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The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion April 6, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
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Roger’s note: some years ago I attended an event designed to discuss the issue of choice with young people who were born after the Roe v. Wade decision.  A retired physician, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, spoke of his “conversion” to pro life while at the same time not abandoning his faith.  As a young Resident at LA County Hospital he worked on a ward with hundreds of beds for women with septic infections, 99% a result of botched back alley abortions.  That ward disappeared entirely once therapeutic abortion was decriminalized.  He said that from time to time nowadays he is called in to consult on a rare case of septic infection because today’s medical students and physicians almost never see them.  That will soon change in Texas and elsewhere in the United States.  Thanks to the misogynist Catholic Church hierarchy and the right to death bigots and their scumbag allies in state governments.

In 1969, when abortion was completely illegal in Texas except to save a woman’s life, Karen Hulsey became pregnant.

She was 20 years old and living in Dallas at the time, and the diaphragm she was using for birth control had failed her. Her boyfriend, she discovered, was married, and refused to help raise or pay for a child.

“It was just at a time in my life where I knew I couldn’t take care of a child, and he wanted no responsibility,” Hulsey recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Instead, the man offered to pay for her to travel to Mexico, where he knew of a clandestine abortion provider. She wrestled with the decision and was three months pregnant by the time she agreed to go.

“I was not only very afraid of the ramifications with God, but very ashamed and embarrassed,” said Hulsey, who was raised Catholic. “I struggled with the decision for a long time.”

Hulsey left Dallas at midnight on a chartered plane, with no idea where she was going, and landed in a field south of the border in the middle of the night. A woman Hulsey had never met before was waiting for her when she stepped off the aircraft.

“I was scared to death,” Hulsey said. “Of course, he did not go with me — I went alone,” she said of her boyfriend at the time. “That was the stipulation.”

From there, things only got worse.

“A car came and picked us up and took us to what was considered a clinic in a little bitty building with dirt floors,” Hulsey recalled. “Even at that age, I knew this was not a good thing. I had worked as a nurse’s aide at that point in my life, and I knew about sterilization and everything else, so this just mounted my anxiety and fears.”

Hulsey said the doctor put her feet in stirrups and performed a “very rough,” painful gynecological exam. He then sedated her for the abortion procedure.

When Hulsey began to wake up, she realized that the doctor was raping her.

“I was of course very drowsy, and the doctor was on top of me having sex with me,” she recalled. “I had just barely opened my eyes, and he was all involved in what he was doing, and I immediately closed my eyes, because I knew if I acted like I knew what was going on I’d probably get killed, never to be seen or heard of again.”

After the man finished assaulting her, Hulsey said she cautiously opened her eyes.

“I went ahead after a little bit of time and acted like I was coming out from under the anesthetic, and he told me I’d had a little boy,” Hulsey said, choking back tears. “I was given a Kotex and taken back to Texas with no further care.”

Hulsey discovered upon returning to Texas that she had not completely expelled the placenta — a possible complication of surgical abortion. She was rushed to the emergency room, hemorrhaging from the botched procedure.

Years down the road, when she was ready to have children, she had three miscarriages due to the damage the illegal abortion provider had caused to her cervix. She underwent surgery to make it possible for her to hold a baby inside her body, and even then, her daughter was born two months premature and weighed less than three pounds.

“I thought that I had sinned and was being punished for having gone to Mexico and done that, and that’s why I had a baby that was so sick,” said Hulsey. “I think that’s baloney now, and that’s why I’m willing to talk about it.”

Four years after Hulsey’s ordeal, Texas became the original battleground state in the fight for legal and safe abortion. The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade arose out of a challenge to the Texas law that criminalized the procedure except to save a woman’s life. Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade defended the abortion ban against a 21-year-old pregnant woman using the pseudonym “Jane Roe.” Roe had tried to obtain an illegal abortion near Dallas, where she lived at at the time, but found that authorities had already raided and shut down the clandestine providers nearby.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that states must make abortion legal at least until the fetus is viable, around 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, estimates that before Roe, as many as 1.2 million women a year in the U.S. resorted to primitive, self-induced abortions or sought out illegal, amateur providers. Thousands of women ended up in hospitals each year with severe complications related to illegal abortions, and in 1965 alone, nearly 200 women died from those procedures.

The proliferation of well-trained, regulated, legal abortion doctors in the last 40 years has led to “dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death,” according to the National Abortion Federation.

Now, however, Texas and other states are reversing course. State lawmakers enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the previous decade, a trend that appears likely to continue in 2014. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly 300 anti-abortion bills are currently pending in state legislatures.

The new restrictions have had a significant impact on women’s access to abortion. A Huffington Post survey last year found that since 2010, at least 54 abortion providers across 27 states had either closed or stopped performing the procedure. Sixteen more shut their doors after Texas lawmakers passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country last summer. A federal appeals court upheld two of the new restrictions in a ruling last week.

As a result, researchers and women’s health advocates say, women today are resorting to many of the same dangerous methods they relied on in the pre-Roe era: seeking out illegal abortion providers, as Karen Hulsey did, or attempting risky self-abortion procedures.

In 2014, four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, pregnant women once again find themselves crossing the border to Mexico and haunting back-alleys in search of medical care.

 

Pedestrians walk past discount pharmacies in Nogales, Mexico, June 17, 2006. Today, women from the U.S. cross the border to Mexico to purchase misoprostol, a drug that can induce abortions. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The situation is particularly dire in Texas. In 2011, the state had 44 abortion clinics, but more than half of them have since shuttered due to new anti-abortion laws. In September, when a state law requiring all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers goes into effect, reproductive rights advocates expect 14 more clinics will have to close, leaving only six facilities to serve the nearly 75,000 women who seek abortions in Texas each year.

The poorest area of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border, has no remaining abortion clinics. Women who live there have to drive roughly 240 miles to San Antonio for the nearest clinic, but many of them are Mexican immigrants with restrictions on their work visas that prevent them from traveling that far.

In addition, the state has slashed funding for family planning, forcing 76 clinics that offer birth control and other reproductive health services but do not perform abortions to shut down.

“It’s a horrible natural experiment that is taking place in Texas, where we are going to see what happens in 2014 when U.S. women don’t have access to legal, safe abortion,” said Dan Grossman, vice president of research for Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit.

Anti-abortion advocates say the idea of back-alley abortions returning is just a scare tactic their opponents use to try to keep abortion legal.

“That is a statement that’s been purported by those who are anti-life, but in actuality, we haven’t seen any evidence of that taking place here,” said Melissa Conway, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life.

But Grossman, who is part of a research team that is currently studying the effects of the new abortion laws and family planning cuts in Texas, said he is already witnessing the consequences of the new restrictions.

“It seems like [women] are becoming more desperate to find an option,” he said. “We’ve heard reports of women taking herbs or other substances, or intentionally getting punched in the stomach or beaten up — the same kinds of things they did before abortion was legal.”

Ironically, in the years following Roe v. Wade, Texas had been a beacon of hope for Mexican women seeking abortions, since the procedure is illegal in most of Mexico.

“Texas has always been a place where people in Mexico came to get safe abortions,” said Lindsay Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, which helps women in need pay for abortions in Texas. Now, she said, “traffic’s going to start going the other way.”

Indeed, the lack of abortion access in Texas is already pushing pregnant women back across the border. At Mexican pharmacies, they can purchase misoprostol, a drug with the labeled use of preventing gastric ulcers — but which can also induce abortions.

In the U.S., misoprostol is available only by prescription from a licensed abortion provider. The drug, first manufactured by Pfizer under the name Cytotec, is prescribed in combination with another medication, mifepristone (labeled RU-486), for abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. The FDA has approved this combination of drugs for medically induced abortions in the first trimester, which account for almost a quarter of all non-hospital abortions in the U.S. each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The medications are extremely safe and more than 90 percent effective when taken together.

American women are learning that if they don’t have access to an abortion provider, they can obtain misoprostol illegally and take a high dose of it on its own to end a pregnancy. The drug is 75 to 85 percent effective in completing an abortion when taken properly up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, according to Ibis Reproductive Health, but it is relatively complicated to self-administer. A woman has to put 12 pills under her tongue in specific time-intervals, and she needs to have access to follow-up care in case she has complications or the pills don’t work.

“I’ve seen women who have used 50 pills all at one time,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Women’s Health, a network of abortion clinics in Texas. “They put them in every orifice of their body, because they had no idea how to use it. That’s the scary part — using any means necessary to self-induce.”

Taking misoprostol under the wrong circumstances and without medical supervision, doctors and women’s health advocates warn, can lead to life-threatening complications. A woman who takes the pill with an ectopic pregnancy, for instance, risks heavy internal bleeding due to rupturing of the fallopian tube. If a pregnancy does not pass completely, meanwhile, women run the risk of infection, fever and sepsis.

“Those are the major complications we’re going to be seeing in these communities without clinics,” Miller warned. Hemorrhaging and infection, if not properly treated, can lead to death.

Still, misoprostol is generally considered a safer and more palatable alternative to more primitive methods of self-abortions, and demand is quickly increasing among women living in areas where abortion is illegal or impossible to access. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and founder of Women on Web, a digital community of abortion rights supporters, has published instructions on her website teaching women to take misoprostol properly on their own. She told HuffPost that her team regularly receives calls from women all over the U.S. seeking information about where to find the drug.

“In the United States there are import restrictions on abortion medications, so we just need to help women get access to them,” she said in a phone interview. “Sometimes that means we refer them over the border to Mexico.”

The trip across the border is often risky for women because of heavy drug cartel activity on the highways. And Mexican pharmacies have capitalized on the growing demand for misoprostol by marking up the cost to $200 or $300 per box.

Women in the U.S. can also obtain the pills illegally at flea markets in South Texas, or for about $100 a box over the internet, but Gomperts said the black market is awash in dubious drugs masquerading as misoprostol.

“There are a lot of fake websites out there, and there are a lot of people who take advantage of women’s desperate need,” she said.

Women who try to obtain the pills illegally, either online or on the black market, also run the risk of getting arrested. What’s more, women in the Rio Grande Valley who have obtained the pills are too afraid to share their stories, even anonymously, because they don’t want the police to crack down on the places that sell them.

“When the media first covered the flea market, it got raided by police and people got arrested,” Miller said. “When people start to cover this stuff, then the women can’t even get black market abortions. The culture in [South Texas] is one of extreme fear and caution — the women are so afraid of being put in jail.”

Women outside of Texas face the same obstacles. Jennifer Whalen, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania mother, was charged with a felony in December after she ordered a package of misoprostol and mifeprestone online from an overseas pharmacy for her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Abortion is difficult to access in Pennsylvania due to severe restrictions on clinics there, and the closest clinic to Whalen’s town was across state lines in New York.

Whalen was charged with one count of medical consultation and judgment after her daughter had to go to the emergency room to be treated for an incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection.

“We know that prohibition and criminalization will never stop women from having abortions,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Illegal, self-abortions are a form of civil disobedience. Women will violate unjust laws and bear the health risks and the legal consequences, without causing harm to the people or institutions that make their decisions criminal.”

In addition to pushing women across the border into Mexico in search of misoprostol or other abortion solutions, the dwindling number of clinics in Texas and elsewhere has also revived the concept of “miscarriage management” — an idea that similarly harkens back to pre-Roe days, when doctors would quietly tell women to figure out a way to induce their own miscarriages so that they could legally intervene to treat the bleeding.

The New Republic reported that one of the last remaining abortion providers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Lester Minto, resorted to the idea of “miscarriage management” when a law went into effect in November that prohibited him from providing abortions. Minto offered treatment to women who had already started their own miscarriages for $400, lab work and ultrasound included. The visit would last two to three hours at most.

“Nothing here is back alley,” Minto told the magazine. “We do follow-ups with everybody. We still treat them just like we always did.”

But even Minto’s practice is now closed, leaving women few options for follow-up care when they try to self-abort in the Rio Grande Valley. The treatment Minto was providing would cost $2,000 to $3,000 in a hospital, require a general anesthetic and take up an entire day, Miller told HuffPost, which is out of reach for many poor and uninsured women.

With so many doors closed to them, back-alley remedies may soon be all that are left for many women.

“The situation politicians have put women in right now is untenable,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Making abortion out of reach only pushes women into the shadows.”

Karen Hulsey is particularly concerned about the situation facing women today. For five years in the 1990s, she worked as a physician’s assistant at an abortion clinic in Brownwood, Texas. There, she helped treat Mexican immigrants who had had traumatizing experiences similar to what she herself went through in 1969.

“I saw the effects of abortions on girls in Mexico who were raped, and the results of those abortions, as far as the shape of their vagina and their cervix,” she said. “It was just abhorrent, the scarring from the methods that were being used. I would not be surprised if the same thing were going on today.”

Hulsey, now 65, retired in 2000 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors said she developed after her abortion and rape in Mexico. Although she has two children now, she said she has had trouble holding down a healthy romantic relationship because of what she went through.

Now that Texas lawmakers are spending so much time trying to limit access to abortion, she said, she is reminded of her trauma constantly.

“There are very few weeks that I don’t think about the severity of what I went through, especially with it being so up front in the news right now,” she said. “Every time anything like that comes up, I think, ‘Oh you people just don’t have any idea what you’re doing. No clue what you’d be sending girls back to.’”

Reproductive rights advocates rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Henry Wade’s position at the time of the suit as Texas attorney general; he was district attorney for Dallas County.

Murphy Criticized Over Paternity Leave April 4, 2014

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Roger’s note: First an openly gay football player in the NFL.  Now Major League baseball players taking paternity leave.  What is this world coming to?  Next thing you know, men will be sharing their feelings.  With other men!  Scary.

Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg react to the criticism of Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy’s decision to miss the first two games of the season for the birth of his first child; http://www.espn.go.com, April 4, 2014

NEW YORK — New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy on Thursday calmly deflected talk-radio criticism of his decision to miss the first two games of the season for the birth of his first child.

“I got a couple of text messages about it, so I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I didn’t hear about it,” Murphy said about the on-air criticism from WFAN Radio of his decision. “But that’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice. My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day — that being Wednesday — due to the fact that she can’t travel for two weeks.

 

 

“It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. I can only speak from my experience — a father seeing his wife — she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off. … It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”

After receiving word about 11:30 p.m. Sunday that his wife’s water had broken, Murphy traveled from New York to Florida and arrived in time for the birth of 8-pound, 2-ounce son Noah at 12:02 p.m. Monday — about an hour before the first pitch of the Mets’ opener against the Washington Nationals.

The Mets had Tuesday off before resuming the series Wednesday. Murphy remained with his family through Wednesday, as he was placed on paternity leave, and rejoined the Mets in time for Thursday’s afternoon game against the Nats.

“You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse,” Mike Francesa reportedly said of Murphy on WFAN Radio during Wednesday’s show. “What are you gonna do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”

 

Daniel Murphy

AP Photo/Evan VucciSecond baseman Daniel Murphy missed the Mets’ first two games of the season to be in Florida with his wife, Tori, for the birth of their first child.

 

Murphy said his wife delivered their son by C-section. On another WFAN show, host Boomer Esiason said, in part, that Murphy’s wife should have had a “C-section before the season starts.”

Esiason issued a lengthy apology Friday at the start of his radio show.

“I just want to say again on this radio show that in no way, shape or form was I advocating anything for anybody to do. I was not telling women what to do with their bodies. I would never do that,” he said. “That’s their decision, that’s their life and they know their bodies better than I do. And the other thing, too, that I really felt bad about is that Daniel Murphy and Tori Murphy were dragged into a conversation, and their whole life was exposed. And it shouldn’t have been.”

Mets manager Terry Collins said the criticism was unfair.

“I’m sure there might be some guy along the way that said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s too far to go. It’s too far to travel. I’ll see you in a few days,’” Collins said. “But you know what? I certainly feel it’s very unfair to criticize Dan Murphy.”

The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players’ association allows for up to a three-day absence after being placed on paternity leave.

Asked if he was surprised about parental-rights criticism in this day and age, Murphy said: “Again, that’s the choice of parents that they get to make. That’s the greatness of it. You discuss it with your spouse and you find out what you think works best for your family.”

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins also went on paternity leave Wednesday.

“We had a really cool occasion yesterday morning, about 3 o’clock. We had our first panic session,” Murphy said. “It was dark. She tried to change a diaper — couldn’t do it. I came in. It was just the three of us at 3 o’clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to. I wanted to scream and cry, but I don’t think that’s publicly acceptable, so I let him do it.”

The name Noah, by the way, was selected for the biblical significance, not for flame-throwing Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard, Murphy joked.

“I told Syndergaard he’s the ‘other Noah’ in my life in spring training,” Murphy said. “The first thing when we decided to do it, I was like, ‘People are going to think I named him after the monstrosity that throws like 1,000 miles per hour.’ We didn’t.”

Fetus in Marlise Munoz case is “distinctly abnormal,” according to attorneys January 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
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Roger’ note: The question for me is who is really brain dead.  I vote for the troglodyte so-called right-to-lifers and their fetus fetish.  These people who demand that the government keep a brain dead women on life support so that she can incubate a non-viable fetus are the same Neanderthals who rant against government intervention into our lives (for example when it wants to, horror of horrors,  provide universal health care or Medicaid or unemployment benefits). We live in an era when the most absurd and anti-human initiatives are enforced by governments that are held hostage by neo-fascist theocrats.

The fetus is “is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on,” attorneys say

, Salon.com, January 23, 2014

The fetus of the brain-dead Texas woman being kept on life support despite her end-of-life directive and her family’s protests is “distinctly abnormal,” according to medical records obtained by attorneys for the woman’s family.

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, Erick Munoz’s attorneys issued a statement Wednesday on the condition of the fetus. “According to the medical records we have been provided, the fetus is distinctly abnormal,” attorneys Jessica Janicek and Heather King said. “Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined.”

“The fetus suffers from hydrocephalus [water on the brain],” the statement continued. “It also appears that there are further abnormalities, including a possible heart problem, that cannot be specifically determined due to the immobile nature of Mrs. Muñoz’s deceased body.

“Quite sadly, this information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness,” the attorneys said.

As Salon has previously noted, the legal team representing the Munoz family confirmed Friday that the Texas woman has been clinically brain-dead since she collapsed in her home while 14 weeks pregnant. Munoz’s husband, Erick, has been fighting in court to remove her from a respirator, ventilator and other machines, a decision that Munoz’s parents support.

“All she is is a host for a fetus,” Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, recently told the New York Times. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

Katie McDonough is an assistant editor for Salon, focusing on lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

The Media Should Stop Pretending Marijuana’s Risks Are a Mystery — The Science Is Clear December 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Health.
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Roger’s note: “Don’t Bogart that joint, my friend, pass it on over to me …”

 

signatures-to-legalize

 Paul Armentano

Speaking recently with the Los Angeles Times, UCLA professor and former Washington state “pot czar” Mark Kleiman implied that we as a society are largely ignorant when it comes to the subject of weed. Speaking with Times columnist Patt Morrison, Kleiman stated, “I keep saying we don’t know nearly as much about cannabis as Pillsbury knows about brownie mix.”

Kleiman’s allegation—that the marijuana plant and its effects on society still remains largely a mystery—is a fairly common refrain. But it is far from accurate.

Despite the US government’s nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history. To date, there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years according to a keyword search on PubMed Central, the US government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research. Over 1,450 peer-reviewed papers were published in 2013 alone. (By contrast, a keyword search of “hydrocodone,” a commonly prescribed painkiller, yields just over 600 total references in the entire body of available scientific literature.)

What information do these thousands of studies about cannabis provide us? For starters, they reveal that marijuana and its active constituents, known as cannabinoids, are relatively safe and effective therapeutic and/or recreational compounds. Unlike alcohol and most prescription or over-the-counter medications, cannabinoids are virtually nontoxic to health cells or organs, and they are incapable of causing the user to experience a fatal overdose. Unlike opiates or ethanol, cannabinoids are not classified as central nervous depressants and cannot cause respiratory failure. In fact, a 2008 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Associationreported that cannabis-based drugs were associated with virtually no elevated incidences of serious adverse side-effects in over 30 years of investigative use.

Studies further reveal that the marijuana plant contains in excess of 60 active compounds that likely possess distinctive therapeutic properties. One recent review identified some 30 separate therapeutic properties—including anti-cancer properties, anti-diabetic properties, neuroprotection, and anti-stroke properties—influenced by cannabinoids other than THC. While not all of these effects have been replicated in clinical trials, many have.

A recent review by researchers in Germany reported that between 2005 and 2009 there were 37 controlled studies assessing the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids, involving a total of 2,563 subjects. Most recently, a summary of FDA-approved, University of California trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in several hundred subjects concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

By contrast, many legally approved medications are brought to market on the basis of far fewer trials involving far fewer total participants.

Finally, we know that Western civilization has been consuming cannabis as both a therapeutic agent and a relaxant for thousands of years with relatively few adverse consequences, either to the individual user or to society. No less than the World Health Organization commissioned a team of experts to compare the health and societal consequences of marijuana use compared to other controlled substances, including alcohol, nicotine and opiates. After quantifying the harms associated with each substance, researchers concluded: “Overall, most of these risks (associated with marijuana) are small to moderate in size. In aggregate they are unlikely to produce public health problems comparable in scale to those currently produced by alcohol and tobacco. On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies.”

Does this mean that consuming marijuana is altogether without risk or that scientific investigations shouldn’t continue into the plant’s pharmacology? Of course not. But it is clear that we now know as much, if not more, about pot than we know about the actions of alcohol, tobacco and many prescription pharmaceuticals. And most certainly we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to stop arresting adults who consume it responsibly.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).

ADD: Truth in Advertising. December 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Mental Health.
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images

 

The New York Times has recently published a long investigative piece on how the pharmaceutical industry is creating huge demands for its Attention Deficit Disorder Drugs by promoting unnecessary diagnoses to doctors, parents and even directly to children .  You can read the entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/health/the-selling-of-attention-deficit-disorder.html?hp&_r=0

It amazes me to see to what lengths of deception and outright lies the industry will go to increase their profits at the expense of our children’s and our own health.  Here is one example. 

“A.D.H.D. patient advocates often say that many parents resist having their child evaluated because of the stigma of mental illness and the perceived risks of medication. To combat this, groups have published lists of “Famous People With A.D.H.D.” to reassure parents of the good company their children could join with a diagnosis. One, in circulation since the mid-1990s and now posted on the psychcentral.com information portal beside two ads for Strattera, includes Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo and Socrates.”

I can only assume that the Greek government of the time was cooperating with the NSA to obtain Socrates’ medical records.

Roger/Dec. 15, 2013

 

21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare and Vermont Goes Universal November 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health.
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Roger’s note: this posting gives you two articles on health care, including Ralph Nader’s on the Canadian system.  Having lived most of my life in Canada, and with the early detection of my daughter’s meningitis that saved her life at age two, I know first hand the benefits of no one excluded single payer.  Like the system in Great Britain (which is more like socialized medicine than Canada’s universal insurance), Canada’s health care is deteriorating, not because of flaws in the system, but rather neoliberal under funding.  It is not quite the Utopia that Nader pictures, but it is a thousand percent better than what Americans have.

 

 

Dear America:

Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian style single-payer full Medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.

In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards!

Below please find 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.

Love, Canada

Number 21:
In Canada, everyone is covered automatically at birth – everybody in, nobody out.

In the United States, under Obamacare, 31 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023 and millions more will remain underinsured.

Number 20:
In Canada, the health system is designed to put people, not profits, first.

In the United States, Obamacare will do little to curb insurance industry profits and will actually enhance insurance industry profits.

Number 19:
In Canada, coverage is not tied to a job or dependent on your income – rich and poor are in the same system, the best guaranty of quality.

In the United States, under Obamacare, much still depends on your job or income. Lose your job or lose your income, and you might lose your existing health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.

Number 18:
In Canada, health care coverage stays with you for your entire life.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.

Number 17:
In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of “in-network” vendors and no extra hidden charges for going “out of network.”

In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking – thus restricting freedom of choice – and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.

Number 16:
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it’s pay or die – if you can’t pay, you die. That’s why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.

Number 15:
In Canada, there are no complex hospital or doctor bills. In fact, usually you don’t even see a bill.

In the United States, under Obamacare, hospital and doctor bills will still be terribly complex, making it impossible to discover the many costly overcharges.

Number 14:
In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 percent of its GDP for its health care system, covering everyone.

In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. currently pays 18 percent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.

Number 13:
In Canada, it is unheard of for anyone to go bankrupt due to health care costs.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health care driven bankruptcy will continue to plague Americans.

Number 12:
In Canada, simplicity leads to major savings in administrative costs and overhead.

In the United States, under Obamacare, complexity will lead to ratcheting up administrative costs and overhead.

Number 11:
In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?”

In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”

Number 10:
In Canada, the government negotiates drug prices so they are more affordable.

In the United States, under Obamacare, Congress made it specifically illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices for volume purchases, so they remain unaffordable.

Number 9:
In Canada, the government health care funds are not profitably diverted to the top one percent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.

Number 8:
In Canada, there are no necessary co-pays or deductibles.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the deductibles and co-pays will continue to be unaffordable for many millions of Americans.

Number 7:
In Canada, the health care system contributes to social solidarity and national pride.

In the United States, Obamacare is divisive, with rich and poor in different systems and tens of millions left out or with sorely limited benefits.

Number 6:
In Canada, delays in health care are not due to the cost of insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, patients without health insurance or who are underinsured will continue to delay or forgo care and put their lives at risk.

Number 5:
In Canada, nobody dies due to lack of health insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, many thousands will continue to die every year due to lack of health insurance.

Number 4:
In Canada, an increasing majority supports their health care system, which costs half as much, per person, as in the United States. And in Canada, everyone is covered.

In the United States, a majority – many for different reasons – oppose Obamacare.

Number 3:
In Canada, the tax payments to fund the health care system are progressive – the lowest 20 percent pays 6 percent of income into the system while the highest 20 percent pays 8 percent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the poor pay a larger share of their income for health care than the affluent.

Number 2:
In Canada, the administration of the system is simple. You get a health care card when you are born. And you swipe it when you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.

In the United States, Obamacare’s 2,500 pages plus regulations (the Canadian Medicare Bill was 13 pages) is so complex that then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said before passage “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Number 1:
In Canada, the majority of citizens love their health care system.

In the United States, the majority of citizens, physicians, and nurses prefer the Canadian type system – single-payer, free choice of doctor and hospital , everybody in, nobody out.

For more information see Single Payer Action.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and “Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us” (a novel).

 

Vermont Approves Single-Payer Health Care: ‘Everybody in, nobody out’

posted by Salvatore Aversa November 20, 2013, http://www.occupydemocrats.com

The Affordable Care Act continues to plow ahead, despite Republican attempts to fight it at every turn.  What is unfolding in front of us is nothing short of spectacular.  The problems with healthcare.gov are slowly being resolved which is helping more and more people sign up for affordable healthcare, many for the first time in their life.  The law provides so much more than that, including standards for even the lowest level plans, protections for young adults 26 and younger, and the elimination of pre-existing plans.  Of course, you will not hear the success stories on the news, because those stories are not nearly as sexy as the “Obama Lied” slogan they are so fond of.

The biggest downside of the ACA is the reliance on the private insurance industry.  It does not have to be this way, however.  There is yet another provision in the Affordable Care Act that can open the door for states to institute their own single-payer healthcare system.  Other states have a public option, especially for those below a certain income level, but no state had instituted a true single-payer system.  All of this has changed thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

Vermont—Home of Ben and Jerry’s, Maple Syrup, Bernie Sanders and the first state to pass marriage equality.  Now, Vermont will be known for something that will impact every resident in the state.

The ACA provided states with federal funds to institute a Medicaid expansion.  The states chose to expand the program also were able to set up their own state exchanges, which were relatively free from the problems the federal site had.  Vermont decided to take it a step further by setting up their very own single payer system.

The slogan of the program: Everybody in, nobody out.

The program will be fully operational by 2017, and will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money for the ACA given to Vermont, and a slight increase in taxes.  In exchange, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, copay’s, hospital bills or anything else aimed at making insurance companies a profit.  Further, all hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit.

This system will provide an instant boost the state economy.  On the one side, you have workers that no longer have to worry about paying medical costs or a monthly premium and are able to use that money for other things.  On the other side, you have the burden of paying insurance taken off of the employers side, who will be able to use the saved money to provide a better wage and/or reinvest in their company through updated infrastructure and added jobs.  It is a win-win solution.

To make sure that it is done right the first time, Vermont brought in a specialist who knows a thing or two about setting up a single-payer system.

Dr. William Hsaio, the Harvard health care economist who helped craft health systems in seven countries, was Vermont’s adviser. He estimates that Vermont will save 25 percent per capita over the current system in administrative costs and other savings.

Many like to say that the United States has the best healthcare system in the world.  The problem is we don’t.  Not even close.  In fact, the only way you can get the best healthcare in the world, is if you are willing and able to pay for it.  The United States can and must do better for its people.

Costs have to be held down — there is no reason why the U.S. has to pay twice the amount per capita as the next most costly system in the world (Norway’s), and still not cover millions of its citizens. A Harvard Medical School study states that 45,000 Americans die each year from treatable diseases because they cannot afford to get treatment.

45,000 Americans die every single year because they cannot afford treatment, are you ready for that?  That is 15 times the amount of people that died during the September 11, 2001, attacks, or perhaps for you Righty’s out there you would rather see it put this way, 11,250 times the amount of people that died in the Benghazi attack.  That equals 5 Americans that die every hour, of every day, of every year because of a preventable illness that was not taken care of due to lack of access and means.

Even once the Affordable Care Act wrinkles are ironed out, which they will be, and every America is covered, which will happen, that will not change the fact that all of this is being driven by a for-profit system by companies that only care about their bottom line.  Despite rules in the ACA which prevent insurance companies from absolutely gouging their customers, insurance companies are not exactly know for their ethical behavior.

A single-payer system would all but eliminate anybody dying unnecessarily due to lack of access to healthcare.  Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  How can somebody have life and happiness, without their health?  Despite the glaring hypocrisy of rich, white males who owned slaves stating all men are created equal, we have come a long way from 1776.  Yet when it comes to the very basic need, we are left to the whim of a business.  Single-payer is inevitable, and the ACA is a giant step in that direction.  We need must hold our officials to a higher standard which will get us there faster.  40,000 people a year is absolutely unacceptable.  Vermont saw the writings on the wall.  Will the rest of us?

Video

Bernie Sanders on MSNBC discussing his state’s new single-payer system.

 

 

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds November 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Torture.
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Roger’s note: there are parallels here, certainly not anyway near the same scope, but parallels nonetheless with Nazi concentration camp doctors.

 

Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes

 

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

An al-Qaida detainee at Guantanamo Bay in 2002: the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at the prison in recent years. Photograph: Shane T Mccoy/PA

 

Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these “changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards” remain.

“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

He added: “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”The taskforce says that unethical practices by medical personnel, required by the military, continue today. The DoD “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Protocols have been issued requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day.

Doctors are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.

“Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism,” said IMAP president David Rothman. “‘Do no harm’ and ‘put patient interest first’ must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practise.”The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres. It is also calling for publication of the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA practices and wants rules to ensure doctors and psychiatrists working for the military are allowed to abide by the ethical obligations of their profession; they should be prohibited from taking part in interrogation, sharing information from detainees’ medical records with interrogators, or participating in force-feeding, and they should be required to report abuse of detainees.

National exposure brings aid to last link to Dr. Tiller November 2, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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Roger’s note: compare the work of this courageous, community minded physician and citizen with that of the hate-mongering, murderous, hypocritical and patriarchal anti-choice activists who call them selves right to life.

 

 

Ann Kristin Neuhaus, photo by Clarke Davis

Ann Kristin Neuhaus, photo by Clarke Davis

 

 

 

by Clarke Davis

Ann Kristin Neuhaus has lost her license to practice medicine, but she is still engaged in the work of making people healthy on the community level.

 

Neuhaus, 55, fell victim to Operation Rescue and the anti-abortion political winds that blow in Kansas. She is the last link to Dr. George Tiller, the late-term abortion doctor of Wichita who was murdered one Sunday morning in his church.

 

The rural Nortonville woman’s license has been revoked by the state Board of Healing Arts but that action has been appealed and is now in the judicial system.

 

Neuhaus doesn’t know the outcome yet—it may be a couple more months—but she believes the judge will base his decision on the law and not on some political agenda.

 

As an associate to Tiller, her job was to render a second opinion on late-term abortions as required by state law. The law requires a Kansas physician for the second opinion and since 99 percent of the patients were outside of Kansas and from all parts of the world, he relied on Neuhaus.

 

No patient ever brought a complaint, but she was charged with “documentation inefficiencies” through the regulatory agency.

 

In other words a couple of papers weren’t signed or t’s failed to get crossed and i’s dotted.

 

“I was even accused of not having seen one of the patients, which was ridiculous,” she said.

 

Tiller’s abortion clinic and his murder have been national news and now the Neuhaus story has national circulation. The Nation and The Huffington Post have done stories on human rights issues and reproductive health and have brought sufficient recognition to her that people want to help and have established an online fund to help in her struggle.

 

A $93,000 goal was set on indiegogo.com and late last week the amount of donations was nearing $60,000. The Neuhaus story can be found at this location along with links to most all of the news coverage that she has received.

 

Why that amount? That’s the amount of the bill she was sent after losing her license by the regulatory agency. She is being required to pay for her own prosecution, of which most of the cost came with the state bringing in an expert witness from Washington, D.C., to testify.

 

The matter is now in the court system and that could be overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, Neuhaus and her husband, Mike Caddell, are struggling financially and trying to hang onto their rural home and 10-acre farm. Her lawyers are working pro bono.

 

Tiller had been brought up on charges as well, most of which had been thrown out of court and a jury quickly found him not guilty of the remainder. A month later the assassin’s bullet killed him.

 

Late-term abortions are fewer than 1 percent of the total number of those performed, Neuhaus said. Often it’s a child and of those 12 and under, it’s almost always a case of incest.

 

Neuhaus has moved on in her professional life. She went back to school to acquire a master’s degree in public health and is now employed as a research instructor at the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Department of Family Medicine.

 

“I’m working on six or seven different projects involving community health,” she said.

 

One is the development of an informational kiosk made available in medical clinics that tend to serve the poor. This is to help them educate themselves on the importance of a colonoscopy for cancer screening.

 

“We spend time on the Indian reservations in this area,” she said.

 

This is for the purpose of doing health screenings, dealing with diabetes on the community level, and checking on the general environment for all aspects of health care.

 

“Do they have access to good food?” she asked. “That’s something rural and urban people often have in common is the lack of access to good nutritious food.”

 

Her department works through the churches in the African-American communities. She noted that sometimes people are disenfranchised and fatalistic about health care and they don’t need to be.

 

If she could be a benevolent dictator for 10 years, Neuhaus said she would end obesity and the health problems that come with it. There would be no junk food, plenty of bicycle trails, and opportunities for people to grow healthy food.

 

“There are many social detriments to health that are often overlooked,” she said. She noted that crime and stress and financial difficulties add up to lots of health problems when the community is not healthy.

 

She said it does not help to have a preachy attitude from the affluent looking down and addressing them as “you people,” an attitude that is not helpful and lacks understanding.

 

Even in her years of private practice, Neuhaus was serving mostly those who could not afford health care and insurance. She credits her stepfather with shaping her opinions of the world and caring for others.

 

Her mother divorced when she was 5 years old and married a man in the foreign service. She lived in a number of European countries and at one point was schooled with the children of ambassadors from nations around the world.

 

Her stepfather took her to the Dachau concentration camp at the age of 5 and showed her the ovens used by the Nazis to burn corpses. His father had worked alongside Oskar Shindler in saving Jews from the Nazi terror.

 

“I never experienced prejudice or hate until I was 13 and living in southwest Kansas,” she said.

 

There were black people and Mexicans in Hugoton and she never could understand the racist attitudes she encountered.

 

“None of it ever made sense,” she said.

 

The generosity of people across the country donating to her cause is also overwhelming for Neuhaus.

 

“What people have done is over the moon,” she said.

 

Neuhaus and her husband intend to stay in their rural Jefferson County home where they are raising their son, Tristan, a junior at Jefferson County North High School.

 

The old house needs some paint and sometimes the well runs dry, but it’s home. It’s home for the three of them along with three horses, a goat, some chickens, and several dogs and cats.

 

With the donations of money they hope to preserve their rural home so it will be there for future generations.

 

“We are pretty well rooted here,” she said.

Abstinence (Sexual), Sex, Sex Education October 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Sexuality.
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Roger’s note: You are lucky if you are old enough to have watched Dick Cavett.  He was by far the greatest late night television host of all time.  Next to Cavett Johnny Carson was Howdy Doody.  Cavett was urbane, intellectual, but never condescending.  He interviewed some of the most important and interesting people of our time in a variety of fields, from entertainment to politics.  It is good to know that he is still alive and kicking.  To read the original article to which this posting refers, just click on “last column” in the second paragraph.

 

 

Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett on his career in show business, and more.

My last column inspired a remarkable number of thoughtful replies. I wish I had space and time to deal with all of them.

The college I wrote about that posted information and advice on sex at school is, I learn, hardly unique. And many readers wonder what took so long. If only we had had that as a theme.

Only a handful could be considered shocked or disapproving of the practice. Many worried about the possibly lost distinction between sex and true affection.

I am always shocked that there are still a handful of defenders of the dubious practice of abstinence, surely the worst idea since chocolate-covered ants.

Undoubtedly this practice urged on the young combined with forbidding them contraception has accounted for a hefty portion of the income of the baby-shower industry.

Abstinence. What sex-drive-free human specimens dreamed this one up? Were, or are, they utter strangers to the turmoil of the storming erotic drives of the young? And, as several fortunate readers attest, some lucky members of the old?

If there is an Abstinence League, my image of its leader comes from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”: “Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.”

Remember when the “one true church” was heavily promoting the “rhythm method” of pseudo-contraception? Of course the jokes came thick and fast about inability to keep a beat, etc. I wonder what wit first labeled the fiasco “Vatican roulette.” A daredevil version, it proved to be, of roulette with about four chambers loaded.

I liked the reader who admitted quite frankly that, yes, she did think additional sex experience would have been a good thing in her case, probably producing a more successful marriage.

Several people referred, or at least alluded, to the danger of a wrecked school life and education from an unwanted pregnancy.

No small concern. More so in my day, when detailed knowledge of the traps and pitfalls of the loins was often sparse.

I received zero sex knowledge at home. Had my mother lived, I might well have, but my dad merely worried that I was going to impregnate someone in high school. But no advice.

Considering the thinness of my sexual activity at the time, the odds against the calamity that haunted A. B. Cavett were somewhere below zero. I wouldn’t be surprised, such was the extent of my dad’s concern, to learn that he might have had some such related experience himself.

In college, where the odds favoring inadvertent calamity at least climbed to just above the freezing point, I can still recall a stabbing and chilling moment of angst, fear and trembling.

The previous night had included a rare episode of pneumatic bliss, properly conducted, safety-factor-wise.

The next day, as chance would have it, Fate, or one of my roommates, placed in my hands one of those pamphlets for boys. It at least felt as if my hair stood up at reading the icy words: “Be careful not to touch the end of your penis to the wrong side of the condom, then turn it over and…”

It went on to make it clear that the not inconsiderable frequency of this inadvertent “transfer” mishap could account, accidentally, for an addition to the population.

At that, the black and white tile floor of the dorm bathroom where I was standing seemed to zoom up at me as in an early film-noir special effect.

Had I done that? Had I wrecked my life? Cold sweat.

Was there a preacher in my immediate future? Would I be on a train back to Nebraska? Would I be home, saying, “Hi, folks. Meet Janie”?

For a good time thereafter, sleep was fitful and sometimes impossible without a mild sleeping potion and a page-or-two dose of Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene.”

Why tell this? As an argument for sex education? Surely no one with a measurable I.Q. is still against that, although, in fact, you can still hear folks with but 10 watts upstairs say, “Why put ideas in kids’ heads?”

My wondering about whether more sex in school, in my part of The Old Days, would have made me a better person seemed to divide the audience.

I was assured it would have and that it emphatically would not. I suppose all we can say here is, how will we ever know?

Some readers made the distinction of how different things always are for boys and girls. A female reader, disputing assumptions about the time, wrote of the incredible pressure “in the 60s even” for girls to “keep your knickers on” or be looked down on by female classmates. But that now, she says, the pressure is to “lighten up, get with it.” To shuck ’em down.

She feels the school’s enlightened document I quoted is spot on.

Some urged that doleful term “waiting,” maintaining that “character” is built by biting the bullet and waiting.

Poppycock.

The great Marlene Dietrich told me that in her German childhood upbringing, she was commanded to go without a drink of water when thirsty “to build character.” Did it? I asked. “Not one brick’s worth of character was built. It probably injured my kidneys.”

One reader, Joe of Brooklyn, touchingly wonders if, as a schoolkid, that certain gorgeous dream of a teacher ever fancied him, envying those 15-year-old students these days taken “twixt the sheets by a comely and passionate high school teacher.” (Who subsequently does time.)

Poor Joe has never gotten over it. He thinks in today’s atmosphere, the “it” he longed for just might have happened. She was 33 then — she would be 92 now — and “she is still more enticing than any woman I have ever encountered.”

Joe says every man he tells this to has a similar school days story and longing. I know I do. Would we have been better off? Anyway, Joe, you have at least a sitcom episode here, if not the core of a feature.

Glad that so many writers liked the column and applauded the school’s efforts, warnings and advice about that old devil, sex. Many wish they’d had it. Such a document I mean, of course.

(A few practical souls pointed out that it is also greatly in the school’s legal interests to able to say to thundering parents, “We told them.”)

Predictably, I guess, I was taken to task (what in hell does that really mean?) by some readers for committing humor within such a topic. This always puzzles. The old, “There is no place for humor here.”

You have it almost right. There is no place for no humor. At what boundary must humor halt? I commend you to my friend, Mark Twain on the power of humor: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

As further assertion of the place of humor being everywhere, let us close with the wise, wise advice about life given by the great George S. Kaufman to his young daughter Ann.

“Sample everything in life. Except incest and folk-dancing.”

 

Donald Low made impassioned plea for assisted suicide September 25, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in British Columbia, Canada, Civil Liberties, Health, Quebec.
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“I am not afraid of dying,” Dr. Donald Low said in a video made shortly before his death from cancer, “what worries me is how I’m going to die.”

Eight days before he died of a brain tumour, Donald Low, one of Canada’s eminent microbiologists, summoned his waning strength in a video plea for assisted suicide.

“Why make people suffer for no reason when there is an alternative?” he asked, adding an authoritative medical voice to a surging national debate.

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“He wanted to say something public about the struggle he went through to [try to] have an assisted death, preferably with the types of barbiturates that are available in the countries that allow it,” his widow, Maureen Taylor, said in an interview about the video, which went live Tuesday.

Dr. Low, who died Sept. 18 without assistance, was the infectious disease expert who became the calming voice and medical face during the SARS crisis a decade ago. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour seven months ago.

“I am not afraid of dying,” he said in the video, “what worries me is how I’m going to die.”

He wondered aloud if he would end up paralyzed, unable to swallow or even talk with his family while he endured a protracted and painful death.

Even before his diagnosis, Dr. Low, 68, was in favour of legalizing medical assistance for “people who were terminally ill and of sound mind,” Ms. Taylor said, but it wasn’t until he was facing his own imminent demise that he tried to turn theory into reality. “There is no place in Canada where you can have support for dying with dignity,” he concluded.

The couple talked about going to Switzerland, where non-residents can swallow a toxic potion and fall into a terminal sleep, but “he wasn’t prepared to go away to die without his kids and my kids around him,” said Ms. Taylor. And he wanted to be here for the anticipated birth of a grandson in July and the wedding of his stepdaughter in late August. They also investigated speeding his death with helium, but “if I was caught buying the gas tanks, then I could have gone to jail,” she said.

Time was running out when the videographers from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer arrived in early September. “Don wasn’t able to speak fluently, but he pulled it out of a hat,” Ms. Taylor recalled. Hearing was also a problem. Ms. Taylor had to relay the producer’s questions because hers was the only voice her husband could still distinguish. But there is no mistaking the challenge that the dying physician issued to doctors who oppose assisted suicide: “I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours. … I am frustrated not being able to control my own life.”

Dr. Low isn’t the only dying patient to rail against Canada’s prohibition against assisted suicide. Twenty years ago, Sue Rodriguez, a British Columbia woman with ALS, took her request for medical help in ending her life to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ms. Rodriguez lost her challenge, but the debate continued.

In June, 2012, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the Criminal Code section on assisted suicide was discriminatory and suspended the decision for a year to give the federal government time to draft a revision. Instead, the government has appealed the BC ruling.

Meanwhile, Quebec tabled right-to-die legislation in the National Assembly last June. Committee hearings into Bill 52, which contains the most radical end-of-life options of any jurisdiction in North America, began last week and are scheduled to continue into October. Among the witnesses expected to appear are representatives from Alzheimer’s and disabilities associations and experts on all sides of the debate, including professors Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University and Margaret Somerville of McGill University.

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