20 October, 2005

Yet more epidemiology

To paraphrase Jonathan Schwarz, I know only two things, and one of them is that the American medical industry does a fantastic job. Day after day, doctors, hospitals, and drug companies succeed spectacularly in doing what they are supposed to do, which is to make piles and piles of money.

One way they do this, as Saurabh notes below, is to classify everyday life as a disease, and to then offer pharmaceutical -- rather than social -- cures for our discomfort. If you're 7 years old and can't sit still, you should be considered "normal." Instead you are a medicable pariah. If you are a couch potato who gets fat, here's some surgery. If your days in desk chairs and car seats leave you with short hamstrings and a tight lower back, here's some surgery for that, too.

And then there are the lifestyle diseases that wouldn't even exist if it weren't for medicine. This graph shows the change over time in the rate of triplets and "higher-order multiple births" per 100,000 live births. The change is attributable entirely to the growth in fertility treatments. Multiple births take place in 1 out of 50 untreated births and about 1 in 2 births with fertility treatment. And that in itself can easily fit into the new improved definition of an illness -- pregnancy can be a pain, and pregnancy with quadruplets can be an even bigger pain. It's almost certainly worse than PMS, which is also now considered an illness.


It seems that the urge to reproduce MY genes is far stronger than the urge to help people. It is annoying that this is even the case among my friends who are relatively humanistic, good-natured, and generous.  

Posted by hedgehog

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