Patt Morrison for August 19, 2010

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Looking to parents and peers to prevent teen alcohol deaths

There are too many stories like it—during Christmas break of 2008, 17 year-old Shelby Allen went over to a friend’s house where the parents were home and there was a stocked bar. It’s unclear what happened from the time she left her parents’ home around 12:40 am and began showing telltale signs of alcohol poisoning, but she was semi-conscious when her friends left her propped over a toilet and could not be revived when she was discovered the next morning. Two pieces of legislation moving through the California Senate this week—one aimed at negligent parents and another at scared teenage peers—seek to prevent such tragedies. AB2486, which the Governor signed into law yesterday, changes California law to make party hosts liable to the threat of a civil lawsuit if they provide alcohol to under-age guests, a civil recourse that was previously prohibited only in California and two other states. AB1999 would offer teens “limited immunity” for staying on the scene with an intoxicated friend until help arrives after calling 911. Will increased liability for parents and a more lenient law for peers make any difference in underage drinking?
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Kamala Harris, candidate for attorney general

It’s certain to be one of the more interesting races in this Fall’s election season: a conservative southern Californian white male district attorney who supports the death penalty, versus a liberal northern Californian African and Asian-American female district attorney who opposes the death penalty—both vying for state Attorney General. Patt begins our 2010 Attorney General coverage with current District Attorney for San Francisco and candidate Kamala Harris. Harris answers Patt’s questions and yours about her career and initiatives—most notably treating truancy among children in elementary school as a crime committed by the parents and what she sees as a more efficient, cost effective plan to substitute life in prison without possibility of parole for the death penalty. We’ll also ask her thoughts on the Prop 8 rulings of the past month and whether, in her eyes, current Attorney General Jerry Brown has any obligation to defend the will of the 52% of Californians who voted to ban same-sex marriage.
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How to pay less at the ER

No one wants to go, or expects to go, but sometimes your only choice for medical treatment is the Emergency Room. The anxiety and powerlessness many feel about the costs associated with treatment at the ER can be overwhelming. There are some simple and important things to know about what to do if you get socked with an enormous bill for treatment (does aspirin really cost that much?). For starters, don’t go. The most common reason people go to the ER for non life threatening injuries is to treat sprains, superficial injuries, and upper respiratory infections. An urgent care center can take care of all these issues faster and cheaper. But if you do find yourself at the ER, you best listen to Patt. It could hurt if you don’t.
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Botox, boobs, and liposuction? Teens and cosmetic surgery

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, the two most popular procedures for teens are liposuction and breast implants. Some social networking sites have noticed an increase in teens talking about Botox and other beauty enhancements, and seeking advice on how to ask their parents for the money to get some form of cosmetic surgery. Is this a cultural phenomenon (a few high profile celebrities have either had cosmetic surgery or publicly discussed some interest in doing so)? Are there any ethical dilemmas associated with a sixteen-year-old girl getting a boob job or a Botox injection? What about the long-term health effects? Some psychologists note that teens often out grow adolescent concerns about body image. Should parents know the signs associated with body dysmorphic disorder and send their child to the therapist’s office rather than the cosmetic surgeon's?
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