Friday, November 20, 2009

Apples and Monkey Wrenches

Yesterday I vented on the latest attack on women's reproductive health. Today, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times offered an editorial on the subject which is confusing, tepid, and contains one of the real clangers in the debate.

It begins by implying that the argument over mammography (a diagnostic test) is just like the argument over hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women (a treatment):

Hormone therapy after menopause was standard practice after a 1991 study found that it reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease -- until a study 11 years later found the opposite. Since then, the treatment has been linked to other health problems -- and found to have some advantages as well. Some doctors highly recommend hormones; others warn their patients away from them.

"Reasonable people may differ" seems to be the message.


HRT was cut back after several studies showed that the therapy had significant, often deadly side effects for many women. I don't believe I have seen any studies which show that mammography (again, a diagnostic test) has caused any strokes or blood clots or any other life-threatening conditions. What studies have shown is that the test has had a significant impact in the fight to reduce breast cancer in the country.

The "center-left" board, perhaps aware of those latter studies and certainly aware of the potential consequences if the government panel's recommendations on the use of mammography are followed, then finally admits that until a better diagnostic test is devised, current mammography guidelines should remain in place. The board even acknowledges the real problem facing women:

Just about everyone knows a hard-to-ignore anecdote about a life saved by mammography. And many fortysomething women would gladly undergo the discomfort of mammograms, plus any anxiety or unnecessary biopsies, to be among those saved by early detection. But if the panel's findings lead insurance companies to eventually restrict coverage, these women might not be able to afford the health screenings they and their doctors believe are worthwhile. [Emphasis added]

OK, so the editorial board finally got there, but not until after making this rather appalling pronouncement:

As much as we would like to believe that every life is worth endless amounts of money, there are limits on resources for healthcare. It makes sense to locate those resources where they do the most good.

And that apparently is not women's health.

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Anonymous larry, dfh said...

Now they're going after Pap-smears. The 'rational' floated about (note the word 'ration' in there) is that women have more medical expenses than men (a claim about which I am dubious), and since it will be illegal to charge female policy-holders more than male policyholders, then the available services to women must be curtailed. It's all bullshit, and should be exposed as such. The 'board' which made the breast-exam judgement had several members from the HMO-community, and NO oncologists.

3:13 PM  

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