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Should children be able to give consent for medical treatment?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Can adolescents be trusted to make decisions about their health? New guidance from the US says those as young as seven should know their options

When I was four-and-a-half, something scary happened. I was woken early, had a mask clamped to my face and was wheeled into a white room. I thought I was being abducted. But it was an operating theatre and I was having my squint corrected. I guess they forgot to tell me.

That wouldn’t happen today, but how good are doctors and parents at involving children in medical decisions? A review, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies in 2008, found that doctors rarely asked children for their opinions. A 2014 study from the University of Surrey found that children between the ages of seven and 16 with cancer were not involved in treatment decisions because “refusal was not an option”. New recommendations last month from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) remind doctors that children should know the options for diagnosis and treatment. They state that children as young as seven can understand and agree to tests or treatment.

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Should I stop using antibacterial handwash and gels?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

With the FDA banning a number of chemicals associated with antibacterial products, maybe it’s time to go back to old-fashioned soap and water

Need some soap? What could be better than antibacterial handwash that kills 99.9% of bacteria? Well, ordinary soap, says the FDA in America, which is banning the sale of certain soaps (bars, gels and liquids) containing antibacterial ingredients. It ruled last week that antibacterial soaps containing any of 19 named ingredients will be banned by 2017. The chemicals most under scrutiny are triclosan (in liquids) and triclocarban (in bars). Triclosan is linked to allergies in children and upsets the hormone levels of rats – reducing those of thyroid hormone and increasing oestrogen. Triclocarban is linked to raised male hormone levels and low birth weights in rats.

Dr Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute in Arizona, estimates about 2000 products in the US contain triclosan. Although some manufacturers, knowing about the FDA’s ongoing investigation, have removed it, and triclocarban, from their products before the ban.

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I dislike my lazy adolescent stepdaughter | Mariella Frostrup

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

A woman complains her husband’s teenage daughter is too busy taking selfies to help out. Mariella Frostrup suggests ways of trying to befriend her

The dilemma My husband and I have been together for 10 years. During this time I have watched my stepdaughter who lives with us part-time (we have no children of our own – my choice) turn into a self-obsessed, lazy adolescent who is too busy taking selfies to help with chores, like setting the dinner table. I feel like a slave cooking and clearing up after her while she flicks her hair and pouts into a screen. I am getting bitter and resentful. Of course I want us to be a happy family, but I feel so out of control. The one time I did rebuke her, I ended up being told off by my husband that it was not my place to do so. I now avoid being around her when she stays over. I’m afraid I’m beginning to dislike her.

Mariella replies Perfectly possible. The presumption that because you love a partner you’ll unreservedly love their offspring has always seemed a mite unrealistic to me. It’s certainly easier when the child in question is young, unformed and less complicated in their needs and opinions. Once they start morphing into adults and causing havoc with those tasked with raising them, they do briefly become creatures that only a parent can love. You mustn’t take it personally.

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I’m in love with one of my best friends – should I tell her?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

She has a long-term boyfriend and I wonder whether she feels somewhat trapped – but when we’re together we’re completely at ease with each other

I’ve fallen in love with one of my best friends, and I don’t know whether to tell her. Granted, it’s not an original dilemma, and given that the upshot of doing nothing is the continuation of our friendship, it feels selfish and presumptuous to ponder hypotheticals. And yet I can’t help but wonder “what if?”. The problem here – and it’s a big problem – is that she has a long-term boyfriend, and I’ve become friends with him, too. We aren’t close friends, principally because I’m hugely jealous of him, but clearly any attempt to steal his girlfriend would be a huge betrayal.

I also think that his mental health hinges on his relationship to a large degree. It’s in her nature to be sensitive to this, but I wonder whether she doesn’t also feel somewhat trapped, and that her refusal to live with him – even after several years – might be symptomatic of this. We’re both introverted and quite shy individuals, and although we’re completely at ease in each other’s company, neither of us is given to discussing these issues. I don’t feel I can speculate on her reasons without projecting (although it’s entirely possible that she simply doesn’t realise how much I like her), but for me it stems from a fear of rejection, blatancy and the very real possibility of jeopordising our friendship. Increasingly, though, I feel that this could be a price worth paying. I still believe that pondering hypotheticals is a waste of time, but the question remains, and at 31, I’m conscious that time is running out. Should I carry on picking at petals, or just tell her how I feel?

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I’ve just discovered that my adored dad, who is now dead, had an affair

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

My skin crawls to think that my father’s blood runs in my veins and I’m afraid to talk about my discovery with my mother. Annalisa Barbieri advises a reader

I loved my dad. I was a serious daddy’s girl until he died when I was 13. Even though I only spent a little more than a decade with him, he was a perfect father. I know he loved me so much, and I was proud to be his daughter. 

The memory of him was always so dear to me. Sometimes, I wished that he were still alive so that my mom didn’t have to be so lonely at this stage of her life. I wanted to honour and dedicate my life to making my mom and my dad proud, hoping that he’d still look over us and love us. 

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Ask Alys: will my amaryllis flower again?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

Alys Fowler has the answer

My amaryllis was in bloom when I brought it in from the garden, where it had spent the summer. The four beautiful flowers have since died. How do I manage the bulb now, and will it flower again in December?

I doubt it will flower again at Christmas – and if it does, nip it in the bud, so to speak, because it will exhaust itself. I imagine that after you put the bulb out, it got wet in late spring (when we had lots of rain), grew healthy leaves over the summer and in midsummer decided to go dormant, which has to happen before it flowers. It was cool and dry for much of midsummer. In its natural habitat, amaryllis (aka hippeastrum) needs a cool, dry winter between 4-13C – which sort of describes July and early August. Then our late warm summer will have confused it into thinking it had gone through winter.

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Pregnancy and low self-esteem have put a stop to our sex life

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

It has been eight months since I gave birth, but I don’t miss sex

My partner and I had a fulfilling sex life for years, and then I fell pregnant. Our sex life began to dwindle due to morning sickness and me finding it hard to accept my body shape – I’ve always struggled with self-esteem. Our baby is now eight months old and we both thought I would have returned to “normal” by now, but I’m not convinced I miss sex all that much.

Your concern is very common and understandable; you want to take care of your baby and be as sexually invested as you were pre-pregnancy. At this point in your life as a mother, however, the two roles are mutually exclusive, so stop putting so much pressure on yourself. The reasons for your lack of libido are natural and normal, and it is important that both you and your partner understand that. Hormonal changes may still be playing a part, and the exhaustion you are experiencing as a new mother is bound to turn you off. These things are transient.

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As a European grants manager, I don’t have a future in post-Brexit Britain

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

I don’t like the job anyway and long to work in the creative field, but where do I start?

Twice a week we publish problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Saturday Guardian so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights.

I work as a European grants manager. My position, although probably OK for the next couple of years, doesn’t have a future in post-Brexit Britain. To add to this, I don’t particularly enjoy the job and it isn’t a career I would have chosen. I did an arts degree and took temping work in the public sector to pay the bills alongside the unpaid or poorly paid work I was doing for a small theatre company.

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Is furnished or unfurnished better for a year-long rental?

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

We’re not sure what to do with our stuff if we don’t take it with us – it’s a nightmare!

Every week a Guardian Money reader submits a question, and it’s up to you to help him or her out – a selection of the best answers will appear in next Saturday’s paper.

This week’s question:

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Parcel Monkey delivers customs duty bill to Filipino children instead of gift

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

They are a poor family and couldn’t pay, so the package was sent back to me in the UK

A couple of years ago my husband and I were travelling in south-east Asia, and a Filipino family welcomed us into their humble home and we had an amazing time getting to know them.

Fast forward to last month and I’d sent the children a large parcel of books, toys, art supplies and clothes, worth around £100. I used Parcel Monkey – big mistake! The parcel arrived in the country, but the courier then sent an email to say there was a customs charge and the item would be returned to the UK in three days unless paid. It couldn’t tell me how much it was, so I asked them not to return it while I sorted out any payment due. I emailed the family who said the charge was around £20, which they couldn’t afford, so I immediately sent them the money via Western Union.

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