The new report notes that Caesareans also pose a risk of surgical complications and are more likely than normal births to cause problems that put the mother back in the hospital and the infant in an intensive-care unit.

According to Grady, the reason for the rising popularity of the procedure is manifold: doctors fearful of malpractice liability should babies be born injured with vaginal delivery; women requesting the procedure even when it’s not medically warranted, not understanding its risks; increased tendency to induce labor for reasons of convenience. Also, many hospitals have banned vaginal births for women who have had Caesareans, adhering to the obstetricians’ college’s guidelines.

In light of the many risks of Caesareans, expecting mothers should educate themselves about their delivery options and consult their doctors to decide whether the procedure is medically necessary.

The bottom line is to find the best way to ensure the baby's health. Sometimes that is with vaginal delivery, but sometimes not. In our law firm's practice, for example, we have represented several families whose children suffered terrible injuries because the mother's uterus ruptured during a VBAC delivery (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean), and all of those mothers would have skipped the effort at vaginal birth if they had known the risk of catastrophe. Our firm's website has extensive information about birth injuries here and here.

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Posted On: March 18, 2010

The Special Challenge of Helping Teenage Cancer Patients

Cancer treatment and management is no easy task for anyone, but it can be much more challenging for teenage patients, according to New York Times’ Roni Rabin. To begin with, detection of the disease is difficult for patients in this age group, because teenagers do not usually share with adults about their physical changes. Neither are the teenage patients inclined to seek help, as they are at a stage where independence is a landmark of growth. This often results in late detection of the disease and subsequently necessitates aggressive treatments and leads to lingering side effects.

Another difficulty with managing cancer for teenagers and young adults is the ongoing debate over whether these patients should receive treatment in pediatric hospitals or with adults in regular hospitals. The truth is there is no good fit for teenage patients: the types of cancers teenagers develop are often very different from those adults have. Also, the psychosocial support teenage patients need is not available from either the pediatric settings, where most of the population is comprised of toddlers and children, or regular hospitals, whose adult patients have decidedly different concerns in their struggles with cancer.

In light of the difficulty of treating and managing teenagers’ cancer, new cancer treatment programs are being tailored specifically for teenagers and young adults. The Knight Cancer Institute in Oregon, for example, instituted a program where pediatric and adult oncologists are both available for consultation.

Parents should report to their child's pediatrician any physical or behavioral changes they observe in teenagers. Symptoms as subtle as prolonged fatigue can be a warning sign for serious disease, like lymphoblastic leukemia.

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