Health24.com | Court confirms 12-year-old can refuse chemo

An appeals judge in the Dutch court has confirmed that a 12-year-old boy does not have to undergo chemotherapy if he does not want it. The ruling came after the boy’s father appealed to a court to order the treatment. The mother of the boy supported her son in his opposition to the chemotherapy.

Aad van de Beek, a court spokesman in Amsterdam, said the appeals court found that the boy, identified only as David, had carefully considered the situation and had the ability to make a sound decision. Chemotherapy was part of treatment for David following the successful surgical removal last year of a brain tumour. 

After consulting a psychiatric report to determine whether David has the capability to make this decision, a judge at the court ruled that David is indeed capable of making a reasonable decision, understanding the full outcome and consequences of his decision. 

1 500 new cases of cancer among children are diagnosed every year in South Africa. Owing to earlier methods of detection, improved medication and more effective treatment methods, many more children’s lives are saved than was the case thirty years ago.

But what are the legalities?

In South Africa, the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 states that the best possible care must be provided by the parents, but the child’s dignity, self-reliance and participation in the community must be protected at all times. The Act also states that the child has the right not to be subjected to any medical, religious, or cultural practices that are detrimental to his or her dignity or well-being.

This can be interpreted as the child having the right to refuse chemotherapy as treatment, if they argue that their dignity and well-being is affected by the outcome, if he or she can argue their decision within reason, and deemed capable of making such a decision.

But this is debatable, as the fundamental principle of law and ethics state that a parent as a competent adult should always have the final decision, even if the outcome can be interpreted as not being in the best interest of the child. Throughout the years, courts have been struggling to implement laws where minors were able to make their own decisions. For many courts in many countries, this is still deemed a grey area and open to debate. In David’s case, it can be seen that courts are giving leeway to the traditional major-over-minor decision rule. 

Healthy cells affected as well

Chemotherapy is the process of treating the cancer patient with strong drugs to kill off cancer cells in a certain part of the body,  to stop them from spreading, or to shrink a tumour before surgically removing it. Because of the strength of the drugs administered to the patient, healthy cells are often affected as well. This can cause severe side-effects such as nausea and vomiting, mouth sores complete hair loss and extreme fatigue. Chemotherapy is often given in cycles to give the patient’s body a break to recover.

Some drugs used for chemotherapy are stronger than others and the side-effects can have long-term effects such as infertility. Previous studies also suggested that chemotherapy for childhood cancers could also have a lasting effect on the child’s memory. Although some people remain unaffected by chemotherapy and can continue with their daily lives as usual, the side-effects are often the worst, hence a person’s reluctance to undertake chemotherapy. 

Even though the side-effects are a huge part of struggling with cancer, a previous Health24 article stated that chemotherapy is becoming more and more advanced, ruling out the side-effects and ensuring a higher survival rate for childhood cancers. 

Read more:

Immunotherapy vs chemotherapy for treating cancer?

Common childhood leukemia now curable

Strides made in treating childhood cancer

Health24.com | 5 habits that are bad for your hair

Throughout history, hair has represented different things, including social, political or marital status – and different cultures have widely divergent ideas and practices when it comes to our “crowning glory”. 

Although hair is mostly a fashion statement, it is also an indication of our health status – and the most important thing about your hair is that it stays healthy.

This can, however, be taken for granted in our culture of quick fixes and chemical interventions, and many of the things we do to our hair nowadays seem to be doing more harm than good.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another problem many people face is hair loss, which can be caused by genetics and diseases like alopecia, lupus, and cancer. 

On an everyday level, however, there are a number of things you might be doing that are bad for your overall hair health.

1. Using hairstyling tools

Hairdryers and hair straighteners are our “go-to” when we want to tame our hair or when we feel we are having a bad hair day. But these are damaging to your hair. The heat from a straightener almost literally fries your hair – that sizzling sound should be an indication of the damage being done.

Too much heat strips essential serums and natural oils from your hair, making it look dry and lifeless.  This reduces the strength of your hair, promoting hair damage and loss.

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2. Applying chemical products

We often find ourselves at a loss when choosing the correct shampoos and serums to protect our hair – there are just too many options to choose from!

Many of these products also contain chemicals that can damage our hair if not used correctly.

And, apart from damage to our hair, chemicals present in hair dyes raises the risk of breast cancer in women, according to a Health24 article.

Hair dyes contains chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, which may have irreversible effects like weakening and breaking the hair.   

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3. Brushing wet hair

People often make the mistake of brushing or combing their hair right after washing it. This may damage and even break your hair as it is at its most fragile when wet.

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4. Washing your hair too often

As mentioned above, your hair is at its most fragile when wet, and chemicals in shampoos and other hair products can cause significant damage.

Washing also strips your hair of its natural oils. Give your hair a break!

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5. Stressing too much

Physical stressors like accidents, flu, or surgery can cause hair loss.

According to a Health24 article, this temporary hair loss usually manifests two to four months after the injury or incident. Growth returns to normal after three to six months.

Stress habits, such as scratching your hair – which breaks it at the root – or tugging on your ponytail in stressful situations can also cause hairs to break off. Aim to de-stress your life, and keep your hands out of your hair.

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Read more:

7 myths about male hair loss

Four tips for healthy winter hair

You weave or braids could cause hair loss

Health24.com | You’ll be shocked at how dismissive people are of mental health

Yesterday, a story about a CEO’s surprisingly understanding response to an employee’s need to take a mental health day was largely met with adulation – but not so much by readers on News24’s Facebook page.

“Let her take a day, i don’t want to be a working with a psycho [sic]”

“I’d give her the day off. Ever see how mental a woman can go? [sic]”

“So very true, guess who is responsable for woman loosing it? [sic]

“Would tell her to go work at a mental institution [sic]”

“Request admittance letter to asylum.”

It’s staggering that such opinions still exist in 2017 when more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression and close to 800 000 people die by suicide every year.

In South Africa, about a fifth (20%) of the population will experience a depressive disorder at least once in their lifetime and the incidence of suicide has risen to 23 a day, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

According to the World Health Organization depression and other mental health conditions are on the rise globally.

Yet the negative stigma surrounding mental health still exists.

Why the stigma?

“There is still a huge amount of stigma [about mental illnesses] in our communities and this is largely due to the fact a lot of people still do not understand mental illnesses,” says Nkini Pasha, a SADAG board member.

“There are a lot of myths around what causes mental illnesses, and people find it difficult to define mental illnesses.”

Pasha says the key to fighting this stigma is education.

“Depression affects cognitive functioning such as decision making, concentration, memory and problem solving abilities. Depression negatively impacts productivity,” says psychiatrist and clinical psychologist Dr Frans Korb. “If an employee has depression but is at work, they are five times less productive than an employee who was absent due to depression.”

Not all negative

The feedback wasn’t all negative, however. Many positive comments came through, too.

“Just a personal opinion but – society accepts people who are on chronic meds for different types of illnesses and treat these people with care. However, is the brain and therefore the mind not part of our physical make-up? It is certainly time that society wakes up to the fact that mental well-being is essential. Depression, anxiety, stress and all the ‘dark’ places are a reality and can – and should be – treated and accepted with the same quality of care and understanding that is given to any ‘visible’ illness [sic].” 

“Mental illness is exactly that, an illness and therefore, should be treated with the same urgency as a health illness.”

Want to read all the comments? Click on the Facebook link below.

If you would like get in touch to share your thoughts, please email Mandy Freeman.

Read more:

20% increase in global depression in a decade

Should you tell your boss about your mental illness?

How to support someone with depression

Health24.com | HIV/Aids treatments soon available at ‘ATMs’

Access to treatment will be now be made easier for people living with HIV/Aids as they will soon be able to collect their medicine at shopping malls thanks to the introduction of special ATM machines.

The machines, or rather pharmacy dispensing units, are equipped to dispense medication and are set to be rolled out at Gauteng malls.

Achieving the 90-90-90 challenge

The Gauteng Department of Health in partnership with organisations EQUIP and Right to Care are engaging in a pilot project to ensure sufficient and easy access to treatment by people living with HIV/ Aids.

To achieve the 90-90-90 challenge – a plan to ensure that 90% of all South Africans know their HIV status by 2020 – the pharmacy dispensing units are being set up in selected areas of Johannesburg to ensure accessibility of HIV/Aids treatment.

Dr Thembi Xulu, Chief of Party at EQUIP, describes the pharmacy dispensing units as a ground breaking solution that will allow patients to quickly and conveniently collect their prescriptions.  A PDU is an ATM-like innovation using electronic and robotic technology to dispense medication. It is being piloted in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Health at Ndofaya Mall in Soweto (5 PDUs), Baragwanath Mall in Soweto (3 PDUs), an unnamed outlet in Diepsloot and another 4 PDUs at the Alex Plaza in Alexandra.

Initiative welcomed by TAC

EQUIP is the first Africa-led USAID-funded global consortium to deliver rapid scale-up of innovative HIV treatment and prevention solutions across 17 PEPFAR countries in Africa, South-East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. EQUIP was founded in October 2015 in response to a call from USAID to establish a rapid-response mechanism to support PEPFAR countries reach their UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.

This initiative was welcomed by Treatment Action Campaign General Secretary Anele Yawa.

“One of the challenges we face as public health care users is when people visit clinics and are turned away because there are shortages of medicines or drugs stock outs. As much as we support this project that promises to assist in ensuring the availability of medicines, we have a concern. The majority of people living with HIV/Aids are black, women, poor and some of them are illiterate. We hope that the PDUs will be user friendly to the illiterate as well,” Yawa said. – Health-e News

Read more:

HIV positive teens have to skip school to get ARVs

HIV medication patch shows promise

Mozambique to produce own ARVs