The Powers That Blog

While we keep track of politics at a certain level, this is not a poliblog, nor a warblog. Maybe "eclectiblog" is a good description, as we note thoughts on topics from art to parenting to whatever comes to mind.

Friday, February 17, 2006

What's my philosophy?

The authors of this blog spent a very intense several months before Terri Schindler's execution in trying to save her life. We were involved in the Blogs For Terri effort. First, we wrote about Terri and about pro-life issues for all we were worth. We kept up to date on her case and spread any relevant news we could. Then we got involved politically. We called and emailed all those politicians in Florida and Washington, DC who at various times were deciding her fate, and we encouraged our friends and family to do the same. Some people involved in the effort even went down to Florida to protest what was going on at the hospice center where Terri was being "cared" for. We discovered through the process of trying to save one disabled woman's life that it really didn't matter what our elected officials thought about her situation. In the end, it was going to be courts and judges who decided Terri's fate and who pulled the proverbial trigger (and a real gun would have been much kinder than 14 days of dehydrating to death--no I'm not advocating we shoot people we no longer want around, just emphasizing once again how inhumane Terri's death was). Even President Bush wasn't going to cross that little probate court judge.

About that point we backed out of the action considerably. I think we were blogged out and incredibly discouraged. We needed a break and took one. During that time I had a chance to think deeply about where my interests lie and how I want to be involved in the battle for life in a more long term way, and this is what I want to expound on today.

My place in life undoubtedly has a lot to do with where my interests and beliefs lie. I am a mother of one toddler and a baby on the way. Though I work part time from home, my days revolve around creating a life for my growing family. My daughter is with me always--it is quite rare that anyone other than my husband or I care for her, though we have found a very nice family who will occasionally watch her while we go off on a date or something. Our choice of parenting style is the attachment parenting style, and I am against any form of deliberate punishment as a way to raise our children. I'm also keenly interested in taking a more earthy, natural approach to life. For example, we are planning a home birth for our second baby instead of the hospital birth we had for our first baby. I'm very much in favor of natural, noninvasive remedies for common physical problems either I or my daughter encounter. A few months ago, we treated the MunchK for a breathing problem by taking her to a chiropracter and it worked. While she has had a few colds and infections, she has never taken antibiotics. And we have chosen not to vaccinate based on the information that we learned when we began to research the topic. Last, but not least, I am Roman Catholic and adhere strongly to my Church's injunction against any form of artificial contraceptives. Even our use of Natural Family Planning has been more geared towards trying to conceive than trying to avoid it. We believe strongly that children are a blessing from God and we want as many of them as He will give us. We do not wish to limit God in his ability and desire to bless us in that way.

In my more than two years of being a mother I have come into contact with lots of people who live a more natural lifestyle and have learned much. And this has become key to my position on pro-life issues. Mainly, I do not believe the mess we're in now began with abortion. I believe the seeds were sown long before Roe vs. Wade, and it is only going to be in rethinking the way we as a society approach the way we live our lives that we will have any real chance of turning the tide. While I will be overjoyed if Roe vs. Wade gets reversed, I know that will not be enough to make any real difference.

Here are some of the seeds that were sown to open the floodgates to abortion, euthanasia and all manner of atrocities that currently surround us:

1. Contraception. Its use became widespread in our country in the 1960s sexual revolution. When the country was first contemplating making the stuff legal, many Christians and secular people protested on the grounds that it would open the doors to fornication, adultery, and all sorts of other unimaginable sexual perversions. All Christians were adamantly against contraceptives until 1930, when the Episcopal church in their Lambeth convention decided it was OK for married people to use contraceptives. In 1968, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Catholic Church's position with his Humanae Vitae encyclical. Once contraception became not only legal, but widely used and accepted, it was only a matter of time before abortion followed. In fact, every society that has legalized contraception has also legalized abortion. The two are inextricably linked and to deny that is the same as denying that ice and steam consist of the same molecule. It is my firm belief that until we pro-lifers are willing to abandon our own personal use of contraceptives, we can forget about ending abortion. So if you use contraceptives, stop reading this and immediately throw them all in the trash. Right now. Just do it. If you must postpone having another child, learn how to practice Natural Family Planning. You can find information by visiting the Couple to Couple League website. Trust me, you will not be effective in ending abortion until you give up your contraceptives.

2. The medicalization of birth. This may seem odd to some people that having babies in hospitals rather than at home could be more than just a personal choice. While I'm not as strong on this one as I am about contraception, I do believe our society's attitude towards birth does have a profound impact on the way society views the value of life as well. Giving birth is a normal, natural, and God-ordained process that women are priviledged to participate in. That view is not supported in today's medicalized method of childbirth. Instead, childbirth is viewed as a medical event, not unlike getting your appendix removed, that's frought with risk and where something could go wrong at any time. When a woman enters a hospital to give birth, the function that rightly belongs to her body is taken over by the medical staff and rather than the mother-to-be being the one doing the great work of bringing a child into the world, birth becomes something that's done to her as control over her body and the powerful forces at work within her body are taken over by the doctors, nurses and machines. Nearly one out of three mothers who give birth in a hospital will have a C-section--surgical birth, which is the ultimate in giving her the clear message that her body is not capable of a normal birth. Some women have actually been forced to undergo C-sections against their will.

The result of the medicalization of birth is a profound loss of self-respect and confidence of the woman in herself and in her ability to parent and raise the new life that she has brought forth. In addition, the many drugs and interventions used on her by the hospital can cause her baby to have profoundly different responses to her than normal, which can lead to sometimes insurmountable breastfeeding difficulties. I believe a loss of respect for oneself, when it happens to the majority of women, can over time translate into a loss of respect for life in general. But it also leads to more immediate issues as well, which also contribute to the deterioration of society's respect for life.

3. Abandonment of breastfeeding. This actually predates the widespread use of contraception and probably fueled its acceptance. When a woman breastfeeds, on average, her children will be spaced about two years apart, which is well within a woman's ability to manage. When she doesn't breastfeed, her fertility returns much sooner and she may be having a child every year, which is too much for most people to handle. In desperation, many women turned to contraception for relief. But even without the possible link between formula feeding and contraception, when babies are not breastfed, everyone loses. Again, a woman who does not breastfeed loses the opportunity to provide for the life she has brought into the world in the way God intended, and she won't bond as well with her baby. The baby suffers profoundly as formula is truly an inferior form of nourishment. There is also mounting evidence that breastfeeding plays a significant role in the way infants' brains are wired--that breastfeeding programs children to be empathetic and loving, whereas formula feeding can lead to more aggression and detachment, which can lead to less ethical decision making later.

4. Parenting style. As mentioned here, research has shown that parenting style has a profound impact on a child's ability to grow into an empathetic and ethical adult. A child who is raised with respect and allowed to question his parents' authority is more likely to also stand up against authority that is used for evil purposes, whereas a child who is raised in an authoritarian and punitive manner is more likely to go along with the evil as an adult. Perhaps, he will also be more likely to actively participate in said evil. Yet parenting manuals, many of which claim to be Christian, which promote everything from unreasonable limitations on breastfeeding to physically assaulting your child (spanking), abound. And due to parents' loss of confidence in their ability to parent (probably stemming from their birth experience), those manuals are sought after and followed to the detriment of the ethical development of their children. Parents need to realize that they must rear their children gently and respectfully, and that God has planted in their hearts the right instincts for at least getting started. They need to listen to their inner voice or find support from more experienced parents. A great blog promoting gentle parenting is TulipGirl.

OK, I think this is going to be one of those posts that is going to require a Part II. I haven't even touched on some of the factors that might be more obvious to more people--a strong faith in God, the way children are educated, and proper business practices (i.e., avoiding financial and other conflicts of interest--something we saw violated repeatedly in Terri's case). I know there are many more factors, but this is a good start. As you can see, all of the ones I have mentioned are long term and deeply personal choices. If you were to decide to implement these recommendations in your own life, it might be a full fifty years before you could recognize fruit, and it will take many families following course for society to see the good fruit. Yet I believe that without those changes, all the political action in the world is going to yield at best minimal results.

I've come to realize that the most revolutionary act I can do for my society is to live by these long-term principals in my own family--do the best I can to raise my children to become loving, thoughtful and ethical adults. The second most radical act I can do for the good of my society is to freely share my decisions with everyone who will listen. And this is what I intend do do through this blog and other means I am given.

More Collusion Among Terri's Killers

The North Country Gazette has an article concerning Arthur Caplan, one of the people who strove to have Terri killed. Apparently, Caplan was a little more than just an unbiased source of information for the St. Petersburg Times. Turns out he was also a board member. Just the latest I hear about an unending series of illicit liaisons and conflicts of interest among the folks who worked so hard to murder this disabled young woman. Below are some excerpts:

Arthur Caplan was one of the perpetrators and advancers of the mainstream media bias in the Schaivo case, spewing forth erroneous information and tainting public opinion against Terri--her right to live, her will to live.

When Pope John Paul II said that even people in a vegetative state have a right to food and water and it is morally wrong to deny them a feeding tube, the St. Petersburg Times immediately ran to Caplan for his comments. Over and over the St. Petersburg Times drilled into the public that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state and Caplan did his best to downplay the Pope's comments lest somehow they might sway public opinion to favor Terri's right to live...

...But then there's the rest of the story. What the St. Petersburg Times and Caplan didn't disclose is that Caplan is a member of the advisory board of the Poynter Institute of St. Petersburg, owner of the St. Petersburg Times.

Perhaps that's why the Times coverage of the Schiavo case was so one sided---Caplan sided.

Ethics? Mr. Caplan wants to talk about ethics? How about journalistic ethics? The St. Petersburg Times never disclosed that one of their most quoted "experts" in the Schiavo was in fact a member of their own board and an advocate for Michael Schiavo.

Caplan is a member of Poynter's National Advisory Board. According to Poynter, "members of the board help guide the work of the Institute by reviewing and giving reaction to its programs and plans, and through analysis of important developments and issues in journalism…." Yeah, like swaying public opinion.

The Poynter Institute claims to "promote excellence and integrity in the practice of craft….it stands for a journalism that informs citizens and enlightens public discourse". In the Schiavo case, it shamelessly advocated the right to die movement, promoted and glorified euthanasia and used one of its own to do it, fraudulently trying to pass Caplan off as just a source, never mentioning he was a board member. Independent journalism in the public interest? Hardly. Strongly biased, one-sided journalism in the Caplan, Felos, Schiavo interest of killing a disabled woman.

As Caplan was promoting Terri's death, Blogs for Terri were trying to place a paid ad in the St. Petersburg Times to dispel the numerous inaccuracies and misconceptions about the case that the St. Petersburg Times and other media had been promoting. But the newspaper refused to accept the ad, instead engaging in censorship and asking Blogs for Terri to edit the ad before they would agree to print it.

At the time the group was trying to place their ad, they mentioned a rumor that the Times was preparing to publish an anti-Terri editorial but the Times reportedly denied that there was any collusion between their advertising and news departments.

And the Times did publish an anti-Terri editorial, calling the Schiavo case a family tragedy that had turned into a public circus. The Times editorialized that Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Legislature should "stay out of it". With words that were strikingly similar to Caplan's commentary for MSNBC, the Times said that Bush and the Legislature "have no business acting as obstructionists again in a controversy that needs to come to a conclusion". While Caplan's commentary had been titled "The Time Has Come To Let Terri Schiavo Die', the Times' editorial was headlined "Let Schiavo case come to a close".

As one observer opined at the time, "the editorial assumes, of course, that the Times, with its power-of-the press, should have something to say about Terri's future". Of course the Times forgot to disclose its' connection with Caplan. "I believe Blogs for Terri was correct in publicizing the editorial bias of the St. Petersburg Times who seem so focused on people's right to die that they forgot we should have an equal right to live".

HT: Blogs For Terri

Company harrasses woman over cost of her pregnancy

Just another example of how the anti-life mentality has filtered down to all aspects of our society... A human resources director makes a most offensive and unthinkable suggestion.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Kathy Gable was seven months' pregnant with her first child and worried. Her gynecologist had warned her that her baby might have Down's Syndrome, and Gable needed to have two ultrasound scans each month to monitor the progress of her pregnancy.

After her latest scan, Gable had just returned to her desk at the midsize San Diego-based sporting goods company where she worked when the company's director of human resources rang her up. "Kathy," he said, "do you know how much your pregnancy is costing our company in terms of increased medical insurance?"

He proceeded to tell her. "In light of this," he continued, "the company is willing to pay for your abortion."

Read entire article here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Contraception and Abortion

Dr. Janet Smith, a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, MI, has written and spoken extensively on the numerous moral problems associated with contraception. In a nutshell, she associates contraception with abortion and many of the other sexual perversions and social ills we now find ourselves mired in. And she is not alone in that belief. In any case, there is a very clear link between contraception and abortion, namely, that if you accept the use of contraception, you must also accept abortion, as the two are inseparable. Even the US Supreme Court recognizes that connection, as explained in an excerpt from Smith's 1994 talk: "Contraception, Why Not?"

Now, I'll give you the highest authority of our land, the Supreme Court says so.
There's an article out there, which I wrote, on the table you can have for free. It's called,
"The Connection between Contraception and Abortion" and I cite Planned Parenthood v.
Casey. In that decision (this is not quite verbatim but it's close) it says that: "in several
important respects, the decision to use contraceptives is the same as the decision to abort
."

Or the decision to have an abortion is the same as the decision to contracept. And it goes on
to explain. It says that, "For two decades, couples have based their intimate relationships on
the availability of abortion should contraceptives fail." Now in this whole Supreme Court
decision, which is on abortion, there is not one mention of the humanity of the unborn child,
not one mention of whether the fetus was a person or not. It's not even dismissed as a
question. It's not even considered. But it does say we must have abortions because we have contraceptives. It's a necessity. For two decades, couples have counted on it should their contraceptives fail. The Supreme Court says so.


The transcript of this talk is available here, and even though it's long, it is well worth the time to read through it. She does a much better job than I ever could of explaining why our nation's acceptance of contraception so many decades ago has lead to horrible tragedies such as the cruel murder of Terri Schindler.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pharmaceutical Tyranny

Massachussetts is now the second state to require Wal-Mart to stock the morning-after abortion pill, a product Wal-Mart normally does not carry. This new directive came about as a result of a lawsuit filed by several women who were thwarted in their attempts to buy the abortifacient from Wal-Mart. The lawyer representing the plaintiffs says he is prepared to sue Wal-Mart in other states as well.

What we have here is a state government dictating to a privately run store what products it has to carry. Wal-Mart is a big store and no doubt lots of companies with something to sell would love to have Wal-Mart stock their product. Wal-Mart turns many of these products down for various reasons. The fact that Wal-Mart has refused to stock a particular product is nothing new.

So Wal-Mart also refused to stock Harry's Wonderful Widgets (that's why I've never heard of them and neither have you). But I really want one of those widgets really bad and I can't be bothered with shopping around for one. I better petition the government to make Wal-Mart carry those widgets. I bet that would tickle Harry to no end because he knows if he can only get his widgets into Wal-Mart where everyone can see them, he'll make lots of widget sales which will lead to huge profits for him. It's not fair that Wal-Mart carries some products and not others. Waaaaah!

I doubt the government at any level would listen to my tale of woe. It's up to Wal-Mart to decide what products they will and will not stock, and not government's business to intervene.

So why does the government give the morning-after pill special treatment? What's so special about it that the government must require Wal-Mart to stock it, especially when it can be easily found at the store down the street?

The morning-after pill is a pharmaceutical product, and for some reason the government has long seen fit to promote and even make mandatory all manner of pharmaceutical products. The companies that make them have it made and their advertising budgets must be enviably low. Think about this the next time you hear a "public service announcement" reminding mothers of small children to take them in for their shots. That is the government running the advertisement campaigns for several pharmaceutical products. And the government doesn't stop there; it actually mandates the use of those products nationwide. Yes, there are excemptions, but the laws are on the books.

So now the government of Massachussetts has decided to mandate the availability of yet another pharmaceutical product, and no doubt many pro-lifers are outraged (as well they should be) because this pharmaceutical product happens to be abortive. Just keep in mind that the government is not doing anything new here. Pharmaceutical drugs have been government's pet for a long time. This is the more foundational problem underneath the immediate and obvious issue of government forcing abortifacients onto private businesses.

Government needs to get out of the business of promoting and mandating the use of all pharmaceutical drugs, period. We all should have gotten outraged a long time ago, whenever it was that this first started.

Pharmaceutical tyranny--yet another example of Modern Medicine causing harm.

HT: Rush Limbaugh See here for another news story.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Parenting Style Important

Vad Yashem, Israel's "Department of the Righteous" commissioned a study to identify the differences between those Gentiles (non-Jews) who rescued and otherwise assisted the Jews during the Holocaust from those who simply stood by. The study was carried out by Sociologists Samuel Oliner and Pearl Oliner. In the study they extensively interviewed 406 rescuers and 126 nonrescuers, where both groups were closely matched for age, sex, education, and geographical location during the war. The principal question the Oliners set up their study to ask was: How do people who risk personal disaster in order to help others, with no promise of reward, differ from people who do not? What kind of background or upbringing lends itself to altruism?

The Oliners compiled the results and analysis of their study in their book (published in 1988): The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. The most striking difference between the rescuers and nonrescuers was the way they were raised. Rescuers came from close, loving families where the children were deeply respected and treated gently. Discipline was based on talking and reasoning, and children were allowed to question their parents' decisions. The rescuers repeatedly used the words "reasoning" and "explaining" when describing how their parents corrected them. Rescuers were rarely, if ever, spanked. In contrast, the nonrescuers were raised by authoritarian parents who insisted primarily on obedience. Corporal punishment, though not necessarily the most extreme kinds, was the norm. In an article which cites the Oliners' work, psychologist and author Gregory Popcack writes: Parents of collaborators were significantly more likely to view their children's misbehavior as the result of innate bad-ness or manipulativeness. By contrast, the parents of rescuers tended to view misbehavior as the result of simple ignorance or clumsy high-spiritedness.

Everyone who uses his stature to promote corporal punishment and other punitive and disrespectful forms of childrearing will do well to pay attention to the Oliners' study. Many of those who promote and practice a more authoritarian style are themselves Christians and view the deeds of the Holocaust rescuers as heroic. No doubt if asked, they will say they hope their children will grow up to be rescuers, and not bystanders. They need to ask themselves if the way they are raising their children is likely to bring about those results. According to some very convincing research, the answer is no.

The way you parent your children now just might impact whether future people will live or die.

HT: Gregory Popcak, from his book Parenting With Grace

Sunday, February 12, 2006

It's More Complicated

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has an article titled You Wouldn't Even Ask where he expounds on the problems with voting for any pro-abortion candidate, no matter how much one might agree on where this candidate stands on other issues. His firm belief is that if you are for abortion, that disqualifies you from public office and that pro-life voters should vote against you without asking you any further questions. He compares the pro-abortion stance to supporting terrorism. If a politician claimed he was in favor of terrorism, no one would even ask him about where he stands on healthcare, housing, or anything else.

I've actually long held this view and could be accused of being a single issue voter. In general, I vote for or against candidates based on their committment to protect our nation's unborn children. It's also worked out well for me because for the most part, the pro-life candidates have matched my political views in other areas as well, so I always preferred the pro-life package to the pro-abortion package. And I expect at least for the next few election cycles, I will continue to weigh abortion very heavily in my voting choices.

However, I am starting to question this view in principal. While I agree that supporting any form of mass killing of innocent citizens is dangerous for our country, I also see that there are other issues that in the long run are also serious. Suppose there are two candidates running for major office in this country. One of them supports terrorism and is proud of that fact. The other supports organized crime and has received large sums of money from the Mafia, and again, makes no apologies for that. Who should I vote for? In my opinion, neither one of them is qualified to serve in public office but there aren't any other candidates on the ballot.

Sometimes, that's closer to how it looks come election time. Usually, one of the candidates is pro-abortion and one is pro-life. The problem is that the candidate who is pro-life may also be in favor of societal institutions that support abortion, so even though not directly pro-abortion, his public policy really isn't going to make much difference. What if the pro-abortion candidate were willing to reform those institutions that support abortion, which would lead to abortion being less rampant, even though he's not against abortion but sees those reforms as important for other reasons? Who should I vote for?

So far, I haven't seen this scenario happen in real life, and maybe it never will. But I am starting to see abortion and euthanasia as being entwined with modern medicine, an institution that I believe is riddled with serious problems (see my previous post). Fortunately, as a citizen I do have a fair amount of freedom in determining how much I or my family participates in the institution of modern medicine. I can choose to refuse vaccinations for my children, for example. I can also seek alternative forms of healthcare when I get sick. And I enjoy a fair amount of privacy in that matter because no one other than my doctor and the various other healthcare practicioners I have visited hold my medical records, and they only have that portion that they have contributed to, or which I have given them. If I move to another state, any healthcare practitioner I begin to visit has to start from scratch with me or my family. Of course, it's in my best interest to be honest about my history, but it is very reassuring that a new doctor has to take me at my word, has to trust me that the information I'm giving him is correct (to the best of my ability). The fact that he can't verify what I tell him with some national medical database that all doctors can access puts me in a position of certain power, which I believe is a small, but healthy balance to the tremendous trust and power our society has given the medical profession.

A few months ago I was listening to the Sean Hannity show and Sean was interviewing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. I only heard a few minutes of the interview, so I may be taking this out of context, but what I heard was Mr. Gingrich elaborating on why he believed it was so very important to develop a national medical database where everyone's medical records would be centralized and accessible. Since I do not know much of his views beyond what I heard that day, all I can really say is that his words raised a red flag in my mind. I'm not sure I like this. I know I don't want my medical records being kept where people I haven't specifically authorized can access them, and I don't ever want to see such a database being forced on anyone or used to track anyone.

With the growing concern of a terrorist attack on this country taking the form of a biological agent, I have also heard talk among Conservatives (who in general are anti-abortion) about developing and making available new vaccines to counter the effects of these biological agents, and developing laws and systems to make sure everyone takes those vaccines. Again, the second part bothers me. I do not ever want to be forced to take a vaccine, or to have my children take a vaccine. No matter how serious the threat and no matter how much the vaccine is touted as being effective, I want the choice to still be up to me to make my own decisions regarding what treatments or preventatives I pursue for me and my dependent children. I do not want some beaurocrat telling me I must take treatment A over treatment B, especially when I know that treatment B is much better and safer for me. I want to be free to inform myself of the vaccine in question, determine as best I can its effectiveness and safety, then run my own risk-benefit analysis and decide for myself what to do about it. I believe this is part of being a free citizen. Yet I hear pro-life politicians or former politicians talking about stuff like this and it makes me very nervous.

On a more general level, financial ties between government agents and the pharmaceutical companies have been well-documented. I'm sure similar ties have been documented with government agents and other types of industries so this in and of itself isn't particularly surprising. However it does mean that when those agents make a decision that will affect said companies, the decision will not be an entirely free one, and will most likely reflect the best interests of the companies over the best interests of the constituents. Many politicians who are aware of these ties do not see a conflict because they honestly believe that both interests are complementary. But given the fact that it's the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture the drugs and vaccines that the government then turns around and promotes, I do not have much confidence that when one of these products causes death or sickness, the politicians (including the pro-life ones) will always act in the most speedy manner to get that product off the shelf. In fact, historically and even recently, that has not been the case (Read The Virus and the Vaccine by Debbie Bookchin and Jim Shumacher for a historical example).

Really, what it comes down to is that for the most part, the pro-life candidates view abortion as an anomaly of an otherwise good healthcare system. My view is more and more that it's the healthcare system itself that makes such atrocities as abortion and euthanasia possible. Therefore, until a politician is willing to take the medical institution head on, his pro-life stance is to a large extent compromised.

Let's suppose in the next election I have a choice between two candidates. One is anti-abortion and a firm believer in removing the laws that allow for individuals to refuse vaccines for themselves or their dependent children--in other words, vaccines will now be made mandatory for everyone, no exceptions. Other than the concern over vaccine safety, this is problematic because there have been instances of vaccines being laced with substances such as contraceptives that the recipients knew nothing about, and I do not believe our government is immune to this temptation. The other candidate is pro-abortion, but believes the current exemptions for vaccines should be left alone, and actually expanded to give people even more freedom of choice in that area. This will put me in a very difficult position as a voter. On one hand, I am adamently against torturing and murdering innocent children (let's be honest, that's what abortion is). On the other hand, my first obligation is to protect my own children, and I believe vaccines are dangerous for them. Who should I vote for?

The question is actually much thornier than would appear at first glance.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Modern Medicine's Practice of Doing Harm

I've once again developed a hankering to write about more controversial issues, and of all the various blogs I currently keep (all unlinked to each other on purpose), this blog is really the most appropriate outlet.

The issue on my mind today is probably way too big for one post, but you got to start somewhere, right? What's eating me these days concerns the practice of modern medicine and how it affects me and the society in which I live.

At the moment, I am battling a sinus infection, and this time, I am determined to not give in to the use of antibiotics. The MunchK has it too, but she is clearly tolerating it very well, and I think she's basically on the mend. I think I am too, but still need a day or so to recover completely. Anyway, I've entertained and distracted myself by paging through some old issues of the magazine the Couple to Couple League publishes. The magazine is dedicated to educating readers about the practice of Natural Family Planning (NFP), but it also delves into all kinds of issues related to fertility and reproduction as well as natural mothering. While the articles regularly will cite complaints about doctors who are undeducated about NFP, who don't give any credibility to their patients' charts and sometimes misdiagnose them as a result of their arrogance, the organization clearly views this as a problem with that particular physician and is by no means anti-medicine. But after reading five or more articles that mention medical error or just plain arrogance, you can't help but notice a pattern.

Over the past year or so, I have grown much less charitable towards the medical institution and doctors in general, though I do believe there are good doctors out there who actually are openminded and will listen to their patients. We are fortunate to have one as our family physician. During the time many of us bloggers were writing and fighting so hard to save Terri Schindler's life, I really lost whatever faith I had left in modern medicine. There was one point while Terri was starving to death that a number of doctors trotted out on TV and talked about how euphoric death by starvation was. I only know about this because Rush Limbaugh was mocking and decrying it and playing a few of the more ridiculous soundbites. But even before that, how many doctors had already gone public about Terri being in a permanent vegetative state, when any layperson with internet access could determine that to be completely untrue in about five minutes? Then there was the misinformation about what abilities she had and didn't have, which were never properly determined, not even by physicians. Anyway, there were doctors out there on TV, on the internet, on the radio, basically lying through their teeth about Terri and about what she would be experiencing by her death by starvation and dehydration. Whether they were lying or they were plain ignorant, either scenario ought to have been of grave concern to any of their unfortunate patients.

I was bewildered by how doctors could show their face in public with that baloney and expect us all to swallow it. I don't know how many people actually did swallow it, but clearly, their message prevailed where it really mattered. How is it that we as a society put up with and let doctors get away with this malarkey?

Then the answers started coming. Well, maybe not answers, but certainly indications that what I was witnessing ought to have come as no surprise to anyone. These lying or ignorant doctors come from the same medical profession that does abortions. I guess if doctors can rationalize the dismemberement of unborn babies, maybe it isn't such a big jump to rationalize the starvation of a handicapped adult woman. In fact, I learned at some point in my own efforts to save Terri's life that starvation and dehydration happen all the time in hospitals and nursing homes, and Terri was really just one of many victims. OK, so abortions are kind of an anomaly anyway, and many doctors will not do them. But are they really such an anomaly with modern medicine?

Most people are familiar with the Hippocratic Oath, which states to first, do no harm. All doctors are supposed to swear by it. I personally think they should just drop it. Doctors have actually caused countless people a lot of harm ever since the early days of what we now refer to as modern medicine. In fact, Hippocrates himself believed that woman equalled disease and he saw female internal organs as natural hotspots for disease. This couldn't have boded well for any women under his care.

So what harm exactly have doctors caused? Most of us remember reading about the ancient practice of bleeding sick patients, either by cutting their veins or by putting leaches on them. Many people who might otherwise have recovered, including some famous Roman Catholic saints, died of the treatment. I would consider that doing harm. OK, you say, but doctors realized their mistake and now don't do that anymore. I'm relieved that at least that's not one of the many risks I might face should I show up at a doctor's office, but it's hardly the only harmful prescription to their names.

At another time in history (and right now I'm just writing--maybe I'll go in later and fill in all my sources), many women were dying in childbirth or shortly after from "childbed fever." This form of maternal mortality began after doctors started taking over the practice of delivering babies from midwives who were actually doing quite well. Anyway, doctors who attended laboring women had this ego trip about how dirty their hands got. They would go from one woman to the other, and sometimes stop at the pathology lab or morgue in between such visits, and never once wash their hands. The women got infected and many of them died. A Jewish man (I don't know if he was a doctor himself or not) dared to suggest that doctors should wash their hands in between patients. He was ridiculed, impuned, and pretty much run out of the medical profession for that. It wasn't until fifty years later that doctors made it a practice to regularly wash their hands. How many people under physicians' care during those fifty years suffered and died needlessly as a result of that kind of arrogance?

Today, most people at least give lip service to the fact that breast milk is by far superior to formula as nutrition for infants. Actually, a more accurate way to put it is that formula is far inferior to breast milk. Babies deprived of breast milk can expect to experience more ear infections, more allergies, poorer health (and a whole list of other ailments) than their breastfed counterparts, all else being equal. And who was it that got mothers to abandon breastfeeding in favor of an inadequate substitute? Why doctors or course. Doctors started telling women that formula was better for their babies, that they weren't making enough milk for their babies, and so forth. To back that up, hospital procedures surrounding birth were making breastfeeding extremely difficult, so the women who believed their doctors were not just being gullible; they were being robbed of their God-given right to nourish their children, and they and their children suffered for it. About half of the women of about age 60 that I know have told me their doctors told them they couldn't breastfeed for various lame reasons. Did doctors honestly believe that a full half of the female population couldn't perform a basic female function? I doubt many of them even thought of it, which I do not find reassuring.

And what about C-sections? The current national C-section rate is 29 percent. So, I'm supposed to believe almost one third of the female population is incapable of another basic function, childbirth? No, the truth is many C-sections, which are major abdominal surgeries, are performed unnecessarily, and those unnecessary surgeries do cause harm. And who does C-sections? Doctors, of course. And this doesn't even delve into all the idiotic and harmful interventions doctors routinely do to women giving birth in hospitals and to their babies. Entire books have been written on the subject; feel free to look it up.

And once women are past the childbearing age, then they'd better hold onto their wombs for dear life. In America, nearly one third of women over the age of sixty have had hysterectomies and many of these women have also had their ovaries removed as well. The most common reason for a hysterectomy is the presence of uterine fibroids, benign but annoying tumors that grow in the walls of the uterus, and most of which will shrink during menopause. Why do uterine fibroids lead to removing the entire organ, and possibly the entire female reproductive system? Because it's easier to cut out the whole uterus than to carefully cut out the tumors. Why should doctors be bothered with a tedious surgery to cut out tumors rather than just get rid of it all? They seem to have this notion that if you're no longer bearing children, then you don't need a uterus. Actually, the uterus produces all kinds of important hormones that help a woman weather the transition to menopause and beyond. No problem, the doctors say. We'll just put her on hormone replacement therapy. I'm sure I don't need to go into what a fiasco HRT has turned out to be. First do no harm. My foot!

If hysterectomies have become a right of passage for women on the brink of menopause, let's take a look at male infant circumcision, one of the most common and useless surgeries performed on infant boys. According to Dr. Fleiss, an MD who writes for NOCIRC, circumcision traditionally was never accepted as something civilized people do. As the Roman empire was expanding into areas where circumcision was practiced for religious reasons, it outlawed the practice. The Catholic Church also came down against circumcision early on. I personally find it interesting that it was one of the very first issues to be decided on by the early Christians and they determined it was not something to be imposed on converting Gentiles. Circumcision made a comeback in America during a time when everyone was worried about boys masturbating. Someone thought circumcising those boys would put a halt to their masturbation and voila, the practice became acceptable again. When it became clear that circumcision did not mitigate masturbation, rather than give up the practice, the medical community started coming up with medical reasons to do it, all of which have since been proven to be hogwash. My favorite is the claim that it's more sanitary. Sure, let's make an open wound on a sensitive area and then regularly expose it to poopy diapers for the next year; yup, that's much more sanitary than leaving well enough alone. Only a doctor could see the logic in that!

Going back to breastfeeding and the abandonment thereof, this lead almost directly to the widespread use of contraception. Women who on average can space out their children every two years by breastfeeding now had their fertility return early and found themselves pregnant every year and with more children too quickly than they could handle. Rather than encourage them to return to breastfeeding, they were encouraged to take contraceptives instead. Several very convincing arguments have been made for the wide acceptance of contraception being responsible for many of the sexual perversions and other social ills that we now find ourselves facing. I can't go into them now as they would make for their own post, but more information can be found on the Couple to Couple League website. But general social ills notwithstanding, even people who have no quarrel with contraceptives in principle (I happen to, being Catholic) will agree that many of them carry serious side effects, most of which are not fully disclosed to women being offered the contraceptives. The Pill alone has been implicated in several cancers, infertility, permanent migraines, and at least three pages of fine print of other side effects. Tubal ligations are just as risky, with 37% of women reporting complications from the procedure, notably tubal pregnancies, one of the few cases where even adamant prolifers are forced to support the decision to abort, as the baby has no chance and the mother is likely to not survive either--a heartbreaking and dangerous situation for women finding themselves in that predicament. Anyway, contraceptives have caused harm and the medical profession has pushed them.

The detereoration of my own views of modern medicine as beneficial, or at the very least, benign, began while I was pregnant with the MunchK and some friends encouraged me and Crazy Diamond to fully investigate the vaccine issue. We did and were surprised by what we found. This too could make its own blog post, or entire blog for that matter, so I will only summarize and encourage you to investigate the issue for yourself especially if you have or will have babies or young children. In a nutshell, pretty much every benefit that has been purported to be brought about by vaccination has come under heavy fire, and for good reason, as there is much evidence to the contrary. As an example, take thimerosal, a mercury-derived preservative in many vaccines. Many people have attributed thimerosal to the recent nearly 600 percent increase in the rates of autism and related neural disorders among children. The jury is still out on that one as it's actually quite difficult to determine causation in that situation. However, whenever people have injected thimerosal into rats or mice, the animals have gotten brain damaged. If you inject thimerosal into ten mice, you will be left with ten brain damaged mice. The people who actually do these animal tests say there is no good reason (see bottom or page 3 in linked article) to believe that when you inject thimerosal into a human infant, that infant will not also get brain damaged. And yet, thimerosal-laced vaccines are routinely injected into infants and their unsuspecting parents assume their infants are being protected, not harmed. Doctors tell them they should give their kids shots, so they do. Unless someone tells them otherwise, as was the fortunate case for us.

Going back to why I refuse to take antibiotics for a sinus infection. My understanding is that antibiotics were extremely useful in treating war wounds and some very serious bacterial infections like pneumonia. We're talking fatal if left untreated pneumonia. Under those circumstances, I might even think antibiotics are a good idea. The problem is that they get overprescribed, and you can take them for viral head colds, ear infections, strep throat, sinusitis, and anything else you can imagine--things that our bodies are perfectly capable of dealing with on their own given fluids, rest, and maybe some extra immune support. Taking antibiotics for these can cause all sorts of problems, like diarrhea, yeast infections, killing off of all the good bacteria in our bodies--all of which would be trivial if your life is threatened by an infection, but which can start an unnecessary vicious cycle otherwise. Also, many of the infectious bacteria, including the more virulent kind, have grown resistant to common antibiotics due to their constant exposure to them. And yet who prescribes antibiotics for everything under the sun? Doctors do, and in this case patients do at times demand it and put pressure on the doctors to prescribe. Yet doctors have means to refuse to prescribe stuff that is not indicated and they don't always use those means as they should.

I could probably think of other examples of doctors having caused harm rather than good to the people who trust them to treat them for their ailments, but I think there's enough here. Doctor-induced illness and death is actually something that has been statistically measured, and while I do not know the exact ranking, iatrogenic (doctor-induced) deaths rank right up there with the top killers: cancer, heart disease, car accidents. Doctors indeed have a long history of harming, not helping, their patients. And we have a long history of placing way too much trust in them. In fact, as a society, I would say we have an idolatrous relationship with modern medicine. Doctors are treated as if they carry god-like stature and their word is considered the final authority on people's health and well-being. If you don't believe me, take any health issue concerning your children that you are at odds with the in-laws about, and then tell them your kid's doctor backs you up and watch them fall right into line. Modern medicine is looked on in much the same way Jesus was when he was walking around performing miracles--with unqualified awe and wonder.

I must, in the defense of doctors, add that doctors are not alone in this blatant violation of the trust society has placed in them. Doctors are part of an entire institution known as modern medicine that consists of the medical schools, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the politicians on both sides of the aisle who rely on these companies for campaign and party contributions, and the government who also is acting out of vested interests beyond our health. Books have been written about this too, and they make a fascinating read. Many doctors have the best of intentions and are caught in the throes of a system they do not understand and which is far more powerful than they are, and they do not have complete information either (although the truly good ones try to seek it out). For the most part I don't have quarrels with individual doctors, but I do not believe the institution of modern medicine to have my family's best interests at heart. Still, I do not blindly trust even our wonderful family doctor. I do the research myself and try to use the least invasive way to treat a bug that I can find--most of those treatments I will not learn about at the doctor's office. I must also state a disclaimer that since I am not citing all my sources, you, the reader, should not take me at my word, but look up the information and decide on this for yourself. See the relevant links at the bottom of this post.

So, given all the harm that modern medicine has caused people--the unnecessary surgeries, the bogus reccommendations, the arrogance with which many who question those reccommendations are treated--is it really such a huge step that this same institution, with many doctors who represent it, would also promote abortion, euthanasia, and recently, the cruel public starvation of an innocent, disabled woman? Is it really such a surprise that those representative doctors would use whatever lies they needed to in order to foist their agenda of death onto the unsuspecting public?

No, it really is not a big step, or a big surprise. It certainly isn't to me anymore.

For more information, visit some of these websites:

Abortion
Euthanasia
Starvation and dehydration
Circumcision
Vaccines another interesting article here.
Contraception
Childbirth
More technical info on childbirth
Natural Mothering
Breastfeeding
An interesting article on why we trust modern medicine so much
Hysterectomies
one of many alternative medicine websites
Thimerosal and autism
More on Thimerosal and autism

Also check out Confessions of a Medical Heretic and Male Practice by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn
Many more books and much more information can be found by doing a search on amazon and/or google.

Back again? I hope so.

I'm starting to get more ideas for things to post on this blog. For anyone who has been checking back periodically, you can tell we haven't been keeping up as well as we should. We've also attracted a fair amount of comment spam. If you are a spammer, go away. For those of you who have left legitimate comments that we haven't responded to because we haven't seen them, our apologies, and please do come back. I'm working on an actual post now and hope to have more in the future. I'm hoping Crazy Diamond has some ideas of his own too.

I'm not sure what path this blog will take in the coming months. I honestly thought it might have died with Terri, and part of it did, in a way. I expect we'll be airing our opinions about controversial subjects (some current and some not so current). I can't promise we'll be keeping up with politics per se, so unless we get involved in another specific issue, as we did in the fight to save Terri's life, this probably won't be much of a political blog. But I'm sure it will be controversial. Mostly, I hope subjects we bring up here will trigger independent thought and the desire to check out the issues for yourself and make your own decisions. There are a lot of things that we take for granted that we really need to be thinking about more, and possibly not trusting as much.

I also do want to use this blog in part to keep Terri Schindler's memory alive and make sure no one who reads what we write ever forgets what was done to her. Please continue to keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. While no doubt many have moved on to other issues and perhaps even forgotten all about Terri--she's certainly not "news" anymore--please understand that the pain her family is experiencing won't go away so quickly. It may never go away. You don't have a daughter and sister starved to death right in front of you and get over that anytime soon.

With all that said, I will go back to working on my first actual post in over six months--this one will definitely be controversial. I hope to have you all visit here again soon.