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Women's Birthing Rights, Women's Bodies

Convergences: the Rights of Children, Disabled People, and the Other Than “Normal”


There’s an interesting convergence going on right now– we’ve got people in the Ashley treatment thread talking about the ethics of preventing puberty forever and of other invasive “treatments” and procedures performed on infants and children, and we’ve got people on the”I Am a Monster” thread talking about the ethics of “delaying” puberty, or beginning the processes of sexual reassignment on children, some of them as young as nine.  

I’ll just say it.  I don’t think it’s ever right, not ever, to perform these surgeries or to use these “treatments” on babies, children or teenagers.  Not ever, not for any reason at all.  I admit to being unreasonable about this, but my unreasonableness doesn’t come from just nowhere, it comes from a deep awareness of what is in these procedures for drug companies, for doctors, hospitals, the medical establishment, and what’s in it for gender loyalists, as well, which would be pretty much all of the patriarchal medical establishment, and what’s in it for white male heterosupremacists.  My unreasonableness also comes from having born and raised 11 children.

I don’t think it’s ever right to circumicize an infant.  Can the infant give consent?  No.  Is there anything wrong with the penises of most infants?  No.  Then there is no reason to cut, and it’s wrong for parents to, whether they do it so their child will “look like” his dad or other boys (horrible reason!), whether it might “prevent” “infections” down the line (soap and water are just fine), whether it will lessen transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (let’s teach our children about non-penetrative sex and and all of the many, many, wonderful, non-heterosexual-intercourse, forms of  intimacy instead.  Please!).  The child cannot consent.  Hands off.

I don’t think it’s right to immunize children, either, without their consent.  I think it is completely wrong to immunize infants, especially the way it is done now, with a gigantic laundry list of agents for a huge number of diseases, all of these agents forced into the bodies of babies weighing 10, 15, 20 pounds.  We have no *way* of knowing the long term effects of these new immunizations, in particular.  Of course, as with now, when mothers realize how deeply their children have been harmed by the immunizations they received as babies, the medical establishment will then insist the parents are wrong, it’s all in their heads,  there is some other cause, the immunizations are safe,  and given the medical establishment’s monopoly on “truth,” given its power and money, well, it will be hard to argue.  And so there will be all of these people with all sorts of problems because they were immunized  — allergies, immune deficiency diseases, so called, especially —  who become so many more people for the medical establishment to “treat,” even though it is the “treatments” which caused the problems to begin with.

I don’t believe in “well baby” care either.   I don’t believe in taking babies regularly to doctors so it can be determined if their weight and height are “normal,” if their “progress” is “normal,” if their cognitive faculties or development are “normal,” because if there isn’t all of this beloved and worshipped “normalcy,” one of several things will happen:  (1) parents — almost always mothers — will be suspected of negligence or abuse, especially if they are poor, of color, have many children, have biracial children,  are disabled, are immigrants; (2) children will be subjected to sometimes invasive “treatments” for this lack of “normalcy” and if parents refuse them, see number 1;  (3) children get sick when they are exposed to all the sick kids at the doctor’s office when they go for for their “well-baby” (!) visits;  (4) the visits are expensive, parents without insurance can’t afford them, but when they don’t get them, see number (1).

Sensitive, caring parents know when their kids need help.  They know this by the way their child behaves — significantly differently than the way she usually behaves — or by fevers, crying, sadness, depression, dramatic changes in behavior or sleep patterns.  They know when a child seems to not hear or see well or when she is unhappy.  Negligent parents may miss these things, but “well baby” visits won’t solve the problem of negligent parents, and even if they do in some cases, they create more problems than they solve. 

Then, too, what do we communicate to children when, after having told them they have a right to say “no” to being touched by strangers or to anything a stranger does to them that is uncomfortable, we force them to submit to the touch and other actions of strangers because the strangers are “experts” and “doctors”?  We are teaching them, in fact, that they cannot expect their having said “no” to be respected, that despite all we’ve told them about that, well, it’s completely arbitrary.  Some adults may just freely touch them or do whatever they want and they must submit themselves no matter how they feel. 

This idea that science and medicine exist to create or protect what white male heterosupremacy defines as “normal” is a destructive idea and the practices justified by it are violating, dehumanizing and wrong.  There is no  such thing as a “normal” girl that the theoretically “non-normal” should or can be “turned into” via surgeries and hormones and treatments.  There is no such thing as a “normal” boy, either.  There are just human beings in all of their infinite, amazing, beautiful diversity and uniqueness, which the world will completely miss, which we will all miss out on, if we keep approving and endorsing “treatments” which view uniqueness or straying from the “normal,” as set forth on pie charts and graphs and statistical tables established overwhelmingly by non-disabled white, privileged males,  as “abnormality”.  Using surgeries and hormones prophylactically, in order to “prevent” possible or theoretical problems in the future, is destructive and wrongheaded, not only because of the risks and side-effects of these prophylactic “treatments,” but because again, babies and children can’t consent to them, teenagers can’t give adult consent, and we don’t know what a child, a baby, a teenager might want, five, 10, 15, 20 years from now when she is grown,  or how she might feel about what was done to her when she is an adult.  If he or she has been subjected to circumcision, or to the Ashley treatment or to the sexual reassignment treatments advocated for by people like Lynn Conway, or similar invasive treatments prescribed or performed for any reason at all, and  he or she would not have wanted or consented or approved of them as an adult, too bad. Too late now.  There is no turning back.  To me, this is a total and complete violation of the human and civil rights of children, the disabled, the theoretically “not normal.”

I think there is one and only one time when medical procedures should be performed on a person, including a baby, without their consent:  when they are in imminent danger of losing their life.  When, without the intervention, they would clearly die.  I am talking about grabbing a person who has stepped in front of a car in order to get them safely out of the way, or inserting feeding tubes in someone who cannot feed themselves, or applying the Heimlich maneuver or other procedures when someone might die because they are choking.  In these instances, consent can be assumed; we can (and should) always assume, absent clear statements to the contrary, that people would consent to having their lives saved.  Beyond that, I think everybody’s hands and hormones and surgeries and procedures and preventive measures ought to be kept severely off of and away from the bodies of babies, children and teenagers and anyone who cannot give consent to them, no matter how “abnormal” they are in the eyes of rich and powerful men and institutions who have been defining “normal” for far too many thousands of years by now.




57 thoughts on “Convergences: the Rights of Children, Disabled People, and the Other Than “Normal”

  1. Heart,

    I agree with this. I would also include the setting of broken bones.

    My daughter was *totally* suspicious of any non-food objects that I suggested that she take into her body, from an early age. I never forced any on her.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | January 25, 2007, 3:32 pm
  2. Just realized: to clarify, I think that broken bones need to be set for a child, whether or not they understand what the procedure is about.

    Drat the English language.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | January 25, 2007, 3:33 pm
  3. Wow, Heart. I hear you. I was musing on all the bullshit doctors have told me when I read this. They get you though where you are most vulnerable -with your children. It is scary.

    Posted by rhondda | January 25, 2007, 4:25 pm
  4. Heart, this is wonderful. Thank you for speaking out against organized medicine. So many feminists don’t realize exactly how harmful and anti-feminist, anti-PERSON, it is.

    Two points:
    1) Loved your last post on abortion too–amazing list of resources!–but want to point out that surgical abortion relies heavily on the conventions of western medicine. I don’t think women should have to go through unwanted pregnancies, at all, but I do deplore the fact that our options are so limited, and would like feminists (particularly straight feminists) to come up with more woman-centered alternatives, including redefining sexuality (as you allude to in your post here) so that het intercourse, the cause of unwanted as well as wanted pregnancies, is no longer the featured attraction of sexuality for straight people. Women should have the autonomy, starting with sexual activity and going right up to terminating a pregnancy, to determine whether they’re willing to take the risk of becoming a mother. If not, we should have the right to receive and offer sexual satisfaction in ways that don’t run that risk.

    2) “I am talking about grabbing a person who has stepped in front of a car in order to get them safely out of the way [snip] In these instances, consent can be assumed; we can (and should) always assume, absent clear statements to the contrary, that people would consent to having their lives saved.”

    This made me think of a scene in “The Bridge,” a film I saw recently, where a man “saves” a woman from jumping off the Golden Gate bridge by bodily hauling her up over the railing by the back of her jacket. The film interviews him, not her. The visual, to a feminist, is incredibly disturbing–very assaultive and evocative of male violence against women–as is the way this man talks about his action and his assumptions about the woman’s state of mind. So I think this particular bit is a gray area for me–I think there is more exploring to do of the value of staying alive, at least for people with mental illness or who are suicidal. Which I know is not what you were referring to. This is just what it reminded me of.

    Overall this is a fantastic post, I love it.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | January 25, 2007, 6:36 pm
  5. Amy and Heart, this is great, to find there are other feminists out there thinking about healthcare delivery to women, not only reproductive healthcare although as women, we cannot get away from that, het or not. It’s been a thin thin sideline on some blogs, but no real focus. I do wish some blogger (cough) would focus on it.

    Posted by Pony | January 25, 2007, 6:42 pm
  6. Thanks Mary, Rhondda, Amy and Pony!

    I so agree with you re the crappy options for women with unwanted pregnancies, Amy. I sort of posted that list of resources with a vengeance– many came directly from the Aradia website (linked at the bottom), and I am so freaking sad that Aradia is closing, I sort of felt like, “Here, look! Look what’s closing down!” I think there has to, increasingly, be a focus on non-penis-in-vagina/penis-in-mouth/penis-in-anywhere sex for het girls/women or girls/women who have sex with men, and I think the possibilities of pregnancy and STDs are only one of many reasons for that. The first reason is to challenge heterosupremacy, and then a bunch of other bases flow from that one, the cool thing is, girls and women can *only* benefit from thinking about these other forms of sexual expression/intimacy all the way a total revisioning of het sexuality.

    The film interviews him, not her. The visual, to a feminist, is incredibly disturbing–very assaultive and evocative of male violence against women–as is the way this man talks about his action and his assumptions about the woman’s state of mind. So I think this particular bit is a gray area for me–

    Yeah– I completely agree and was considering saying something about this too– I’m glad you did. I agree it’s kind of a gray area.

    So pony, when are you going to start blogging on healthcare delivery to women? 😛


    Posted by womensspace | January 25, 2007, 7:47 pm
  7. Wonderful post! I always love reading your work, Heart, but I do have one question about this post: no immunizations on infants. Do you mean no immunizations ever, or just up until a certain age? Babies are protected by their mothers’ antibodies through breast feeding, but only for six months.
    Should children be much older than six months before getting immunized, or are you saying that children much younger than six months ARE getting immunized these days, and that’s wrong, etc?

    Posted by Chloe | January 25, 2007, 10:54 pm
  8. Hey, Chloe, thanks for your kind words. 🙂

    Well, my unpopular, I realize, opinion is, no immunizations at all. Sorry! But fwiw, I did not immunize after my fifth child who is now 24; my younger six through age 22 were never immunized. My 22 year old did get immunizations when she went off to college, but she was an adult of course, and it was her call. Washington allows parents to exempt their children from immunizations just on principle. You just have to say you object to them and fill out a form.

    If I did immunize my kids, I would, as you say, wait until they were six months old at least (assuming they were breastfed), preferably a year, I would only allow the safer immunizations (i.e., for tetanus) and the non-invasive ones (oral polio), and I would work very hard to obtain my child’s consent, which might not be possible, but I would try very hard to get it, and if I couldn’t, I wouldn’t immunize until I could. I don’t think immunizations can be lumped together — some are much safer and have been in use much longer than others and have proven to be, in general, not dangerous. But many are really very questionable all the way to imo dangerous, and I can’t believe the laundry list that is recommended now! GEEZ.

    Thanks again for the good words.


    Posted by womensspace | January 25, 2007, 11:22 pm
  9. I’ll put my two penn’orth in here about immunisation as well: the benefits far outweigh the risks. In fact I’d say for most of the world it is one of the vital components of public health along with sanitation, antiseptics/biotics and reproductive care.

    You can get away with not immunising your children if you either live a very isolated life or if you simply rely on the herd immunity afforded by the fact that most others do immunise.

    I’m not saying that vaccinations can’t be improved, but the alternative – the consequences of childhood measles, rubella and so on are much, much worse.

    Posted by therealUK | January 26, 2007, 12:08 pm
  10. Well– I disagree with that therealUK. I know that’s what is taught and that is what most people believe,and I know that to challenge it is very unpopular. But that’s another thread for another day.


    Posted by womensspace | January 26, 2007, 1:20 pm
  11. Well, I had the measles, the mumps, ruebella, the chicken pox, the Hong Kong flu, and various other assorted delights when I was a little kid — and look how I turned out? I’m now a radical lesbian feminist separatist. 😛

    It no doubt came from huddling in those make-shift tents my brothers and I made, so we could fend our space off with cap guns from the invading dinosaurs. “It” being the RF separatist part, not the contagious diseases. 😛

    Posted by Luckynkl | January 26, 2007, 1:59 pm
  12. I think the issue of immunization is a complicated one involving questions of the right of the state vs the right of parents to make medical decisions for children, the validity of the science of immunization, the health of the individual vs the health of society at large, bioethical issues, all of which of course interesect with feminist concerns. My children are both adults now. I had them immunized when they were children. At the time I did not question western medicine. I do now. If I had young children I do not know what I would decide but I do know that I would at the very least question the practice of immunization just like I question all medical practice before deciding whether or not it makes sense.

    I also agree with Amy that we need to look at the assumption that valuing life above all else needs to be questioned. While we are questioning that I think the concept of “mental illness” needs to be questioned along with it, you know those crazy people who decide to illegally end their own lives. Thomas Szasz (The myth of Mental Illness among other books) says the history of psychiatry is a history of coercion and that mental illness is a political category not a scientific one. I would agree. Just another topic that needs to be discussed when discussing how power is used by the medical establishment to define and control people in general and those classified “women” in particular, along with those named “children”.

    Posted by jfr | January 26, 2007, 3:55 pm
  13. ***the consequences of childhood measles, rubella and so on are much, much worse.***

    I had childhood measles and rubella and nothing happened to me beyond these self limiting illnesses themselves. Not that you can generalize from a sample of one – just sayin’.

    Posted by Branjor | January 26, 2007, 4:15 pm
  14. No attempted solution to the matter of immunization can be universal, because circumstances vary so greatly.

    However, here’s what I did:

    Took the baby to her first “pedi” appointment, then my instincts said “no more”.

    When she was 5 (by then she had successfully weathered chickenpox) and was to go to school, I asked her if she would *like* to receive immunizations. Gave her the choice. I can’t remember what her answer was, but whatever it was, that was what she got.

    Now, in those days the only immunizations being given were Smallpox, Diptheria, Whooping Cough, and Polio.

    She’s 39 now.


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | January 26, 2007, 4:55 pm
  15. Thomas Szasz is a long-time favorite of mine, one of the “good guys.”

    I really like and agree with what you said there about immunizations, jfr. Other issues I think about are issues around colonialism, imperialism. Some theorize that it is immunizations which are responsible for AIDS in Africa, because of the widespread practice in the 80s of re-using needles, the theory being that it was better to immunize even with dirty needles (because there weren’t enough clean needles or ways to sterilize them all) than not to immunize at all. Now we have the white man as conquering hero (Gates Foundation) supplying vaccines to areas suffering from certain diseases in part because of colonialism. When you get right down to nuts and bolts, this is white men using needles to inject substances into colonized peoples and being lauded for it– it is something worth thinking deeply about.

    Interesting the way some of us view some of these diseases which are immunized against! I, too, had chickenpox, measles, mumps. My kid all had chickenpox because the vaccine for that came after I’d stopped immunizing. Natural immunities against disease are far superior to immunities received via immunizations.


    Posted by womensspace | January 26, 2007, 5:01 pm
  16. Yeah, Mary– that’s my preference. When children are old enough to understand immunizations, they can decide for themselves whether they want them. Some will, some won’t, some will want some. I have a huge concern around forcing screaming children to submit themselves to these sticks and other violations by strangers, given that we teach them they never have to do that. Except when they do. :/


    Posted by womensspace | January 26, 2007, 5:04 pm
  17. Wow – no kidding! I just *HATED* that wooden tongue depressor that the doctor used to look down my throat. It made me scared for days when I knew that my mother was taking me to the doctor. My gag reflex was very strong and the strength of it terrified me while it was happening.


    Maybe that’s why I never wanted to take my daughter to the pediatrician.

    And oh yes – who in their 60’s now doesn’t remember standing in that long, snaking, shuffling line of terrified kids waiting to get our shots?


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | January 26, 2007, 5:59 pm
  18. Heart – This is what I am thinking right now, not fully worked out but asking to be stated anyway and I am ever obedient to these calls from my head and heart.

    We need to be viewing medicine as embedded within culture and not pure science, that is assumed to be objective and universally correct. Scientific knowledge is privileged above all else in this western patriarchal culture of ours. I think one of the important accomplishments of recent feminism has been the way in which feminists have exposed the cultural biases of the scientific method. As long as we consider science objective, importing it to other cultures is going to be viewed as unequivocally good, like better to vaccinate even if the needles are dirty than to not vaccinate. So whether or not its true that aids in Africa was exacerbated by vaccinations with dirty needles by do-gooders, the general attitude that western science knows best because it is objective must be questioned over and over again. It is not objective. It is not true for all times and all places. We need to questions its intentions, its assumptions, its conclusions and its efficacy. It’s not all bad but it sure ain’t all good. Ignoring the context in which we act is always a bad idea.

    Posted by jfr | January 26, 2007, 6:24 pm
  19. Mary – I am 58 and I remember those long lines for shots. I remember getting the polio vaccine when it first came out. It was summertime in the early 50’s and I was at day camp. One of the counselors had gotten polio, so I remember both the vaccinations and the epidemic. I also remember students and teacher through the years with heavy braces on their legs and crutches and images of iron lungs on tv and in magazines. I guess it’s memories like these that lead me to question immunizations but not simply dismiss them as all bad.

    My father was a doctor, one of the last of the gp’s, with an office in the house. As a doctor’s daughter I was not allowed to scream and yell and generally carry on when faced with a shot or any other medical procedure. Of course I did not have the added fear of a scary doctor’s visit and context is important. Now I am a “good patient”. It’s almost a knee jerk response on my part. Sometimes I wish I would act up. I really get tired of the good girl stuff.

    Posted by jfr | January 26, 2007, 6:41 pm
  20. Really good thoughts, jfr.

    Re polio, I remember people who had braces on their legs because of polio, too when I was young. One interesting thing– until not so long ago virtually the only cases of polio in the U.S. were caused by caregivers changing the diapers of babies who had just received live polio vaccine! The vaccine has changed now and no longer includes live vaccine.


    Posted by womensspace | January 26, 2007, 7:36 pm
  21. I was immunized for polio, smallpox, and tetanus…and whooping cough, and diptheria, and measles, and I think that is it. I got rubella, chicken pox, mumps, Hong Kong flu, etc., and I am none the worse for them.

    My friend caught polio when she was six weeks old. It was on a ‘well baby’ visit. She would have been more ‘well’ had she not had the visit. She never walked. Ironic, eh?

    I think limited vaccination can be a good thing – I’m glad about the polio / smallpox / tetanus, for sure – and I’d have died as a child without penicillin (for pneumonia), I am pretty sure. But it is way overdone now.

    The first time I visited a developing country for an extended period of time, I had to get a bunch of vaccinations for insurance purposes. I’d still consider them for yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid, if I were *sure* I was at real risk. They’re deadly diseases.

    But those tropical vaccinations I took have long since been out of date, and I never renewed them. I have never gotten sick, either, and most people in the countries I visit are not vaccinated for *everything*, either. (They’re careful about hygiene, often moreso than I see people being here.)

    Posted by profacero | January 26, 2007, 8:15 pm
  22. Yeah, profacero, so true– for every person who gets sick because they weren’t immunized, who knows how many got sick because they (or someone else) were! It was bad, too– a lot of pressure had to be applied to the various decision-making groups to get them to knock it off with the live polio vaccine, even though that vaccine was causing the ONLY polio in the U.S. at the time.

    One thing bad: one of my daughters had to get all the traveling abroad vacations for a trip to Romania she made years ago, probably 10 years ago now. She was working in a street clinic for homeless orphans. Because of some immunization she got, and I can’t recall which it is now, she can no longer work with children in the U.S. because she tests “positive” for whatever the disease is– just because she got the vacine. :/


    Posted by womensspace | January 26, 2007, 8:22 pm
  23. Compulsory sterilisation on Wikipedia:

    “Alberta Eugenics Board

    The most notorious sterilization program in Canadian history was afforded via the passing of the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act of 1928. From the years 1928 to 1972, sterilizations, both compulsory and optional, were performed on nearly 3000 “unfit” individuals of varying ages and ethnicities. In total, over 2800 procedures were performed. Initially, the act only provisioned sterilizations where consent was given by the subject or legal guardian of the subject, depending on the competency of the individual scheduled to undergo the operation. The 1937 amendment to the act allowed for sterilizations to be carried out without consent in the case of those deemed mentally defective. Sterilization of individuals deemed mentally ill still required consent. At the end of World War II, while other eugenic sterilization programs were being phased out, Alberta continued on, even increasing the scope of eligibility for sterilizations. They continued until 1972, when approximately 50 persons were operated upon.

    Targeted Sterilization?
    Not surprisingly, youths, minorities, and women were sterilized in disproportionately high numbers.”

    {snip the rest}


    And from the Canadian Encyclopedia:

    “The word “eugenics” is derived from the Greek word meaning “well born.” It was first used in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, who founded the eugenics movement in England in 1904. The movement focused on both positive and negative eugenics, though with greater emphasis on the latter. Positive eugenics included the encouragement of procreation by individuals and groups who were viewed as possessing desirable characteristics and genes, thereby improving and strengthening the overall gene pool of society. Negative eugenics involved discouraging and decreasing procreation by individuals and groups who were viewed as having inferior or undesirable characteristics and genes.**

    The goal of negative eugenics was pursued by a number of different methods aimed at limiting the capacity and opportunity for procreation, including sexual sterilization, marriage prohibition, segregation and institutionalization.”


    January is the anniversary of the 1996 court award to Lealani Muir, who as a teen was sterilisied without her consent. She was a ward of the court, deemed “slow”. Ms. Muir was self-supporting at the time she pursued recompense. She was one of hundreds, if not thousands sterilised without their consent in Canada up to 1972.

    It was 1973 before Canada stopped sterilizing people in their care whom they judged unfit. You really want to read this, it’s sickening. A lot of women backed this including three of the five women who took the Persons Case to the British supreme court, because at that time, women were not considered persons. Some women, apparently, weren’t until almost 50 years later.


    And in other proud Canadian history:

    “Friday, January 19 – Unbelievably, a 16-year-old girl was the first person to be executed in Canada in 1649. She had been found guilty of theft.

    Posted by Pony | January 26, 2007, 8:22 pm
  24. This just gets worse and worse. From the Wikipedia Leilani Muir site:

    “Leilani’s childhood was a difficult one in which she was born into a family where she was largely unwanted. Having an often inebriated mother who at many times withheld food from her, Leilani reportedly maintained an average performance in school with the only alleged problem being that of her stealing food. As Leilani aged, her mother tried to find ways to remove her from the family. At the age of eight, Leilani was placed in the Midnapore Convent for a short-lived month by her mother. Then, in 1953, Leilani’s mother sent an application to the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives (a.k.a the Michener Center) in Red Deer, Alberta. At that time Leilani was rejected due to a high volume of patients, but she was later accepted on July 12, 1955, shortly before her 11th birthday. Leilani was accepted into the school solely on the basis of information provided from her mother, withhout any diagnostic testing. Yet, before Leilani could be accepted into PTS, one of the preconditions that had to be met was that of a signature from a guardian permitting the legal enforcement of compulsory sterilization. Under the name Harley Scorah, Leilani’s mother used her then boyfriend’s (future husband’s) name to agree to the sterilization of her daughter. Leilani saw her mother only intermittently over the years until her departure from the school at the age of 20.”

    Posted by Pony | January 26, 2007, 9:13 pm
  25. This is all very interesting, and I would love to someday see a post by you all about immunizations and the whole medical deal behind it, Heart. You seem to know all this hidden information no one knows about. Are there books about it we can find somewhere?

    I was under the impression that if you don’t get vaccinated you would die from something as simple as a cold, like in the previous centuries because your immune system wouldn’t have those antibodies in it.
    That’s probably not true, but on the whole I would rather have a failsafe protection against those past nasties like tuberculosis, measles and such.

    I remember I actually liked getting my shots when I was a child. I have a very high pain tolerance and laughed whenever the needle went in my arm. . I thought it tickled. I did get chicken pox when I was a child, but the only serious diseases I ever caught after being immunized was a debilitating flu virus or two, and the annual colds. I have no allergies (accept two medicinal ones) and my immune system may as well be a solid iron fortress considering how rarely I get sick. The past few years I used to just get a cold once each time, but recently it’s been well over a year and I haven’t gotten sick once.

    Of course, I’m sure I could just be an exception, but I feel like being immunized really benefitted me. When I was an infant I suffered a feveral convulsion and was hospitalized with a fever of 107 degrees. I had to be given a spinal tap to make sure I didn’t have menengitis, which I didn’t fortunately, but ever since then I’ve never been that sick in my life.

    Posted by Chloe | January 26, 2007, 9:49 pm
  26. NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center)

    Article, “In the Wake of Vaccines”

    Chloe, this information has been out and about for a very long time, but we’re in a time of expert-worship right now, where people equate doing what “experts” say with being “responsible” and so it’s seemed to me that over the last thirty years, people have been less and less interested in questioning what experts tell them, especially experts who are scientists or doctors. Mothering magazine has been publishing articles about the dangers of vaccination for at least 30 years.

    was under the impression that if you don’t get vaccinated you would die from something as simple as a cold, like in the previous centuries because your immune system wouldn’t have those antibodies in it.

    Actually, it’s the reverse. The human body develops its own immunities over the years, often by having mild cases of various diseases, or just being exposed but never developing the diseases. People whose immune systems are not compromised by chronic illness, having to take certain kinds of medications, etc. can and do resist most illnesses without being immunized or vaccinated. Even during times of plagues, like cholera, the Black Plague, everybody didn’t die; some people died, many recovered, many didn’t get sick at all though they were also exposed to these diseases. There is a lot we don’t know about why some people develop diseases when they are exposed to them and others do not.

    Anti-vaccination people believe that not only do vaccines often directly harm people, they also tend to “dedicate” a person’s immune system such that the person may be immune to the exact diseases immunized against but might be more susceptible to diseases she has not been immunized against.


    Posted by womensspace | January 26, 2007, 10:09 pm
  27. It’s hard to believe when you’ve been told the opposite your whole life. .there has to be a way of weeding out the bad vaccines from the good ones, or being able to at least weigh the risks against the benefits. I’m pretty sure I don’t believe all that about vaccines causing autism. Being on the autism spectrum myself and knowing a lot of people who are, I think the reasons and causes of autism are so much more complex than can be explained by a simple vaccination gone bad. I actually view my own case of autism as a blessing even though it makes my life difficult sometimes, but I digress. .

    It’s interesting how you mention that we’re in a culture of “expert-worship” now, which I’m also aware of since having read “For Her Own Good” by Barbara Ehrenreich which is about exactly that: people blindly trusting the experts since they had “doctor” in front of their names and such, and how women were of course affected (negatively, as always) the most.
    I’m much more wary of doctors now.

    This whole vaccination business is quite something to think about, even though it won’t affect me very much since I don’t plan on having children, but I am planning on getting the HPV vaccine. Those other diseases (chicken pox, measles, etc) are curable, but in this case I’d be getting protected against something to which there is no cure.
    I will however, be asking my doctor what the ingredients in it are and if there have been any adverse reactions to the vaccine. 😀

    Posted by Chloe | January 27, 2007, 12:12 am
  28. It’s an interesting paradox: I am profoundly grateful for the scoliosis surgery I had, without which I wouldn’t be able to sit upright. But I am furious over the experimental meddling that had no concrete “goal” and basically ruined my knees. I honestly don’t think my mother had any idea (at the time) which surgery was the “good” one and which was the “bad” one. They were all presented as NECESSARY and GOOD. They guilt-tripped her into it, using the guilt she had over having a disabled child (CP) in the first place.

    As an adult, during a conversation with my mother about the whole sordid thing, she said angrily “They do that to all women!” (the guilt tripping)–and I made my first political connection between feminism, medicalization and my childhood.

    It’s nice to finally figure how shit happened, even if you can’t do anything about it now. But I hope people won’t let it happen again, to someone else. I intend to speak out against medicalization whenever given the chance, but I know I’m often dismissed as a crank (who happens to be a spazz, the easier to dismiss what I say).

    Great topic, Heart. Unlike many of your detractors, you take on issues in the real world, not the theoretical one.

    Posted by MrSoul | January 27, 2007, 12:18 am
  29. Childhood vaccines are less dangerous nowadays, since the FDA decided it had better phase out the use of the mercury compound thimerosal as a preservative, which has been a prime suspect in the epidemic of autism. It is still used in some vaccines, such as the flu shot, which to my mind is reckless at best. With all the consternation over mercury in fish, one would think doctors would not want to add to the body burden! Not to mention dentists with those amalgam fillings!

    There is considerable controversy over whether most vaccines actually do confer immunity, or if so, how long it lasts. There can be severe allergic reactions to vaccines. It has been alleged that sudden infant death syndrome is due to such reactions. It has also been alleged the epidemic of asthma in children is partly due to the overloading of their undeveloped immune systems. Most children apparently tolerate vaccines reasonably well, though whether they actually benefit in the long run is another matter. It is always difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a problem when so many factors come into play in this increasingly toxic environment. For a few vaccines, the benefits may indeed outweigh the risks, but in general, the benefits are oversold and the risks downplayed by those making tons of money off them, which is standard operating procedure for modern medicine.

    Posted by Aletha | January 27, 2007, 6:48 am
  30. Well done. COuld be fine-tuned perhaps but your heart was in the right place. DOn’t know what’s the right age to teach about non-heterosexual techniques , or did I miss something?

    Posted by Andrew | January 27, 2007, 7:04 am
  31. Amazing, wonderful and radical thoughts. It’s so important to hear loving and experienced opinions about childrearing and medicine from a feminist. I do think therealUK has a good point about the so-called “developing” world, and there are benefits of modern medicine. But your skepticism is well placed.

    As for consent, my sister and I are struggling with that issue with our aging, ill and sometimes not-too-reasonable mother. I’ve decided to err on the side of letting Mom determine what she wants to do, but it can be a tough call.

    Re. medicine, with so many anti-depressants being prescribed to women these days, we really need a feminist critique of that. I feel like they’re the new lobotomy.

    Posted by roamaround | January 27, 2007, 7:27 am
  32. This is a great discussion, very radical. So much has been discussed, maybe I shouldn’t throw any more irons into the fire, but I am wondering, what about neonatal intensive care units and organ transplants?

    Posted by Branjor | January 27, 2007, 3:33 pm
  33. They are the new lobotomy. I can’t say this is feminist critique, but it’s the latest, and here also, a website with good articles on neuroleptic drugs. The reason the finding is in people over 50 doesn’t mean this only happens in people over 50, it means that study was limited to that people of that age. Now, other studies will be done to see if this applies to younger persons.

    Antidepressants linked to bone fractures:
    “People aged 50 and older who took antidepressants, including Zoloft, Prozac and other top-sellers, faced double the risk of broken bones during five years of follow-up, compared with those who didn’t use the drugs, the study found.”


    This website is dedicated to an environmentalist, activist and Canadian politician who took his own life shortly after being put on PAXIL. The drug has since been investigated for causing suicides, shootings, killing sprees, you name it. Angela Bischoff, Gomberg’s life partner, has mounted an extraordinary campaign to educate people about neuroleptic drugs. The brochure on the right has articles by physicians and medical people very well known and respected in Canada. Angela recently returned from a Canada wide speaking tour about the dangers of PAXIL. She is a life-long environmental activist, as was Tooker.


    This website focuses on the harm drugs do, neurolptic drugs, drugs for autism etc. and the resistance of the medical profession to monitor itself:
    Section on harms. The site is more advocacy than medically proven but very worthwhile:

    This consumer website has evidence based medicine articles, which is often not what you are seeing in media. The information on this site is medically sound:

    Information about class actions, advocacy work, law suits against medical profession. Information about food hazards risks. Newsletter from registered dieticians debunking food myths:

    On the above site, a place where you can see if your doctor, or the doctor in an article you read in the NYTimes, is taking money from the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug he is praising:

    Public Citizen, protecting health safety and democracy, started by Ralph Nader some years ago.

    Posted by Pony | January 27, 2007, 5:10 pm
  34. Hey, SoulMan, I have detractors? 😛 Thanks for your good words, very interesting that early on your mom helped you to make the connection between the rights of women and medicalization and what you’d gone through as a child. It has to have been both enraging and empowering. I really appreciate what you’ve had to say here.

    Andrew, I think the thing to do re sexuality, sex education, is to never allow discussions of it to, for example, consist of the biology of male and female genitalia and reproduction, discussions of het intercourse, discussions of birth control and abortion, and discussion of STD’s as though that is what “sex” is. (!!) The discussion of sex and sexuality and the education around it has to be broadened to include discussion of sensuality and intimacy just in general, ideas about mutuality, about touch and pleasure, with the idea that the ways for human beings to be intimately connected are really limited only by their desires and imaginations. Viewed that way, it’s easy to see how impoverished the focus of the surrounding culture on genital sex really is; it becomes clear whose interests these ideas about “sex” serve and what the agenda of that focus really is.

    One of my favorite comments, I think to this thread, was blue’s(?), I think, where she said something like why shouldn’t Ashley, like all other women, have whatever sensual feelings she will have in her own body? Exactly right, why shouldn’t she? When sexuality and intimacy are viewed in this much broader way as not being about penises, vaginas, het intercourse, pregnancy and STD’s (!), it becomes very clear that sex doesn’t “belong” to heterosexual people who are biologically capable of het intercourse and reproduction, which is what sex was reduced to in the Ashley treatment; we can begin to imagine sensuality and sexuality as possible and valuable for all human beings, with human and civil rights to enjoyment in our own bodies, no matter who we are, deserving of respect and protection.

    Good on you, roamaround, for respecting your mom and her sensibilities as she ages. The treatment of the elderly in our society is ghastly. The horrors just go on and on for anybody deemed “not normal,” and elderly people are, of course, not “normal” anymore.

    Re neonatal intensive care units– the care of newborns is hugely complicated, I think. I was thinking about MrSoul’s comment saying he was really thankful he had had spinal surgery. In my own pregnancies, I refused all prenatal testing, especially invasive testing, i.e., amniocentesis, but I always did have one thorough ultrasound at about five months gestation. My main reason for this was not to find out whether my child was developing properly, but really mostly for two reasons: (1) to determine the location of the placenta so I would be aware if there might be an issue with placenta previa (the placenta preceding the baby out of the womb, very dangerous to the baby and the mother and a time when a C-section really is necessary, important to know for those of us who birth at home); (2) to ascertain whether the baby has spina bifida. Spina bifida also means a C-section really is necessary because regular birth would compress the spine and cause injuries to the baby which C-section would avoid. The way I parse this out is, the integrity of the body of the newborn and my own and my baby’s safety are sometimes more important than concerns about the invasiveness of C-sections or concerns about ultrasound tests. And again, I know I want to live, and I assume, because she can’t tell me otherwise, that my baby wants to live. That’s where I think the considerations begin, but the complexity of what parents are called upon to decide in an age of medicalization is pretty mind-boggling. The hard thing is, the really hard thing, once you’re caught up in that particular machine, the machine of medicine, doctors, diagnoses, risk factors, invasive procedures, experimental procedures, as a “lay” person, an ordinary person, in fact, you lose your rights to make decisions for you and your baby according to your own values and ethics. In a context in which an Amber Alert might be issued, you might be arrested, and your baby removed from your custody because you refuse to allow a shunt to be inserted into your child’s head, even though he is healthy and developing normally– ideas about human and civil rights for all people, your own values and ethics, your child’s right to her bodily integrity become moot points. Which is why, honest to god, I don’t know what I would do if I had a child doctors thought needed to be in “intensive care.” Which is why I birthed at home in my own house and bed, attended by midwives where what I believed and wanted still mattered.


    Posted by womensspace | January 27, 2007, 5:19 pm
  35. This is such an interesting discussion! The thing I’ve always wondered about, when people make statements like “the benefits outweigh the risk,” is, to whom? If vaccines help keep us from passing things to each other, well, good, I guess, but what if you are that 1% of the population who goes blind from the flu shot? Does the benefit then outweigh the risk TO YOU? One more example of that idea that statistics, particularly scientific/public health statistics, are great in the abstract, and not so useful when looked at from an individual point of view. In my mind, I’d much rather take the risk of having the flu–and stay home in bed so as not to pass it on–than the risks of blindness or paralysis that go along with the immunization. This is relevant to what MrSoul said, too, that it’s so hard to know before the fact what procedures are actually going to be helpful or have a good outcome, and which ones will make someone worse, or even just not help. And as Heart said, doctors and other professionals do put so much pressure on us, even if they don’t mean to. I keep having this experience with my cat, who has a chronic illness. I am a big-time medicine critic and resister, but I get in that office with this being that I love, who can’t tell me what’s wrong or what she’d prefer, and the doctor, who is generally a good egg, is telling me that X is the right thing to do, and I usually give in. Last time I managed to throw out the antibiotics when I got home–what she has is viral, and I didn’t think antibiotics would help. I gave her homeopathy instead, and it worked just fine. Next time I am hoping to say “Nah” to the antibiotics upfront instead of paying for them and pretending to be compliant!

    I also have a friend who recently had a basal cell carcinoma removed from her vaccination site (the old TB vaccinations that used to leave a round scar). I’ve heard this is pretty common, especially in veterinary practice, that animals will develop tumors at vaccination sites. And I have done lots and lots of transcription for transplant patients, and you just would not believe the stuff I hear. As just one example, fat patients who need liver or kidney transplants are denied on the basis of their BMI being too high for surgery. So they are referred for WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY. That’s right. I am not making this up. So, I’m too fat to have a lifesaving organ transplant, but I’m not too fat–or too sick–to have my digestive tract mutilated. WTF???

    I just think, WRT medicine, we’re asking the wrong questions. We’re on a certain path, the path of “people are machines made up of parts that can be tinkered with” and all of our ideas and solutions come out of and go back into that paradigm. Unfortunately as a culture we’re so committed to that path, it’s really hard to step back and think about, how could we get on another path? What might another path look like? What would happen if we accepted a certain level of discomfort, or disability, or even accepted death, and simply made people’s lives easier around that discomfort or disability as much as possible? It never ceases to amaze me how people will donate $20 to someone doing a benefit walk, but won’t lift a finger (or spend a dime) to help an actual disabled person in their own neighborhood do their laundry or take out the garbage or whatever else the person could use a hand with. Those efforts would make a much bigger impact NOW on the lives of people with disabilities than whatever “cure” (usually not even, just a new “treatment”) may result at some unknown point in the future from the research that that benefit walk is paying for. Not to mention moving people towards a new paradigm where people’s daily needs, instead of the needs of huge pharmaceutical corporations, come first. Ugh, it makes me sick just thinking about it. Ha.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | January 27, 2007, 7:07 pm
  36. I’ve been seeing a lot of tv ads for the new HPV vaccine, and it seems to be targeted only at adolescent girls. Does anyone know why? I was thinking it was because the vaccine is meant to prevent cervical cancer, but don’t boys/men carry HPV as well?

    Posted by beansa | January 27, 2007, 7:11 pm
  37. Heart do you have my post in your spam filter?

    I was responding to Branjor and beansa and someone else who seemed to want to know more about where and how to get good info to access medical credibility of treatments.

    Posted by Pony | January 27, 2007, 8:36 pm
  38. Pony, yeah, it was in there all right. Anything with more than two links ends up in there.


    Posted by womensspace | January 27, 2007, 9:11 pm
  39. when people make statements like “the benefits outweigh the risk,” is, to whom?… Does the benefit then outweigh the risk TO YOU?

    Well I think it depends on the way you think of the health issues that a community faces. Do you take an every man (sic) for himself/survival of the fittest and richest approach, or an approch to social care such that that public health is one part of the social contract. That is, living in contact with others will always necessitate some compromise and possible personal risk for the goal of an overall improvement in living conditions and quality of life for everyone.

    For me vaccination falls very strongly into the second category along with sanitation etc as a definite social benefit.

    To see a society without these then look at either developing countries or fairly recent western history. It’s only a hundred years or so since squalid living conditions (of the poor) and lack of basic modern public health measures lead to seriously high mortality rates and much misery.

    Of course some people will survive a smallpox or measles or whatever outbreak totally unscathed. Some will die, some will suffer permanent injury, some will merely have to care for those so injured.

    Some people may consider themselves fit enough to survive without public health measures, but it’s not a society that I would like to be taking my chances in.

    Posted by therealUK | January 28, 2007, 11:25 am
  40. Oh, and just to add, that we’re talking about the “Rights of Children, Disabled People and the Other than “Normal” ” in this thread. People for whom without modern medicine their lives would be a heck of a lot shorter and more painful, much more so than than those fit and healthy.

    So that’s another way to answer “who benefits ?” : well mostly it’s those who aren’t the “fittest”.

    Posted by therealUK | January 28, 2007, 11:30 am
  41. Oh, and just to add, that we’re talking about the “Rights of Children, Disabled People and the Other than “Normal” ” in this thread. People for whom without modern medicine their lives would be a heck of a lot shorter and more painful, much more so than than those fit and healthy.

    See, I don’t think this is anything that can be said with any certainty. This is what patriarchal medicine says, this is what the “experts” in a male-dominated society say, but that doesn’t make it so or true. That’s kind of the point of the Ashley thread. Being “other than ‘normal'” doesn’t mean a person is “unhealthy” or will live a shorter or more painful life without medical care. Ashley has now experienced significant pain, due to all of her many surgeries, which she would not have experienced if she hadn’t been subjected to the “Ashley” treatment and it remains to be seen whether this “treatment” will shorten or lengthen her life. Some people die because of the medical procedures they are subjected to when they would not have otherwise or live shorter lives because of the treatments they are subjected to than they would have otherwise. Fat people are considered “other than normal” and are urged to have a whole range of treatments, or to diet, which can in fact shorten their lives, be very painful or lead to death. Children subjected to circumcision, immunizations they cannot consent to, things like the faddish tubes in this ears and other procedures, which did not solve the problem of ear infections, have often historically been subjected to procedures which caused them undue suffering and which were risky and dangerous, just for a few of many examples.

    It’s only a hundred years or so since squalid living conditions (of the poor) and lack of basic modern public health measures lead to seriously high mortality rates and much misery.

    Again, this is what patriarchal medicine says, but why would we accept that this is so? Why do we simply believe this, without deep investigation and personal study? There is actually a long sordid history of doctors and medicine directly causing much human misery, i.e., eugenics as we talked about somewhere here recently, maybe this thread, where the disabled, people of color, the mentally ill were sterilized, lobotomized, institutionalized and subjected to a whole range of horrors. In some eras doctors have, themselves, *caused* seriously high mortality rates, as during the era of “childbed fever” in Europe where thousands of women died after childbirth. The reason was, doctors and medical caregivers didn’t wash their hands. They would go from patient to patient, sometimes from dead or dying patient to dead or dying patient, then would examine pregnant or postpartum women and would infect them and they would die. Women presenting to birth in hospitals died in huge numbers then whereas when they birthed at home with midwives they did not, because they and the midwives weren’t in an institutional setting where doctors were touching all of these other people who were sick and then touching them.

    Women, in particular, have been subjected to a whole range of procedures which shortened their lives and caused them unnecessary pain, in the form of unnecessary mastectomies, uncalled-for and unnecessary hysterectomies, unnecessary c-sections, things like clitoridectomies and other tortures by doctors supposedly to “cure” them of “hysteria” or “nymphomania,” being drugged or subjected to shock treatments for the same reasons, and so on. Huge numbers of women and men were subjected to procedures like “bleeding” in the 1800s where leeches were affixed to various parts of their bodies, including their cervices to “cure” them of various diseases.

    Being poor in itself doesn’t mean people live in squalid conditions or are more likely to be ill– it’s the lack of clean water, especially, which causes people to be ill, it is lack of access to healthy food and clean air. Our “theory” in the Western/colonizing/imperialist world, increasingly in the Eastern colonizing imperialist world (China), is that we, a small, rich minority of people, should own, buy up, most of the world’s good clean water, so our corporations, for example, buy up all of the wells in places like India, then we will bottle their water and sell it to rich Americans as this exotic water, but then Indian people do not have access to their own clean water. Our theory in the West is that we should have access to all of the healthy food the world has to offer, and to that end we institute and support agri-biz and exploitive farming practices the world over, in which huge corporations and conglomerates buy up farmland, farm in ways which are unhealthy, make use of toxic and noxious chemicals, and which harm the land, then pay farm workers a pittance keeping them in poverty, such that people across the world do not have access to their *own fucking farmland* in order to farm it for *their own families* and communities. Oh, this makes me so angry! And that means they must live in densely-populated areas, without, again, often, access to clean water or air, and must buy — with their nonexistent or barely-existent paychecks — whatever food they can find or they must scrounge for or salvage whatever.

    In fact, if people had access from birth to (1) clean water; (2) clean air; (3) healthy food, they would not, even if they were poor, be necessarily more ill or have a shorter life span than those who are not poor. To be poor does not mean to live in squalid conditions. Squalid conditions are the result of being forced off of land one can farm and use to one’s own benefit, and into densely populated urban areas where the air is polluted, the water is polluted or non-existent, the sanitation is poor, and where you do not have access to the necessities of life or to jobs which pay you enough to purchase the necessities of life.

    Of course, the answer of the patriarchal, imperialist, colonialist West is to just medicate and “treat” all of the people made sick by colonialist exploitation with drugs, earning, once again, huge, exploitive international pharmaceutical megacorporations a healthy profit, again *to our benefit*.

    Of course good public health policies are something we all want, but medical treatments, doctors and hospitals do not equal “good public health policies.” Good public health policies begin, again, with all human beings having access to clean air, clean water, decent food, the land. Good public health begins with sustainable farming practices and a commitment to not polluting the earth, the oceans and the air. All of this is connected– it does not make sense to focus on doing what doctors and drug companies say without attention to all of the many things which affect and influence public health.

    Some good reading on this topic:

    For their Own Good– 150 Years of Experts’ Advice to Women, by Barbara Ehrenreich.

    Witches, Midwives and Nurses — a History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich

    Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, by Harriet A. Washington, recommended by pony

    How to Raise Healthy Children in Spite of Your Doctor, by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. , (Mendelsohn was at one time the chair of the American College of Pediatricians)

    Male Practice — How Doctors Manipulate Women, by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D.

    Confessions of a Medical Heretic, by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D.

    Troubled Water: Saints, Sinners, Truth And Lies About The Global Water Crisis, by Anita Roddick, Brooke Shelby Biggs, Robert F., Jr. Kennedy, Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, Tony Clarke

    Take It Personally: How to Make Conscious Choices to Change the World. by Anita Roddick

    Good websites for more info:

    Rural Womyn Zone
    Articles by Vandana Shiva
    List of articles/books by Arundhati Roy
    The Green Belt Movement/Wangari Maathai


    Posted by womensspace | January 28, 2007, 2:34 pm
  42. Good post Heart. To add to your list of problems created by western medicine is the problem of infections. If you want to have a good chance of picking up a nasty and difficult to erradicate infection, get yourself admitted to a hospital. Clostridium difficile is a particularly nasty infection that can kill already weakened people and is most often caught in hospitals where there have been epidemics. THere are other infections that are primarily hospital acquired.

    We are terrified of the media hyped mad cow disease, eastern equine encephalilits (here in the northeast usa), sars, avian flu, but we enter hospitals fearlessly where so many things, unintended things to be sure, but no less real in their effects, like c diff infections and prescription errors can easily sickne or kill us. Mad cow disease, eastern equine encephalitis, sars and avian flu are real enough but they are hyped as major crisis when other health issues which are much more common are either ignored, downplayed, encouraged or required.

    The point, as you state, is not that public health or medicine is a bad thing, but that we need to question the decisions that are made in the name of health. Some cause greater suffering than would have occurred if they had not been made. What is done in the name of health is not always healthy.

    Posted by jfr | January 28, 2007, 3:40 pm
  43. me It’s only a hundred years or so since squalid living conditions (of the poor) and lack of basic modern public health measures lead to seriously high mortality rates and much misery.

    Heart Again, this is what patriarchal medicine says

    It’s what the women in my family, and other women of their generation, brought up in Victorian slum and similar conditions have told me. I’m actually relating women’s experiences here. Stories of childhood deaths and disease, women dying in childbirth and so on. I also do give some crediblity to the wider statistics on these things – they match up with these women’s stories.

    Good public health policies begin, again, with all human beings having access to clean air, clean water, decent food, the land. Good public health begins with sustainable farming practices and a commitment to not polluting the earth, the oceans and the air.

    Agreed, absolutely – and issues around sanitation in the developing world should be a top priority on the international agenda. As I said in my first post I’d also add in reproductive care and antiseptics. Then, in addition, and in the absence of the ideal of the resources you list, and particularly in crowded situations I’d add in vaccination as a tool for the good. So that’s the bit we don’t agree on.

    Posted by therealUK | January 28, 2007, 3:57 pm
  44. Great post Heart! Those are exactly the problems:
    1) We believe the rhetoric of “progress is always better” without asking whether we’re being told the truth. We’re taught to fear the way people used to live, or the way poor people live now, when the anthropological truth is that most “primitive” people have lives of much higher quality, in terms of self-reported enjoyment, incidence of stress-related illness etc.–even if they are briefer–than the ones western people enjoy. I think Starhawk has written about that somewhere.
    2) We don’t account for the effects of colonization and usurpation of natural resources and the poverty and urbanization that go along with the shift from subsistence farming to corporate agriculture for export, not even mentioning structural adjustment and other international aid-caused economic and social problems.
    3) We forget that the choice isn’t THEN or NOW–it’s NOW, of course, because this is where we are and there’s no going back. Even with peak oil and all the other apocalyptic disasters predicted day in and day out, we’ll never be people who didn’t HAVE excessive medical technology–even if we lose it, our ideas about health and health care have been forever marked by it, for good and/or ill. So, IMO, the way to look at it is to try to keep the good things about NOW while finding our way out of the mess of bad things that don’t serve us.
    4) We don’t call bullshit on that liberal “social contract” stuff and insist on a “social contract” that meets EVERYONE’s needs. Medicines don’t HAVE to have side effects, for example. We accept that they do out of compliance with the patriarchal doctrine of “giving up” some things for the good of the whole. If side effects were unacceptable, then treatments that had them would be abandoned, and we would work until we found treatments that didn’t. I don’t think we have to live the way we do–I think we can find ways for everyone to get what they need. But we have to be committed to doing that, rather than to doing what’s considered expedient or efficient or “sensible” in patriarchal terms.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | January 28, 2007, 3:57 pm
  45. Right on, Amy’s Brain. It is true that there are *certain* good things now, which did not exist before (and I do get it, RealUK, on infant mortality and so on in Victorian slums, and in, say, Brazil right now). However … what Amy said.

    Also: Victorian slums were not a state of nature, they were urban and the world was already industrialized then. You could look at them as the other side of modernity … because standards of living for privileged 19th century folk were higher than they had been for centuries, if I understand things right (history not being my biggest forte). And no, btw, I don’t mean to suggest idealize ‘states of nature’. What Amy said.

    Posted by profacero | January 28, 2007, 5:47 pm
  46. I’ve received a request
    from scientific misconduct blog asking for our attention to this:

    {…}psychologist Lisa Blakemore Brown, {is} a specialist in Autism, ADHD & Aspergers [website] [Book]. Blakemore Brown has been involved on the “wrong side” of the debate about the psychiatric disorder Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP), maintaining that many parents have been falsely accused of injuring their children. There have been high-profile releases from jail of women such as Angela Canning. MSbP is a disorder in which an adult invents or deliberately creates a child’s illness to draw attention to themselves. She has challenged prominent doctors such as Sir Roy Meadow and Professor David Southall who, in her view, have promulgated a wholly inappropriate approach to scientific evidence. She has irritated pharmaceutical companies. But instead of debate Lisa has encountered its very opposite. The abuse of science goes right into the heart of a prominent professional body. Her colleagues have stood by in silence.

    “I have no special knowledge of the science that underpins the debate surrounding autism, MSbP or vaccine side effects. But I do know that debate is important. It is the lifeblood of science.

    I will be discussing much more of this tragic case over the next few weeks. It is not only a tragedy for Blakemore Brown, but also part of the tragedy of medicine.”


    Posted by Medea On Crack | January 28, 2007, 5:48 pm
  47. More about how we are convinced we need medical intervention:

    Selling Sickness {from}
    Moynihan and Cassels

    “This accessible study about the collusion between medical science and the drug industry emphasizes how drug companies market their products by either redefining problems as diseases (like female sexual dysfunction) or redefining a condition to encompass a greater percentage of the population. Moynihan, a health journalist for the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, and Cassels, a Canadian science writer, note, for instance, that eight of the nine specialists who wrote the 2004 federal guideline on high cholesterol, which substantially increased the number of people in that category, have multiple financial ties to drug manufacturers.”

    Posted by Medea On Crack | January 28, 2007, 6:26 pm
  48. Being “other than ‘normal’” doesn’t mean a person is “unhealthy” or will live a shorter or more painful life without medical care.

    For some people, this is certainly true. But for others, me included, it is not. Without medical care, my pain level would be unbearable, which is beside the point. Without medical care, I would have been dead years ago.

    I completely agree that we need to criticize and overhaul the medical system. That doesn’t mean there are those of us who can simply do without it.

    Posted by spottedele | January 28, 2007, 6:46 pm
  49. I think a lot of people have been convinced they would die without X medical treatment. That’s the first thing that has to happen to us in order to have us comply with the treatment we are being sold. We are special, OUR pain is real, others, maybe not, and OUR illness and surgery were necessary. That’s the first thing medical *science* does is brainwash us, particularly women.

    Posted by Medea On Crack | January 28, 2007, 7:04 pm
  50. Medea, your comment reads as incredibly condescending, and as though you know more about my situation than I do. Am I misinterpreting what you said?

    Posted by spottedele | January 29, 2007, 12:43 am
  51. Again, SE, no one is faulting individuals for making the best choices we have in a shitty system. That’s not the point. The point is, we should have good choices. We should have a world that doesn’t make us sick, and we should have treatments that are gentle, the least intrusive possible, and that REALLY HELP, when we are sick. And we should be paying attention, as a society (not as individuals, because we’re ALL stretched to the breaking point, those of us who care) to the other needs of those who are ill or have disabilities–needs that aren’t necessarily “medical” in nature–need for human contact of whatever type we prefer, need for laughter, need for practical help, need for not being constantly worried about money, and all the other problems that disabled and ill people face in this culture. I think there are so many things that could make people’s lives better and easier, and we don’t deal with them because we focus all attention on pharmaceutical and surgical interventions.

    I think we can BOTH say that we should get the treatments that we need, now, to reduce suffering, AND that the current system falls far short of providing what people really need. That second part applies to way more stuff than medicine, obviously. 🙂

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | January 29, 2007, 12:45 am
  52. Spotted, not you. And not me. This system has us in a trap. I have two very disabling conditions, both caused by the medical profession helping me. To do that, they had to make me think I needed intervention. In both cases, I did not.

    Posted by Medea | January 29, 2007, 12:47 am
  53. More on the theme of the harm pharmaceutical cos and medical science does:

    Novartis attempts to shut down all affordable drugs dev in India:

    HRT drug Prempro causes breast cancer:
    “Wyeth protected their bottom dollar instead of protecting the patients,” Zoe Littlepage, attorney for plaintiff Mary Daniel, said in a statement.

    Daniel, 60, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, began taking Prempro in late 1999, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2001. She underwent two surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy for the cancer.

    Posted by Pony | January 30, 2007, 6:02 am
  54. ive got a letter right here from my GP telling me “an appointment has been booked” for my eldests MMR2 booster. she had the first one before i had thought it through – i wanted more time but basically succombed to pressure from my HV. my youngest hasnt had any vaccinations yet. im, not sure what to do at all, what is necessary, what isnt. ive had a read around the subject but there is so much conflicting information its hard to know which way to go.


    Posted by v | January 30, 2007, 1:57 pm
  55. NVIC issued a press release yesterday about the new HPV vaccine.

    Evidently some girls are experiencing nasty side-effects. “The most frequent serious health events after GARDASIL shots are neurological symptoms,” said NVIC Health Policy Analyst Vicky Debold, RN, Ph.D. “These young girls are experiencing severe headaches, dizziness, temporary loss of vision, slurred speech, fainting, involuntary contraction of limbs (seizures), muscle weakness, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet and joint pain. Some of the girls have lost consciousness during what appears to be seizures.” Debold added “The manufacturer product insert should include mention of syncopal episodes, seizures and Guillain-Barre Syndrome so doctors and parents are aware these vaccine adverse responses have been associated with the vaccine.”

    Also, the press release cites from the product manufacturer insert: “Vaccination does not substitute for routine cervical cancer screening. Women who receive GARDASIL should continue to undergo cervical cancer screening per standard of care.” Merck also states that “The duration of immunity following a complete schedule of immunization with GARDASIL has not been established.”

    All this makes me wonder, why on earth are feminists supporting this vaccine?

    Posted by Aletha | February 3, 2007, 5:21 am
  56. What bothers me about vaccines is that, they are tested on animals, have no LONG term side effect testing for humans, and they use the word ‘immunisation’ as though it is proven that that is what the vaccine does. Immunizes? yeah right! It doesn’t immunize. It just makes the drig companies a packet of money.

    Posted by Eric | March 5, 2007, 12:57 pm
  57. Untill many of the fears and assumptions that the average person has to matters like disability and people who for what ever reason dont fit into what is thought to be ‘normal’ we will probably allways have problems with things like informed consent and discrimination. Or forced procedures like unneeded vaccination. Currently many areas require school age kids to be given vaccinations for diseases like hep B despite the fact that the average young child does not have any of the risk factors for contracting it. How many kids do you know that have unprotected high risk sex, are IV drug users, skid row drunks, or prostitutes? Hep B in a child is pretty rare unless they are institutionalized in a mental ward or are a chronic bleeder needing transfusions.

    Posted by Wolf | April 2, 2008, 5:46 pm

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