All too often lately, reading the news gives me the chills.
We live in a world that is upside down, yet far too few people seem to care. And that troubles me. We go along, doing what we do, never stopping to question the media reports that suggest this topsy-turvy reality is the proper direction for culture, our nation and our very lives.
Here's what I mean. Did you know that there are great apes and chimpanzees that will shortly be walking around with human brain cells in their little craniums? There was a time when ethical research scientists told the public that such a vision of "Planet of the Apes" would never happen. Not so, says a group of academics assembled by Johns Hopkins University.
Oh, not to worry, these little human-apes won't be passing through the subway turnstiles any time soon, but watch out. When scientists start telling us that something they are thinking about could never be done without the strictest of guidelines, it a sure-fire bet that they are already wondering where to get started. There are far too many scientists who think if something can be done, it should be done – ethical considerations notwithstanding.
In case that little tidbit doesn't curl your toes, try the next one. Did you know that some forms of birth control can make women deathly ill? The government knows. But they seem to be making a point of being extremely silent about that untidy fact.
Ortho-Evra manufactures a birth control patch, and even advertises it on television. The ad doesn't get very specific about how it works, though. The patch is loaded with chemicals, and it sticks to the skin. The chemicals – hormones, actually – flow steadily through the skin, into the bloodstream, and throughout the circulatory system. The hormones are the same ones found in the birth control pill, but we're told the delivery system employed by the patch makes it "safer and more effective" than taking a pill.
Or is it? The Associated Press reports "about a dozen" young women in their late teens and early twenties died last year from blood clots believed to be related to this patch. And several lawsuits are pending on behalf of women who either died or developed blood clots while using the patch.
Some experts in the "family planning" field seem to shrug this off, saying a few deaths are bound to happen. As they see it, there is no need to investigate, warn women or otherwise take action to suspend sales of the patch. In fact, many professionals in the birth control field agree that blood clots are an accepted risk from hormonal birth control.
Tell that to the families of those dead women.
As if learning that the patch snuffs out a few of its users isn't bad enough, we also find new reports that low dose birth control pills can increase the user's risk of heart attack or stroke. While this has been pointed out repeatedly over the years, there is new evidence that makes the point a bit stronger than earlier studies. This review focuses on the fact that women who use the pill for extended periods of time are at a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular problems.
Now remember all those health reports on TV about women and heart disease? The federal government's entire "Heart Truth" campaign, lead by President Bush's wife Laura, is focused on making sure Americans know that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Millions are being spent to raise awareness among women in the United States, and yet nowhere on the campaign's web site is there a warning about birth control hormones and their potential to contribute to the problem.
When birth control researchers and clinicians assure us that there is no need to worry because a few deaths here and there are to be expected, women across the nation should be worried indeed – very worried. What's everybody trying to hide?
Are you getting the impression that all these "expert" scientists are not really leveling with us average folks? If you're still not convinced, I have one more example for you to ponder. For me, at least, this takes the cake,
NBC's Katie Couric recently spoke with a California family who resorted to in vitro fertilization because they so badly wanted to have a baby. The couple had twins using IVF, and then asked their doctor to freeze the embryos not used in this initial treatment for "later." The doctor proved most untrustworthy. He "misplaced" some of this couple's frozen human embryos, and was even caught selling eggs on the black market. But even after all these shenanigans, which speak volumes about the test-tube baby business, there were still some embryos in the freezer. The couple decided to pursue another round of treatments, and we are told that one of the remaining embryos then "became" the couple's daughter.
The truth is that this specific human embryo already was their daughter, just as she was during the entire time she was in the freezer. In fact, every single one of those frozen embryos, including the "misplaced," are human beings with personal identities.
America is in deep denial that human embryos are human beings. We can now talk freely about doctors who lose babies, misplace babies, and then speak about babies becoming babies. This denial is possible because we really don't believe that a human embryo is a baby; we believe that those "cells" could become a baby! None of the "experts" have the guts to point out that it really does not matter what anybody believes; each human embryo is, and always will be, an individual human being.
Lewis Carroll once put the following words in Humpty Dumpty's mouth: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
We might likewise say of today's love affair with the persistent dehumanization of human beings, people can be what we want them to be, neither more nor less. The headlines tell the tale:
- Great apes can be partly human, but not quite.
- Young women can be misled because they might get pregnant and are better off being artificially sterile, even if they might grow very ill or even die.
- Human embryos can be useful, but not really human.
An old rhyme comes to mind. A bit simple, perhaps, but stunningly accurate: "Oh what tangled webs we weave, when we first practice to deceive." Cruel cunning indeed!
Release issued: 21 Jul 05