A Ban on Words

I want to thank everyone who sent kind messages of condolence to Laurie and me on my mother in-law’s passing. I want to thank the many of you who also made donations in her memory. Thank you so much.

I’ve tried to stay apolitical in these blogs, but I’m frustrated, concerned, and dare I say, frightened at what’s happening. I always try to look at the BIG PICTURE and the picture I see is becoming more and more unsettling.

I don’t need to tell you that our government is dysfunctional. Its dysfunction is more than just extremism, political bickering, and periodic shutdowns. My fear is that, coupled with financial turbulence , there’s the potential for much worse.

I’m not an expert on foreign policy, finance or environmental science so I’ll just focus on the area I know best; healthcare.

In December, the Government, according to a Washington Post article, banned the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) from mentioning 7 words (phrases) in official documents being prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the 2019 federal budget. Perhaps this action was lost to many because of the brouhaha with so many other issues such as the Russia Probe and the North Korean crisis. Besides, I don’t think this was mentioned in any tweets, the newest form of information dissemination.

A BAN ON WORDS! I never thought I would see that here in America and it scares me. And, if you read my blogs, you know that I’m not a fan of one of these banned phrases ie.”Evidence-Based” a term which I find unhelpful in the evaluation of therapies because it negates the skill, expertise and clinical judgment of a practitioner in favor of published research that often is not well done. I feel it’s an attempt to standardize care for the masses (an insurance and financially driven model) rather than customize care for the individual. But a BAN?

The ban is for 7 words: “entitlement,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “Science-based,” “vulnerable,” “diversity” along with “evidence-based.”

This is yet another attempt by our government (and this one is NOT the first) to inject politics into medicine. You can get a sense of the rationale behind the ban because of the nature of the words and a suggested alternative to the terms “Science-based” and “evidence-based.” The alternative suggested is: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

Since when does “community standards and wishes” factor into GOOD MEDICINE?

Indeed, this does happen from time to time. And, it rarely results in a positive outcome. In fact, a glaring example of this occurred in the early 20th century. It was then that community standards and wishes were adopted by the medical communities in countries around the world in a movement called “eugenics.”

Eugenics is “the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a population.” “Improving” sounds like a positive thing, right?

“As a social movement, Eugenics reached its greatest popularity in the early decades of the 20th century when it was practiced around the world and promoted by governments, institutions, and influential individuals. Many countries enacted various eugenics policies, including: genetic screenings, birth control, promoting differential birth rates, marriage restrictions, segregation (both racial segregation and sequestering the mentally ill), compulsory sterilization, forced abortions or forced pregnancies, ultimately culminating in genocide.” —-Wikipedia

Of note is that this social and political movement was supported by the scientific and academic communities before it ever became government policy. Contrary to the popular belief that this movement started in Germany, it actually started in, of all places, Great Britain. It was then adopted by America, Germany and others. Eugenics found its most effective expression in Germany and led to the Holocaust. But, it didn’t start in Germany and had a very strong and avid following in the most respected and prestigious academic and medical centers in America and around the world.

The politicization of medicine is dangerous. And, as our politics have become more extreme, the results can be seen in all parts of society. Banning words or even having to change phrases so that the CDC can get its budget through a Republican Congress is, to me just another step down a very slippery slope. Danger lurks. We should be aware.

Knowing history might be perceived as irrelevant. I believe that with the current “ban” and other policies, learning from history can help save us from ourselves.

I acknowledge the difficulty in reconciling the communal and national need with the individual and appreciate the different interests of Public Health focused policies versus Individual-focused healthcare. The healthcare I insist on practicing has little to do with social, political or community standards. It has to do with health and wellness which are mostly objective not subjective. I wish our government trusted healthcare practitioners and the organizations that represent them to do what’s best without issuing Orwellian controls or BANS. This is after all 2018, not 1984.

While I understand the circumstances that have led to the erosion of trust, I mourn its loss. People like radio talk show host Ken Prager, whose brother is a Columbia Doc, say that “happiness” is the most precious feeling or emotion. I believe that while happiness is important, without trust there can be no true happiness. And without happiness, no true wellness.

I try to do what I can to instill trust in the care you receive. I take that charge very seriously. And, I hope I have succeeded and that it enables you to be a little happier and a lot healthier.

To everyone’s excellent health, happiness and wellness,

I showed this to my grandson and said: “This is called a BOOK.  It’s how we used to download new software into our brains!”  He put his hand on the cover and tried to enlarge it.  He gave it back and said:  “it’s broken.”   I guess so am I.
Want a copy?  Just ask.