20 April 2010

It's What You Need

You NEED these shots so that your child can attend kindergarten, blares a sign at the children's hospital at checkin. You NEED these shots so that your child can attend kindergarten, it tells you at your physician's. You NEED these shots so that your child can attend kindergarten, it yells at the local clinic.

It's what you need. You're reminded that you *must* get the things you need so that your children can have the education they deserve at every turn.

Do you remember that Twilight Zone episode? "It's what you need," the old man would say, selling a comb or some shoelaces or stain remover. About thirty seconds later, the purchaser would discover that they really *needed* that item right then. An angry man with an attitude recognizes the old man's gift and begins demanding more and more "things he needs" to make him rich and happy until he slipped in the road and died wearing the shoes he was given.

"The shoes might not be what you needed," the old man said as spectators gathered around his dead body. "But they're certainly what I needed."

I wonder oftentimes when someone, anyone, tells me what I or my children "need," if they are truly saying this out of concern and consideration for us at all. Do we ever get so greedy that we take the things we "need" without considering whether we need them or whether they're even good for us at all? I don't mean to say that all vaccinations are bad and that those who vax their kids are colluding with the enemy. Good grief, no. But I do wonder if the industry and physicians groups see a net benefit to vaccination (economic, herd immunity, health or other benefit) and pressure individual families into acting against their own best interests. I wonder WHY, what the MOTIVATION is, behind the organizations stating what they do.

Do they give you all the information you need to make an informed decision? When have you ever seen a sign that reads, "The following are shots highly recommended by the state of Missouri for public school kindergarten attendance. We urge you to get these immunizations for your children so that the incidence of communicable disease is as low as possible. We say that we require you to immunize your child, but it really isn't a requirement. You can easily opt out using this form (give citation here and note where the form can be found). For that matter, you can easily opt out of public school altogether (cite MO state law number here). These are your children, and your decisions to make, but the studies we're basing our 'requirements' upon seem to indicate that thus and so is the best course of action for most preschoolers (citation of study). Thank you for your careful consideration of this information."

For that matter, I'm just using the vaccines as an example. Do children "need" the socialization of larger schools to do well in the opinion of muckety-muck professionals or the media, or are they just manipulative people trying to gain a bit more power and influence? Or would they like to employ a little fear-mongering so that their ratings go up? Or is it just an "outside the box" idea to homeschool, something that hasn't been done on a large scale for the last 30 years or so... and therefore perhaps a great or terrible idea (we don't know which until later, and why take the chance that you could be wrong)? Hat tip to Spunky for this video (worth your time, I promise). It's shockingly biased journalism. Just shocking. I know we all bring our own biases to the table whenever we report a story, but this was absolutely shoddy reporting. They even came out and implied that children in unschooling homes are "feral kids." You just can't get worse than that unless you want to maybe add in sexual molestation and torture of animals or something. (Maybe that would boost ratings; nevermind if it is accurate or not.)

Please don't think I'm just going after the public school shrills. Homeschoolers do this sort of thing, too, when they imply that EVERY parent can homeschool. Not every parent can. Grant you, more likely than not, doggone close to every parent can. Can they all do it well according to my personal standards? Of course not! And that's just the sort of idea that really annoys me when I see it in the media. You'd almost think you need a postgraduate degree in mathematics to even begin teaching your child "x + y = z." Even then, you'd BETTER think that "x + y = z" is really important in the first place. I'm sure all of us remember how to do all of our high school math, and that's why it's so important to make sure that our children are taught exactly right. We wouldn't want them to miss any "opportunities."

Can I just say that this video really made me mad? How openly and unashamedly biased can these people possibly be? Sure, they aren't teaching their kids algebra. Who in the #$# cares? Do you know how many chronically abused children there really are out there? And you're worried that a couple of kids growing dill in their basement might not get into the Ivy Leagues? Why the hostility and the grilling, the pointed questions? Not that I personally think the anything-goes attitude is best for raising children, but come on. They are wearing clothes. They eat regularly. They make eye contact and speak coherent English. The parents are doing a good enough job and if you don't like it? Butt out. The whole video seemed to point toward the "fact" that we need to pester our legislators for tougher homeschooling laws. No way we should let these kids get away with playing "hooky" all day!

Uggghh.

JOURNALISM QUALITY UPDATE: I had no idea when viewing the video link above that it was produced by the same people who show us informative pieces like the one about the man who nearly suffocated on his *ahem* lover's boobs. With pictures! Dare you watch?

11 comments:

  1. I actually usually do see some explanation of the importance of vaccines accompanying the vaccines. Perhaps phrased a little differently, but with the same information. Usually there is some sort of pamphlet when you first get on the schedule.

    In terms of a doctor telling a patient what they need, they do that all the time. The same questions could be asked about any medication or treatment. Do we really need antibiotics for bacterial infections? Do we really need a cast for a broken bone? Do we really need to stop smoking in order to reduce the chance of getting lung cancer? I think at a point, you can dig into the evidence as you will, but doctors spend hundreds of thousands of dollars going to medical school for a reason -- to learn what people need medically. Of course, we could abolish all doctors and let people figure out how to treat themselves on their own, relying on internet gossip and Hollywood celebrity opinion, but I think health would suffer.

    In terms of what people's motivations are for vaccines, it depends on whom you are talking about. If you're talking about the researchers who study the efficacy and safety of vaccines, I think their motivation is to do their job. If their research is set up properly, they will contribute towards finding the truth.

    Take a medication for back pain. If you conduct a double-blind, randomized study on the medication -- half of the people get the real medication, half get the fake medication, and the patients and treating doctors don't know which is which -- and you construct the study in such a way as to limit other potential biases, then it doesn't really matter what the motivation is -- the evidence will show what the evidence shows.

    So with vaccines, if you're talking about why doctors advocate for them, I would think that most do so for the same reason they prescribe antiobiotics, put a cast on a broken leg, tell people to stop smoking, etc. -- because the evidence supports these approaches.

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  2. Thank you, anonymous, for your comment. I agree that we could take this "explain to the patient" rationale to a ridiculous degree, but on the whole, I don't think we're there yet from my perspective as a lower-class person without too many options in choosing a physician. The simple pamphlets and signs realllly talk down to me, but neither can I read a medication insert, look at the chemical formulation of a drug and the efficacy studies, and make a truly informed decision. I heavily rely on my physicians to help me decide whether the benefits of medication x outweigh the risks.

    To do that, I need to feel that I can TRUST my physician. I feel less trusting when I am told by the nurses and front-office people that I NEED to get my children shots for kindergarten. I have the brains enough to know that I do NOT NEED THESE AT ALL by law, and that all I have to do is fill out a form available in any health department to forego these for my children altogether. It is a LIE that they are putting on these bulletin boards, which IMO is a form of medical coercion.

    I find the extreme anti-vax types to be off-putting as well. It bothers me that people in the news can botox their faces, get silicon implanted in places it shouldn't be, and then whine about how we have to "green our vaccines."

    In my *personal* decision on vaccines, I actually got the middle kids the H1N1 vaccine. It wasn't available for the younger children, and the older kids wanted nothing whatsoever to do with it. Teens are in-between having full rights and none at all. I didn't feel compelled to override their decision on H1N1, but if it came down to a life or death decision, I would do so until their 18th birthdays.

    But the point of my post... Do we have to tell people what they NEED? Can't we just give our opinion on what they ought to have based on (whatever, give reason here) and let them decide for themselves?

    :)

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  3. welcome to the conspiracy! public school seems to be a great way to brainwash the kids of America. require it because if your kids are attending the school gets more money...and they learn all the liberal biases every other kids learns. who really wants kids who can think for themselves and who actually ENJOY learning, pursuing subjects on their own?! burn them out on subjects they hate and will never remember past the test date and make sure they have so much homework the parents spend more time teaching them than the paid teachers.

    i can brainwash my kids just as well as anyone our tax money can pay for.

    the newsguy seemed to be for it...somewhat.

    i wonder how many kids have a problem choosing a major because of how much they're exposed to throughout their childhood. i can see the advantage of letting a child find something they like and have time and the opportunity to really pursue it alone.

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  4. Mrs. K, it really bothers me that somehow school is something that every child should have to go to whether their parents want them to or not. There are kids in tent cities and homeless shelters, or migrant farm workers whose children have new schools every couple of MONTHS... and they're worried about these kids?

    Strawman argument, isn't it? I agree with you that there is an agenda behind it. If you look at Spunky's, you'll see she's hinting in that direction as well. :)

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  5. I talked with my hubby tonight and mentioned this and how the reporter said something about the boy not knowing if he liked certain sports because he hadn't been exposed to them. He cracked up at that logic. "How do you know you won't like a nice bath in hot acid if you don't try it either? Or shooting up crack?"

    Had to share...He's the one who strongly believes that the government is only needed to protect our borders, for keeping us safe, and to make money...they shouldn't have their hands in anything else.

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  6. I feel like I sort of fall somewhere in between in this question. I do think the journalists were biased and that should never be acceptable. However, I find unschooling to this extent unacceptable as well. I believe children need boundaries and parents are there to teach our children how to live in the world. Even if that means--teaching them to brush their teeth, because if they don't their teeth will be damaged (like the second family that said personal hygeine was the last battle to go, etc.).

    A world with no boundaries does not exist and I don't believe it should.

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  7. I used to believe all the stuff Anonymous wrote until autism came into my life. I slowly became to realize that doctors are really good at two major things: prescribing medication and handling emergencies:

    Exhibit A - In 1990, when Pamela was an infant, she developed a diaper rash that wouldn't quit. They prescribed one cream after another. They told me to give her air time, soak her in a variety things, try cloth diapers with cloth liners, etc. I did each and everything they said. It did not go away. After about 18 months of me following their instructions completely, we started eating yogurt (which puts friendly bacteria in your intestines to kick out the yeast beasts), her diaper rash went away . . .

    Exhibit B - When David was an infant, he had one round of antibiotics for an ear infection. By then (this was 1993), I knew that antibiotics wiped out the good bacteria in the gut. He developed a rash because of the antibiotics, the same rash Pamela had. This time, I put acidophilus (the bacteria used to make yogurt) into his bottle . . . and the rash cleared up after three days. After that, we always gave him acidophilus whenever taking antibiotics and for a couple of weeks afterwards.

    Exhibit C - Speaking of ear infections, David had them nonstop for about 18 months. We even had tubes put in his ears. NOTHING helped. Even with the tubes, he continued to have them for another year. One day, I saw some ear drops at the health food store and started using them daily. No more ear infections. He gets one very rarely now as a teen. When he does I treat them with garlic/mullein drops for the ear. He hasn't had antibiotics in years.

    Exhibit D - Pamela started getting sick a lot at age of 6 months. She was in and out of the doctor so much that we had an allergy consult for her by the age of 18 months! She was always sick sick sick and then, at age 3, she stopped being sick for a whole year. The doctor even remarked when I took David in for his well-baby, "We haven't seen Pamela for ages." Suddenly, at the age of 4, she had another round of illnesses for another year. Once we started doing a few biomedical things for her, she no longer had a round robin of illnesses. My theory: the vaccines triggered illness. She hasn't had any since the age of 4.

    Exhibit E - Pamela had insomnia. This was before anyone knew about melatonin. After rotating her foods, I figured out and proved it was apples! Every time she had any apple products she slept only a few hours that night. Even my engineer husband saw the light after he gave her apples when I was sick in bed one weekend.

    Exhibit F - Pamela had chronic eczema from the ages of 2 to 6. I asked my doctor about allergies. He said, "Eczema is chronic and incurable. There is no connection. Just keep giving her the creams." At age 6.5, we put her on a gf/cf diet and treated her for yeast. Her eczema went into remission and she hasn't needed creams ever since. One of the signs of eating gluten was . . . a rash on her arms . . .

    Exhibit G - She had the ugly green stools that some autistic kids get (I think due to the MMR). Once we got her on a gf/cf diet and treated her yeast, her stools normalized. The nasty BMs started when her eczema did . . . a few months after she got the MMR.

    Yeah, I have lost faith in the medical community. I used to be such a compliant mom. But, no more. And, I figured this out while Jenny McCarthy was on MTV and clueless about autism.

    I'm sorry for the book. But, I get so tired of being demeaned by those who think they know it all and think the process we have used to get Pamela healthy is not scientific.

    Why are there so few studies on diet? Who's going to make a profit by funding it?

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  8. It's easy over the course of many people's lives to point out where you did something around that time and the person got better. You also probably did dozens of other things around that time. Just because two things happen around the same time doesn't mean one caused the other. That's why we deal large-scale studies with thousands of people, to make sure that things didn't just happen by chance and to determine cause and effect.

    Just to offer an alternative experience with conventional medicine, my experience has been quite good:

    Ex. A: When I was in second grade, I came down with bacterial pneumonia. My doctor and "conventional medicine" told me I "needed" to take an antibiotic. I took the antibiotic, and got better.

    Ex. B: In sixth grade, I broke my arm. My doctor and conventional medicine told me that I needed to wear a cast so that the bone would heal properly, and that I should take some Advil to ease to pain. The advil did ease the pain, and I did wear a cast, and my arm healed. My arm still functions well today.

    Ex. C: My grandfather, about 13 years ago, went into the hospital with chest pain. The doctors told him he had a blocked artery. Conventional medicine said that he needed a quadruple bypass because his condition, left untreated, generally results in death within a few months to a year. He had the quadruple bypass, and he is still living today, playing tennis a few times a week at age 89.

    Ex. D: My mother had breast cancer. The doctors and conventional medicine told her that based on the stage of cancer she had, she would need a mastectomy and radiation. That these are the treatments most effective at extending the life of a personal with breast cancer of the type she had. She took their advice, and is living cancer-free today.

    Ex. E: An aunt of mine also had breast cancer. Her doctors told her that she would need surgery and chemotherapy. She ignored that advice, instead opting to consume herbs and a teaspoon a day of distilled water provided to her by a homeopath. She is now dead. Perhaps she should have eaten more yogurt.

    Ex. F: My son has had all his vaccines, and nonetheless, he has had excellent health. Nothing more than the occasional sniffles. He actually started talking a little earlier than most kids, and right after he got a vaccine. Given the timing, perhaps the vaccine caused him to speak early.

    Ex. G: A few years after I finished up graduate school and started working, I was gaining some weight. Conventional medicine tells us that weight gain is caused by eating too much and exercising too little. I started exercising and eating a little less, and I got in better shape and lost some weight.

    I'm not saying that my anecdotes prove anything more than yours do. And I don't mean to offend. The point is that anecdotes don't tell us much. The best way to determine what works and what doesn't is in well-designed, controlled, randomized, double-blinded studies. If the study is constructed properly, and the researchers don't risk prison by falsifying the data, then it doesn't matter to me who funded the study. Particularly if it's not just one study, but dozens or more studies that reach the same results, that's awful convincing.

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  9. I see your point, anonymous, and I think most of us see a LOT of value in conventional medicine. Sometimes, though, there are other things we can do to help ourselves be the best parent we can be.

    For example, is it NOT ok to take a supplementary vitamin or tylenol without the doctor's go-ahead? It might be in some rare cases, but generally speaking, some of these homeopathic remedies can be helpful (or at least not harmful) when followed in conjunction with a physician's plan.

    I wanted to look into eliminating milk from Woodjie's diet, thinking that *might* help him with his behaviour after speaking with his developmental therapist. I spoke to our doctor about it, and he wanted to run a blood test for allergies in general.

    So, ok.

    Turns out, he is allergic to milk AND eggs. The things that make him healthy or sick might not be the things that make you healthy or sick. (Everyone "knows" milk is essential for healthy toddlers!)

    But if I'd have gone off and eliminated milk from his diet on my own, turns out that would have been a good thing. I would have missed the egg allergy altogether, though. I think our physician has been very helpful, but I also think there may be other things parents just know about their children that physicians aren't going to be able to pick up on in a 10-minute visit. Some of us parents don't know how to speak to doctors so that they take us seriously.

    Yogurt might have been very helpful for your aunt, and with chemo, she might be alive today. Or she might not... we just don't know. The Robert Courtney case was particularly saddening because of this not-knowing thing... the people who wanted chemo got a reduced dose so he could criminally profit. Would they be alive today with the full dose? We'll never know. :(

    But as to following medical protocol, I myself have been vaccinated against the measles and still contracted a medically documented case in college.

    And I can tell you of a certainty (being lower class, once again) that nurses and other medical types have in fact lied to my face when they used phrases like "your child needs (whatever)." Because he DOESN'T. "Need" means "necessity," and vaccines are not a necessity for life and a necessary medical treatment. They didn't help me with the measles, now, did they?

    But I'm first on line for the DTaPs because I see that there are people getting very ill with whooping cough in my community, and I'm weighing the potential risks of the vaccine against the benefits FOR MY CHILDREN. Maybe your kids are in an area where whooping cough isn't an issue or you think your child will get very ill on the vaccine. For my part, I'm skipping the chicken pox vaccine for my children and am hoping they get the chicken pox before the teen years.

    BUT if they don't get it by their early teens, I will have to seriously consider the vaccine because of the risks of chicken pox contraction in older teens and adults. (Back to the risk/benefit thing.) Still, I could vaccinate my kids against whooping cough, and they could still contract it.

    I do trust my physicians, but only so far. I know when a "new drug" hits the market, that the first couple of years make or break it. How many double-blind tests fail to catch a major problem with a medication? How many had to be discontinued because what works in the lab with a healthy white male between 20-25 years kills several people after its release?

    But the MAIN POINT I wanted to get across is that failing some proven abuse or neglect, parents should decide what is best for their children. :)

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  10. I definitely agree that parents should be free to decide for their children. If parents had their children taken away any time they made a misguided decision, none of us would be parents. We do the best we can, and as you said, absent abuse or neglect, it's the parent's decision.

    The thing about vaccines is that they are not 100% effective. Measles is about 95-97% effective. The idea isn't that you take the vaccine and you are permanently immune from that disease. The idea is that if enough people take the vaccine, then the disease will have a hard time spreading if, for example, if 95% of people are immune.

    In order for you to have contracted measles, you had to have gotten in from someone else. Perhaps the person from whom you got it was not vaccinated, and had they been vaccinated, they would have never contracted measles and then spread it on to you. You might not ever know who -- maybe s stranger who stood next to you in line in a grocery store. But there is a good chance your health was compromised by someone else's decision not to vaccinate.

    That's part of why I give my son the flu vaccine. We visit elderly relatives in the winter, and I don't want to be the one whose kid got sick with the flu because we didn't vaccinate, then my kid infects his great grandfather, who dies.

    Just one more comment I forgot to make re: antibiotics. We do have a major problem in our country with overprescription of antibiotics. I don't see the problem so much as killing off good bacteria, but overuse of antibiotics can make them less effective later in life when you get a serious bacterial infection.

    I had a bad cold last fall when we were out of town visiting family, and my mother pressed me to go to a doc-in-the-box and get an antibiotic. She had a particular doc-in-the-box in mind who is known for prescribing antibiotics to everyone who walks in the door (much different than my doctor at home). I tried to explain to her that I likely had a cold, which is viral, and for which antiobiotics are useless. She said that she had had the same symptoms, took antibiotics, and felt better. I tried to explain to her that people tend to get better from colds anyway, and it probably wasn't the antiobitioc that helped her. Common cognitive error in humans -- distinguishing correlation vs. causation -- that is, ust because you take a medicine and get better doesn't mean that the medicine helped. (Or in the same vein, just because you take a medicine and something bad happens after that does not mean the medicine caused it).

    Overprescription of antibiotics is the fault of doctors. Patients come in with a cold and expect a prescription, and if the doctor says "just wait it out and you'll get better," the patient leaves unsatisfied, and maybe finds another doctor. More doctors should have the confidence to tell a patient that they have a cold or flu, that antibiotics would do no good, and that they should just rest rather than looking for a cure to the cold or flu (which does not exist).

    But just because antibiotics are overprescribed doesn't mean they are useless. Some infections, such as bacterial staff, are serious and used to be a leading cause of death before the development of antibiotics. So just because doctors can get a little overzealous with prescriptions, particularly with antibiotics, is no reason to discard hundreds of years of medical advances in favor of what passed in the 1700s as "medicine" but has since been disproven.

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  11. I have seen *underprescription* of antibiotics as well, which is actually why I don't trust those Minute - Clinic type places. I'm told constantly to go away and come back later when things get worse, and I KNOW (based on my own symptoms) that I have strep, before the test proves it. It's a $25 copay each time and major disruption of family life to make it to any appointment... not to mention how hard it is to get the children rounded up when I'm sick with the shakes/fever that finally hit. Not to mention, I usually get the first symptoms that don't match the test on a Friday, which means I must suffer all weekend. Not good.

    It takes a while for the doctor to get to know that I'm *not* a faker and that if I say I have strep, that I really do. And that you can't prescribe the usual penicillin, it has to be something stronger or it won't work. Otherwise, I'll get "better" and come back a couple weeks later several times over. Just knock it out with something strong, one time, please. You'd better believe I'll leave unsatisfied if I know my body better than the doctor does, but I'm not listened to.

    I am ok with compromising, though. getting a prescription that I promise not to fill unless I still feel bad or get worse in x number of days. I have dealt with pain meds that way in the past with physicians as well. But if things are bad enough that I'm going to the doctor, they're bad enough that I need to be taken SERIOUSLY.

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)