ethics, healthcare, politics

A most unproductive attitude…

Last night, a Facebook friend shared the following meme.

Hmmm… I’m not sure this works.

I understand people not wanting to see medical care being “wasted” on the non-compliant. It’s heartbreaking to read stories about people with cancer being turned away from hospitals because of unvaccinated people taking up beds as they die of COVID-19. I get that, in spite of overwhelming evidence that the vaccines help prevent severe illness and hospitalization, some people just aren’t on the bandwagon yet. They have this idea that there’s a conspiracy going on and that Democrats are trying to grab power and quash individual liberties.

I’m also not so naive that I don’t understand the concerns of people who are against mask and vaccine mandates. Personally, I don’t like the idea of being forced to wear a mask or be vaccinated against my will. But I also don’t like the idea of being hospitalized, helplessly gasping for air while my husband wrings his hands in anguish. I may not mind exiting the world as soon as possible, but COVID-19 is not the way I would like to go. So I was all for getting vaccinated as soon as I could, which in my case, was in May and June. I will also willingly get a booster. And while I still hate masks and find them depressing to look at and wear, I do cooperate.

Every day, I read another story about someone who was preaching against the vaccines getting COVID-19 and dying. Last week, it was conservative radio talk show host, Phil Valentine. Like several others before him, Phil Valentine had the false idea that COVID-19 is a hoax. He wrote on his blog that if he caught it, he’d have “way less than one percent” chance of dying. Sure enough, on July 11, 2021, Mr. Valentine announced that he had COVID-19. But he was upbeat, and vowed to be back on his show within a day or two.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” [Valentine] wrote. “Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow, but I may take a day off just as a precaution.”

Within two weeks, Valentine was hospitalized and in serious condition. His radio station, Nashville based 99.7 WTN, announced that Valentine had changed his mind about the vaccine and was urging people to get the shot(s). Unfortunately, it was too late for the late radio talk show host. He died this past Saturday. Interestingly enough, I see that Valentine was born in Nashville, North Carolina, and died in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been ventilated since July 28th, all to no avail.

So anyway… after reading yet another tragic story about a dead vaccine skeptic, I had a look at the comments. A woman named Nicole wrote this:

Comments here just show how fine the line is between dems and reps…as in there in no line at all. Hateful people hate, no party affiliation necessary.

At this writing, Nicole’s comment has over 1100 reactions, some of which are “laughing”. I honestly don’t see what’s so funny about someone else dying of a virus. Many people also responded to Nicole in a rude and disparaging way. I noticed that she kindly and patiently answered some of the people who “laughed” and “raged” at her, preaching about how they no longer had any “sympathy” for people like Phil Valentine. My heart went out to her, so I wrote this:

I get it. I feel the same way. Whether or not people want to acknowledge it, he had loved ones who are grieving. I have a hard time accepting people on a moral high horse when they are literally laughing and cheering about a man’s death. I am vaccinated and believe in science over foolishness, and I get tired of the craziness spewed by the ignorant. But I also hate seeing how mean people have become, especially as they preach to others about compassion and forbearance.

Thanks for being brave enough to speak up. I am with you.

The truth is, Phil Valentine is not going to read or care about the hateful comments. But he’s got loved ones and friends who are seeing all of this stuff. I don’t think reading hateful, derisive, mean spirited comments are going to convince them to change their views. Moreover, I also don’t think the idea of denying medical care to people with communicable diseases is the best way to convince cooperation. All being “mean” does is shut down communication and make people feel angry… and hopeless.

Also… by denying medical care to people with COVID-19, we would simply be prolonging the pandemic. COVID-19 is contagious. Even if a person is totally recalcitrant and belligerent about COVID-19, they can still spread the disease to others if they get it. Not helping that person is only going to put other people at risk. Some of those at risk will include children, elderly people, those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and those who are vaccinated, but immunocompromised. So, I would never be onboard with denying medical care to people with COVID. I think that attitude only puts other people at risk. I do, however, understand the sentiment. It’s frustrating to see so many people not understanding the very serious risk COVID poses to everyone and not wanting to do their part to end the pandemic.

What I think could eventually happen if things don’t get better soon, is that non-compliant people will be arrested and either forced into isolation, or compelled to accept care and vaccination. I know that’s a chilling thought for people, but it has happened before with other pandemics and it still happens with certain communicable diseases. I have seen that it’s starting to happen in certain countries, like Singapore, where personal liberty is not as important as the welfare of the whole community.

For example, when I was getting my MPH/MSW at the University of South Carolina, I was classmates with a woman whose field placement was working with people who were being detained because they had tuberculosis and refused to get treatment. These folks were not being held by law enforcement, per se. They were “locked up” because they had a communicable disease and would not cooperate with public health authorities by either isolating, or getting treatment.

I remember my classmate talking about what it was like to deal with these folks who, for one reason or another, decided that they would not voluntarily take the very powerful antibiotics used to treat TB. I distinctly recall her telling our class that the people were “pissed off”. And yet, there they still were, locked up, not necessarily because they had committed a crime, but because they put other people at risk.

Here’s a more recent example. About seven years ago, Ebola was the communicable disease that was in the news. A nurse named Kaci Hickox had returned to the United States from Sierra Leone, where she had been caring for people with Ebola. She supposedly had a fever upon arrival to the United States, so she was forced to quarantine in New Jersey for three days. She then returned to her then home state of Maine, where she was requested to self-isolate at home, which she also refused to do, as she had tested negative for Ebola.

A year later, Hickox sued then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former state Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and other Health Department employees for false imprisonment, violation of due process and invasion of privacy. She claimed that there were no medical or epidemiological grounds to hold her. Interestingly enough, Chris Christie is a Republican. At the time she was in the news, Hickox was “loathed by Republicans.” The late Rush Limbaugh had harsh words for her after Hickox returned to Maine, where she very publicly flouted voluntary quarantine. Meanwhile, she got praise from more liberal outlets.

“Is this not a little bit sanctimonious?” Limbaugh said at the time. “I mean, here you volunteer and you let everybody know, by the way. … ‘I am a good person. I have volunteered to go to Africa, and I am helping Ebola patients. Look at me. See me? I am a good person.’ You come back, ‘I have just returned from Africa helping Ebola patients, and you are not going to quarantine me so that I can’t be noticed.’”

Hickox eventually settled the lawsuit, and new protections for quarantined travelers were introduced. I’m sitting here shaking my head, though. In 2014, Republicans were screaming for Ebola quarantines and Democrats were lamenting the potential loss of civil liberties. And now, in the COVID era, the opposite is happening. It really shouldn’t be controversial or political, though. It’s a matter of basic decency and consideration for other people, isn’t it? I guess some people are fine with denying other people their civil rights, as long as it doesn’t affect them personally. And some people are fine with flouting public health rules, if it’s they who are being asked to quarantine.

I wrote about Kaci Hickox on my old blog. At the time, I was of a mixed mind about her situation. I was definitely understanding her points about civil liberties. However, at the same time, my background in public health made me concerned about her risk of spreading a deadly disease to Americans. I looked up Kaci Hickox last night. I see that she, too, has a master’s degree in Public Health. I wonder how she feels about COVID-19. In this article from March 2, 2021, a reporter states that Ebola is deadlier than COVID-19 is. That was before the virus had mutated to what it is today. Moreover, according to the article, unlike like COVID-19, asymptomatic people don’t spread Ebola. But Ebola is still a very nasty disease, just as COVID has proven to be.

Anyway… I just think that we should all try to be as compassionate as possible. I don’t think it’s ethical to deny medical care to people, even if they behave in a foolish or offensive manner. I get being offended or annoyed by the willfully ignorant. God knows, I post all the time about my irritation with people who have unhelpful attitudes. But when it comes to getting people to cooperate, I don’t think it’s helpful to laugh at them as they die or express hatred for them. All that does is divide people. It’s in everyone’s best interests to be cooperative. At least for now, people still have the right to choose whether or not they will be vaccinated. It would be good if some of those who hesitate figure it out for themselves that not getting the shot could really mess up, or even end their lives.

As for Phil Valentine… it is a shame that he didn’t comply sooner. But at least at the end of his life, he tried to change hearts and minds. For that reason, I think people should be kinder regarding his memory. When it comes down to it, this issue is really NOT about politics. It’s about health, and potentially life and death.

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ethics, healthcare, Reality TV

Repost: Is it ethical to deliberately pass on genetic anomalies?

I am reposting this content from June 4, 2017, because it goes with yesterday’s reposted content about Huntington’s Disease. This post appears mostly as/is.

This morning, I read an interesting article about Zach and Tori Roloff of the TLC series Little People Big World.  I have seen the show before, but it’s been several years.  I didn’t know that Zach and Tori were expecting a baby, but the news popped up in my Facebook feed.  When I read it, I learned that their new son, Jackson, has achondroplasia, like his father, Zach.  That means that Jackson, like his father, has dwarfism.

Many different people shared this story.  I happened to read the version shared by George Takei.  Given the type of people who follow Mr. Takei’s Facebook page, the comments were a bit more controversial than they were on other places where this news was shared.  One guy– who was either really brave or stupid– posted this, along with an angry smilie.

The only species on earth that perpetuates its mistakes in genetic material on purpose.

Naturally, this comment prompted a number of outraged responses.  People were angry that this poster had the nerve to state that dwarfism is a “mistake”.  One lady posted this.

Excuse me? Being a little person is not a mistake.

Later, the lady who posted the above comment that identified her as a “little person” posted this…

No eugenics is also advocating that only people with “good genes” reproduce. Deciding whether or not to reproduce is a personal decision. My parents knew they had a probability to have a dwarf and still chose to have me. I am not genetically inferior. My birth and life are not a strike against us. Do you not understand what you are writing and how offensive it is to tbose of us who obviously do meet your criteria for being genetically correct.

I am not genetically inferior. I am shorter than average. Who decides what is a genetically superior height? I don’t need longer legs so I can hunt for food. My legs work well enough to walk through a grocery store, drive a car, and get me from point a to b. I don’t need strength to draw a bow. Science and technology keep me from needing to be a hunter and gatherer. I can type 130 wpm. I have a college degree and an IQ of 150. What is your idea of good genetics? Should I be 5’10”, white, blonde and blue eyed. I wear glasses. Should people with non 20/20 eye sight not reproduce.

I will grant that the poster who made the first comment was harsh and insensitive.  I can understand why people were offended.  At the same time, I wonder how many prospective parents are overjoyed to hear that their child has a genetic anomaly.  Do parents pray that their children will be born “different” somehow?  Do parents wish for their babies to be born with special physical, mental, or emotional challenges that might make their lives more complicated and difficult?  My guess is that the vast majority of them do not.  So, on one level, the first poster makes sense, even if the way he expressed himself is very objectionable.

This particular debate went on for a bit, so I’m not going to post the whole thing.  I will say that I noticed this subject brought out the emotions in a lot of people.  Many people seemed to be commenting from their hearts rather than their heads. 

It reminded me of an article I read in the Washington Post about fifteen years ago.  Bill and I were dating and, in those days, it was his habit to go out on Sunday mornings and pick up a paper for me.  I remember sitting on the floor in his shitty studio apartment and reading it over coffee and doughnuts.  I came across this featured piece about couples in the deaf community deliberately trying to have deaf babies.  I remember reading outraged comments about this movement.  Many people were offended that deaf parents would want to intentionally inflict deafness on a child.

From the article:

Several months before his birth, Sharon and Candy — both stylish and independent women in their mid-thirties, both college graduates, both holders of graduate degrees from Gallaudet University, both professionals in the mental health field — sat in their kitchen trying to envision life if their son turned out not to be deaf. It was something they had a hard time getting their minds around. When they were looking for a donor to inseminate Sharon, one thing they knew was that they wanted a deaf donor. So they contacted a local sperm bank and asked whether the bank would provide one. The sperm bank said no; congenital deafness is precisely the sort of condition that, in the world of commercial reproductive technology, gets a would-be donor eliminated.

So Sharon and Candy asked a deaf friend to be the donor, and he agreed.

From what I’ve read so far about Zach and Tori Roloff, which is admittedly not much, they didn’t necessarily plan to have a baby with dwarfism.  I’m sure they knew the risks and were okay with them.  And really, thanks to TLC shows like Little People, Big World and The Little Couple, more and more people are becoming acquainted with dwarfism and the challenges it presents, as well as the fact that little people can lead normal lives, perhaps with a few alterations of their environments.  I remember watching Jen Arnold on The Little Couple go about her business as a doctor.  I watched Jen and her husband building a house that was custom made for people who aren’t a normal height.  

Hell, the other day, I even started watching a German TV show (filmed in Stuttgart, no less) called Dr. Klein.  Klein is the German world for small and the star of the show, actress Christine Urspruch, is herself a dwarf who plays a doctor with dwarfism.  She wears a sexy red dress and red high heeled pumps.  She drives a little red car.  She has a family– including kids, although if memory serves, the kids on Dr. Klein are all normal height.

So yeah, a lot of people are being exposed to people who are different and realizing that they can have normal lives.  But does the fact that people who have congenital “defects” (for lack of a better word) mean that we should, as people, be actively trying to promote them?  Is it fair to deliberately pass on genes to a child who may have a hard time adapting to that condition?  Is it fair to handicap a child on purpose?

I have seen videos of hearing impaired people who hear something for the first time in their lives.  The looks on their faces are unforgettable…

This deaf lady hears music for the first time…
Grayson hears his father speak for the first time.

I’m sure it’s different for little people, although there are so many different types of dwarfism and they seem to affect people differently.  A person with a normal sized trunk and short arms and legs might have different challenges than a person whose body is proportioned, but very short or small.

In any case, regardless of how a person feels about this particular issue, I will go on record as saying that I agree that people must make their own reproductive choices, although I do think those choices should be made with much thought and consideration.  In the past, I have written about my neighbors whose family was heavily affected by Huntington’s Disease, a congenital and ultimately fatal disease that causes people to lose control of their bodies and eventually their minds. 

I remember my neighbor, who died at age 39.  She’d been a mother of three.  When we were children, she told me that she had a fifty percent chance of developing Huntington’s Disease.  I remember her father and her brother, both long dead now, who were very sick and disabled.  My neighbor’s father was forced to move into the local psychiatric hospital when he was in his 30s.  At one time, he’d been a perfectly normal man who was able to father two children.  When I met him, he was 32 years old and wheelchair bound.  He couldn’t speak normally or walk.  His son, then about 13, was also very sick.  He drooled constantly, required home care, and could not ride the shiny red bike parked in the garage.  My parents later bought that bike and gave it to me after the boy died at age 14.  I don’t think he’d ever been able to ride it, so it was like brand new.

Many years later, the boy’s sister, my neighbor and a friend, was afflicted with the same devastating disease.  Two of her three children are now dead, though neither died of Huntington’s Disease.  Both died in car accidents.  My friend’s daughter, aged 2, was tragically killed when her mother accidentally ran over her.  Her oldest son died just a couple of years ago in a more normal car accident.  They left behind a brother who has a fifty percent chance of getting Huntington’s Disease, and now he has a son of his own.  I wonder what it must be like for him, knowing that he might die at a young age of a cruel disease that his mother knew full well she was at risk of passing on to him.

Maybe dwarfism isn’t the same thing as a disease like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s Disease.  Maybe being a little person is more like being born with one blue eye and one brown eye (I knew someone with this genetic “anomaly”, too).  Maybe it’s like being born with perfect pitch, which I have– although I’m not sure that is necessarily a genetic thing, since I don’t know of anyone else in my family who has it.  Maybe being a little person presents few challenges other than being really short and perhaps disproportionate.  Or maybe there will be challenges.  I don’t know.  But I must admit that article and the comments really got me thinking today.   

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

Repost: Asking your husband to get snipped… then divorcing him.

Here’s a repost that appeared on my original blog on October 7, 2018. I still think it’s wrong for a person to coerce another into having an elective and permanent surgery (which is what a vasectomy is intended to be). I get that they are reversible, but sometimes reversals fail. They are also expensive and invasive. I know this because Bill had one.

This morning, as I looked at my Facebook memories, I found a lively discussion that I had last year.  It was about Kelly Clarkson and how she’s demanded that her husband have a vasectomy after she had their two children.  Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how I feel about coercing people into permanently altering their bodies to suit the other person.  I think it’s wrong.  It’s very admirable if a person offers to get sterilized for their partner’s sake, but I don’t think it’s right for the partner to try to force it.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I found an article in The New York Times about that same subject.  Only this time, it was in the form of a letter to The Ethicist, written by a woman who knew someone who had decided she wanted to get a divorce.  But before she got the divorce, she wanted her husband to have a vasectomy.  Why?  Because she thinks he’s a terrible father and doesn’t want him distracted by kids he might have with someone else.  She also doubts any future women would be interested in having kids with him anyway, since he’s “middle aged”. 

I probably don’t need to rehash my thoughts on this subject.  The short version is that I think it’s wrong for a man or a woman to demand that their partner have a permanently altering surgery.  If you are done having children, you should have the surgery… unless there is a very good reason why you can’t have it.  Even then, you have no right to demand that your husband or wife get sterilized.  There are ways to prevent pregnancy that don’t involve permanent surgeries, which is what vasectomies and tubal ligations are intended to be (even if they can be reversed).  However… to insist that your partner have such a surgery and then dump them in a divorce is unbelievably despicable and unethical.  In reading The Ethicist’s column, I see that he is fully in agreement with me on this point.

What is prompting me to write again today are the horrifying comments people left on the New York Times’ Facebook link.  Thanks to all of the misogynistic crap that has been circulating in the news ever since Trump got elected, there is a hive of emboldened women out there who think the way this man was treated is perfectly okay.  It’s just fine that his ex wife, who did convince him to have surgery and subsequently divorce him, manipulated this man into doing her bidding.  And why?  Because there’s so much “misogyny” in the world.  Who cares if this guy might actually be a decent person and maybe might be a great partner to someone else and a terrific father? He has a penis, so therefore, it’s alright to mislead him.  Screw him and his plans for his own life, and those of any other woman he chooses to have a partnership with or marry.

I noticed a lot of men were commenting, only to be shut down by a group of women who appear to pretty much hate all men.  I will admit that sometimes men can be annoying when they mansplain, but the reverse is also true.  Femsplaining is also extremely irritating.

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m for *actual* equality.  When it comes to reproduction, women have a bit more power than men do, since they are mostly capable of having babies without anything more than a dose of sperm.  However, I would never agree that it’s okay for a man to demand that his partner have an abortion or get her tubes tied.  I likewise don’t think women have the right to demand that a man get himself snipped.  Don’t want to get pregnant?  Don’t have sex.  Get yourself surgery that prevents reproduction.  Use birth control.  But you don’t get to coerce, bully, or trick someone else into having surgery.

I think some feminists have lost their sense of fairness when it comes to this issue.  Some of them seem to have the idea that men should be punished for what women have endured for so many years.  But we will never have equality and fairness as long as one group thinks the other “owes” them. 

I see the comments on the article itself are a bit more even-handed.  A couple of people even suggest that the man would have grounds to sue his ex wife over the duplicity.  She would probably really deserve it if he did pursue that action, although since they have children, it’s probably not the best solution for the children’s sakes.  Besides, a judgment against the ex wife would not bring back his prior fertility.  He’d either have to undergo a reversal, which costs a lot of money and involves some pretty serious recovery time, or some other costly intervention.   

I will admit that my feelings about this issue arise from the fact that I was personally affected by a woman who demanded that my husband have a vasectomy.  She claimed pregnancy was “hard” for her.  Then she had two more kids with her third husband, while I’m left being the mom of beagles.  Bill wanted to have a child with me and I wanted to have a child with him.  We were denied that chance thanks to his manipulative bitch of an ex wife who took advantage of Bill’s kindness and good character.  And yes… I do think she’s a bitch, among other things.  I don’t like to namecall, but it is what it is.  She destroyed his relationship with his children, tried to turn his parents against him, and made it very difficult for me to have children of my own without resorting to measures that should have been completely unnecessary. 

Even if this hadn’t happened to me, I’d still be against this kind of manipulative bullshit.  What the hell right does that woman have to leave such a permanent mark on her victim?  I only hope the man in this story goes on to find a far more ethical, decent, and thoughtful woman than his ex wife is.  The woman described in that column is the very definition of a bitch, among other things.  I hope she gets what’s coming to her.

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