A Frank Ob/Gyn's Message

An honest assessment of all things medical and ethical.

Is contraception preventative health care?

In the much talked about contraception mandate recently promulgated by the Obama administration, I have read and heard some very good discussions on matters of religious freedom and rights of conscience. I agree that the trampling upon religion freedom and rights of conscience are indeed egregious violations against the founding principles of the United States. However, in response to some of the more popular and seemingly convincing arguments in favor of the mandate, I’d like to offer a rebuttal grounded first in scientific evidence and further developed in rational thought. To do so, we need to dig a little deeper into the issue within the issue. Although the groundswell of support for the Catholic Church’s position seems to be in the context of religious freedom from government oppression, I find it quite noteworthy that the proponents are by and large ignoring this point and appealing directly to the supposed good of contraception: as essential health care for women because it has now been exalted to that noble distinction of “preventative medicine”. If this is true, why would anyone’s conscience oppose it? Very well then, let’s talk about contraception and how it relates to a woman’s health.

 

Let’s first preface all that follows with an important clarification: faithful Catholics have no objection to the use of birth control pills in the situations where they might be a legitimate short-term treatment for an actual medical problem. The Church’s most well-known teaching document on the subject of contraception (Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI) makes this point very clear. Sadly, the false charge that we would refuse to allow the use of birth control pills for legitimate medical indications seems to be gaining undeserved credibility.

 

Contraception itself, however, is neither essential nor is it legitimate health care for women. Preventative, however, it is indeed–although not in the since typically thought. Birth control pills, in particular, are quite effective at preventing women from receiving good health care. Rather than preventing disease or treating any disease, it is frequently used in a manner to merely delay or ignore the actual gynecological problems a woman has. I’ve cared for far too many women whose illness has gone untreated for decades while her doctors simply strung her along on a series of birth control prescriptions without ever bothering to treat her actual pathology. To add insult to injury, peer-reviewed research has repeatedly shown a strong association of hormonal contraception with breast cancer among other cancers and life-threatening illnesses (for example, see Kahlenborn et al. Oral contraceptive use as a risk factor for premenopausal breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Mayo Clin Proc 2006; 81(10):1290-1302). Similarly, mounting medical evidence of hormonal contraception’s association with life-threatening blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks has triggered a new wave of class action lawsuits against various formulations of the “pill.” Although such well-documented health risks should be reason enough for any secularist to give second thought to the ubiquitous distribution of such powerful chemical agents designed to manipulate a woman’s reproductive system, they are not the only reason faithful Catholics (among others) refuse to participate in such assaults against women.

 

These peculiar people of conscience develop such convictions firstly on that most logical principle (that need not be religiously based at all) wherein a woman’s cyclic fertility is considered a healthy state of being. On the contrary, it is infertility that is considered the diseased state. What fanatical and religious nonsense, right? We so-called “religious nuts” also believe that women’s bodily integrity and personal dignity are best protected by an attitude of respecting a woman’s naturally occurring cycles of fertility, rather than alter such processes with carcinogenic toxins. Even more astounding, we actually consider the conception of new life and the propagation of the human race a good thing. What could be more intolerable? Perhaps an edict should be enforced to prevent such madness.

–Dr. Frank

Advertisements

Should I take the pill to regulate my cycles?

One of the more common complaints I hear are those associated with abnormal menstrual bleeding. Some women suffer from extremely heavy and prolonged bleeding–to the point of becoming anaemic like the woman in Sacred Scripture with haemorrhage who reached out for the cloak of our Lord. Others have an abnormal delay of a menstrual cycle for several months or even years at a time; while still others will have erratic bleeding episodes–as unpredictable as they are disruptive to the woman’s life.

As you should logically and reasonable expect, there are numerous potential causes for each of these general scenarios. Large uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps, a bleeding disorder, or even cancer are only some of the potential causes of prolonged heavy bleeding. Anatomic defects, hormonal disorders, significant stress, and brain tumors are a few of the reasons a woman might stop having periods for months or years at time. Sporadic bleeding between periods might be due to endometriosis, infection, polyps, hormonal abnormalities, or even cancer. The one thing I can think of that is absolutely never the cause of abnormal bleeding in a woman is a deficiency in hormonal birth control pills! If it seems absurd that I would even need to point this out, you may not be aware that the 1st , 2nd, and even 3rd line of treatment for abnormal bleeding problems in women by most physicians (ob/gyn specialists included) is precisely the prescription of none other than, you guessed it–birth control pills.

The correct approach requires taking into consideration the numerous possible causes of the abnormal bleeding, and then determining what type of further evaluation (if any) might be needed to arrive at the appropriate diagnosis. Once a proper diagnosis is determined, a treatment should be offered that involves correcting the underlying problem whenever possible. After a particular treatment is given (be it medical, surgical, or other methods), the patient should be reassessed to determine whether or not the problem was solved (i.e. the disease or pathologic condition cured). If not, the whole process might need to start over with consideration of a different diagnosis altogether. Alas, how much easier my job would be if instead of doing all of this, all I had to do was simply write out a prescription for the ‘magical’ birth control pill. And if my first script didn’t satisfy my patient, I have hundreds of others to choose from until my patient stopped coming back with the same or related complaints. I must admit, such an approach is sometimes quite tempting indeed, especially knowing that most of ob/gyn’s today practice in precisely this very manner. There was, however, a time in the not too distant past when such lack of authentic diagnosis and treatment was justly condemned as quackery (i.e. the stereotypical “snake oil” hawker promising his potion would cure almost all ills.) Regrettably for today’s women, birth control pills are not nearly as harmless as snake oil. In fact, most would suffer less harm from snake oil. For example, I’m not aware of any snake oil that causes blood clots or significantly increases a woman’s risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer.

Few perceptions instilled in a female patient are quite as misleading as the idea that she needs to take birth control pills in order to “regulate her cycle.” So common is this erroneous idea that many seem to have been led to believe that the such pills are like a sort of super vitamin that is keeping her reproductive system functioning in a healthy, normal, and regular manner. Sadly, such a sentiment could not be further from the truth. There is nothing healthy, normal, or regular about a woman’s reproductive system under the influence of birth control pills. If the pills are functioning as intended, she is not having a physiologic menstrual cycle at all. At best, she’s experiencing a “pseudo-cycle” that merely resembles a menstrual cycle as she experiences some bleeding in response to a temporary withdrawal of the hormonal birth control pills during the seven days of placebo pills at the end of the monthly pack.

The most lamentable consequence of the birth control “pill pushing” approach to women’s bleeding problems is that a true diagnosis is often delayed for years (if made at all) until she’s weary of the pill’s side-effects and finds a physician willing to find and solve any underlying problem. The longer this takes, the longer her original condition may have progressed and the longer her body has been exposed to the carcinogenic effects of the birth control pills. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for me to have new patients who’ve been on “the pill” for 20 or even 30 years, having been started on them after experiencing heavy bleeding or painful cramping in her early teen years, not long after her first period. Awareness is key to protecting women from such inappropriate medial advice. Friends don’t let friends go on the pill.

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

 

What did Roe vs Wade legalize?

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down two infamous court decisions.  The first, Roe vs. Wade is quite well-known, however the companion case of Doe vs. Bolton is far less  known.  Every year since, hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates come to Washington, D.C. on this day to join in solidarity with their millions of brothers and sisters whose murder has been legalized by this most shameful and disgraceful of court rulings.  Despite the massive crowds descending on the nation’s capital to protest the resulting legalization of the most violent forms of child abuse, the event is arguably the most peaceful of marches ever seen in the city.  Such a stark contrast demonstrates the fundamental nature of the pro-life cause as a cause for peace, whereas in the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, “abortion is the ultimate destroyer of peace.”

As a natural-born citizen of the United States of America, there are truly many noble attributes of our country, its founding principles, and its heroes.  However, I can scarcely find the words to describe the shame I feel every year that this unconscionable Supreme Court decision is left in place.  The past 39 years since these crimes against humanity were forcibly legalized (in all 50 states throughout all 9 months of the child’s pre-born life) have been the darkest years in the history of the United States.   Although many courageous leaders have and continue to work diligently for a reform of such violations of basic human rights, it is quite appalling to see the profound ignorance, the persistent apathy, widespread dishonesty surrounding this issue of induced abortion.

I also find it rather astounding that few in the medical profession, even among those specializing in women’s health are aware of the extreme nature of the Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions.  For example, many mistakenly believe that Roe vs. Wade decision only legalized abortion in the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy.  Others believe that abortion is legal in the second trimester (the 4th–6th months) only to save the life of the mother.  What so few people understand is that the combined court decisions mandated that abortion be legal throughout all nine months for any reason.  The technical language of Roe vs. Wade states that individual states may regulate or limit abortions after 6 months of pregnancy, however such laws could in no way prohibit abortions that are supposedly done to preserve the life or health of the mother.  Since there are rarely cases where a doctor would even claim that an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life, the pro-abortion judges were careful to include an additional provision for the so-called “health” of the mother.  Here lies the key point that is missed even by most ethics textbooks teaching the issue, and also where the little known companion case Doe vs Bolton comes in.  Under what circumstances might an abortionist  be able to defend the performing of late-term abortions justified in the name of the woman’s health?  According to the Doe vs. Bolton decision, “health” is broadly defined to include “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.”  Thus, if a claim for emotional well-being is sufficient to justify any abortion, then all abortions were effectively ruled legal by judicial fiat.  In other words, an abortion must now be allowed until the moment of birth for any reason whatsoever provided by the mother or the abortionist.  Not surprisingly, such extremism in the name of legalized abortion on demand far exceeds the will of the people.  Accordingly, very few Americans would ever support such pro-abortion fanaticism, and sadly fewer still are even aware that it currently exists as such.  Let us hope that as more become aware of the existence of such inhuman laws, such unjust laws will be soon be extracted like the destructive cancer they truly are.  I share this with you, my dear brethren and kin of Ireland in hope that you will be better prepared to prevent the same dishonest legal tactics from forcing a similar legalization of unrestricted death penalties against the pre-born children of your blessed nation.

–Dr. Frank

Is all stem cell research unethical?

This week, I’d like to discuss the issue of stem cell research. More specifically, I find it urgently necessary to do what few commentators on the subject do―point out the profound differences between embryo-destructive stem cell research and “adult” stem cell research. Unfortunately, most media reports speak of the subject either as if there is no distinction or as if the embryo-destructive techniques are the only ones possible. Such an approach shows at best, childish ignorance, and more probable, intentional deception through calculated misrepresentations.

The whole issue portrayed in such a dishonest manner has provided renewed incentive and apparent justification for further marginalization of any organization opposing the destruction of human life. Such renewed persecution is most blatant when Christians, especially Catholic Christians, speak out in defense of pre-born human life. A false dichotomy between faith and reason, between true religion and science is presented as if the two were mutually incompatible and exclusive of one another. Rather than confronting the arguments against the unethical and unnecessary embryo-destructive research, the pro-life scientists who reject it themselves are disparaged as irrational religious zealots who lack compassion for the suffering of those with various chronic illnesses like diabetes and Parkinson’s.

As I’ve demonstrated in various other situations, the truth here is actually quite the opposite of what is frequently believed by the public at large. In other words, the advocates of embryo-destructive research are motivated solely by a misplaced faith, not scientific evidence. The persistent failure of such embryonic research to produce even one medical treatment can be overcome only by deeply held and religious belief that it will eventually work. We see again a recurrence of utter hypocrisy. The irrational religious zealots are not the pro-life scientists who oppose embryo-destructive procedures on ethical principle. Rather, the ones motivated by a misguided religious faith are the ones promising that such embryonic stem cell research will provide cures to all of the chronic illnesses that we have to date unable to cure. This despite one shred of evidence to support their outlandish claims.

Amazingly, the only type of stem cell research that has borne fruit and has actually resulted in actual treatments is the ethically aspect know as adult stem cell therapy (which does not involve the destruction of human life). For example, adult stem cell research and therapies have already successfully treated more than 73 different medical diseases. A sampling of the diseases being treated with adult stem cells are brain cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, testicular cancer, many forms of leukemia, juvenile diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s. For the full list see http://www.stemcellresearch.org/facts/treatments.htm

Interestingly, just about every condition that the advocates of embryo-destructive research promise will be treatable with human embryo derived cells is already being treated with adult stem cells! The difference is that the adult stem cell therapies are based on solid scientific evidence.

After decades of research, funded by billions of dollars, how many treatments have been developed using embryonic stem cells? ZERO. In other words, the proponents of embryonic stem cell therapies are appealing to faith-based arguments that have never been backed up by science. Their misplaced faith in embryo-destructive therapies is so deep that they refuse to take “no” for an answer despite repeated failures in every attempt to created an actual medical treatment. Their bias is so blinding that they are not interested in the objective and scientifically verifiable truth. The only answer they will accept is “yes, we can save lives by destroying human embryos.” For as long as science fails to support this conclusion, they’ll believe it anyway with unwavering conviction. Amazingly, government funding has heavily biased toward these faith-based, unethical, and thus far unsuccessful attempts of embryo-destructive treatments. Let us hope that sound logic and reason will soon return.

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

Are there too many people?

During this past new years celebration, I was impressed by the universal nature of celebrating the new year. I saw video clips of firework celebrations in Tokyo, Sydney, Beijing, Berlin, London, and New York. At the deepest level, what were we all celebrating? Certainly, there is more reason for joyous celebration than simply the fact that the earth has completed one more orbit around the sun. I propose that it is life itself! The fact that we still exist and are conscious of it is a wonderful thing to behold, especially in a world that has largely lost its sense of wonder.

Notice that there wasn’t world-wide mourning that human beings populate the earth. Doesn’t it seem somewhat odd then that so many people believe in the idea that the world is over-populated? Where do these ideas come from and what sort of actions have been rationalized in the name of such an ominous theory?

In 1798, the Englishman and Anglican priest, Thomas Malthus (who also fancied himself a mathematician), proposed that human population was growing faster than food production. He then calculated that the world food supply would be depleted by 1890. For this reason he advocated policies that would kill off the poor. In his own words the Rev. Malthus taught “we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague.”

Certainly, we recognize how the unjust British agricultural and land ownership laws imposed upon the Irish laid the foundation for the Great Famine of Ireland. (For example, there was no shortage of grain or even pork being raised on Irish soil. However, the protestant landlords controlling the vast majority of Irish farmland insured that grain, meat, and similar valuable produce was sent to England.) What is less appreciated is how the most wealthy society in the world at the time could ignore the suffering of their Irish neighbors, especially when they were in many ways responsible. The answer lies in the prejudiced over-population theories of Malthus. Such ideas played well to the anti-Irish sentiment among many in England where the Irish were disparaged as ignorant, primitive, and even depicted by London cartoons with ape-like features. Sadly, similar injustices were soon after repeated during the Great Famine of India under British colonial rule.

The point I’m trying to illustrate is that recent human history demonstrates that humans suffer from starvation more from unjust governmental policies than from natural causes and their very existence. Consider the following calculation based on an estimated would population of 7 billion: Given an average four person family, every family would have a 66 x 66 foot plot of land, which would comfortably provide a single family home and yard — and the entire world’s population could thus fit on a landmass the size of Texas (while the rest of the planet could be a wildlife refuge). Furthermore, U.N. population analyses now point to a peak population in about 30 years followed by a decline thereafter. In fact evidence is mounting that the real danger our world faces is not a population explosion, but rather an implosion. For more information I recommend the website http://overpopulationisamyth.com/

–Dr. Frank (Ob/GYN)

Are pregnancy and childbirth good for my health?

In light of the Christmas season, we’ll discuss some of the little appreciated health benefits of having children. Too often, we are given the impression that pregnancy and childbirth is in one way or another a health detriment and burden. However, few people are aware of the ways in which their physical and psychological health benefits from childbirth.

According to national health statistics, approximately one in eight American women will have breast cancer in her lifetime and accordingly an estimated 175,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. Each year. These numbers have led in recent years to a numerous well-publicized campaigns to educate women on breast cancer prevention and treatment. However, have you ever heard or read in any of these public discussions the fact that having a full-term pregnancy has been linked to a decrease in breast cancer risk? It’s true, and the earlier in life the pregnancy the better. For example, the World Health Organization’s published study of 250,000 women from around the world found that those who have their first child by age 18 have only about one-third the risk of breast cancer faced by women whose first birth occurs at age 35 or later. Similarly, another large study published in 1989 by the Centers for Disease Control examined data from eight U.S. cancer registries and found that lactation (breast-feeding) also plays a role in reducing breast cancer. The data showed that the more children a woman had and the longer the duration of breast-feeding after birth, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer―a point I routinely discuss with my patients.

But wait, there’s more! Pregnancy and childbirth have also shown preventative benefit against ovarian and endometrial cancer. Studies consistently show that women who have never had children are at least twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer as compared to those who have given birth.. In a similar pattern as seen with breast cancer, the more full-term pregnancies a woman has, the lower her risk of ovarian cancer. Ironically, birth control hawkers will readily argue that the pill reduces the risk of ovarian cancer in part because of a “pregnancy-like” effect on preventing ovulation. However, they are shamefully silent and remiss in their responsibility to warn women that this same pill has the opposite effect of pregnancy in terms of the even more common breast cancer.

In the not too distant past (1995), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services once admitted that “childbearing is the most important known factor in preventing ovarian cancer.” Further still, studies have repeated the theme, wherein having children and more of them also decreases a woman’s risk of endometrial cancer.

Finally, we need also to appreciate that childbirth has a notably positive impact on a woman’s mental health. A 1992 Canadian study that examined more than 1,000 women health care workers, lawyers, engineers and accountants found that married women with children had the highest levels of psychological well-being compared to married and single women who did not have children. A Finnish study examining all women of reproductive age over a seven-year period revealed that women who carried to term were half as likely to die within the following year as women who had not been pregnant, even more striking―they were three-and-a-half times less likely to die as women who underwent induced abortions.

In summary, I’m not suggesting we see children as a mere means to improving women’s health (as a utilitarian might argue). Rather, we need to see through the lies that suggest children are a terrible burden and threat to a woman’s health. What better time of year than now to reflect on how much we can be blessed through that humble event of a child’s birth.

–Dr. Frank (Ob/Gyn)

Are condoms as safe as filtered cigarettes?

During my training, I remember dreading those patient visits where I was expected to provide “safe sex” counseling to my patients. It wasn’t necessarily the awkwardness of speaking about such matters to a complete stranger so much as it was the difficult position of trying to meet the expectations of my evaluators without personally contributing to this irrational and flawed set of beliefs held by the “secular” medical establishment. Ironically, the ones promoting biased, false, and misleading information are not the abstinence-based programs, but the condom devotees who arrogantly discredit such abstinence-based programs as failing to provide medically accurate material. In other words, the most scientifically accurate answer to the problem of sexually transmitted diseases and so-called “unwanted” pregnancies is not a wider distribution of condoms and more promulgation of condom awareness. Undeterred by objective data to the contrary, we are still taught “if only we have enough faith in condoms, we will be saved; don’t get bogged down and encumbered by scientific data, just believe and you will see…” What is the fruit of the worldwide conversion of hearts to a sincere faith in latex? Are we still cursed with HIV and AIDS because there remain a few infidels who obstinately insist on that dreary scientific evidence showing that self-mastery and marital fidelity is the real answer?

Consider the following epidemiologic data. In 1987 (shortly after the discovery of HIV), two Asian nations of similar population had approximately the same number of HIV patients. In Thailand there were 112 cases and in the Philippines there were slightly more—135 cases. Over the next 16 years, these two countries approached the problem with very different tactics. The government of Thailand embraced the theology of condoms and successfully implemented a “100% condom use” campaign wherein every man, woman, and child had ready access to a superabundance of condoms and where thoroughly indoctrinated on the apparent benefits of latex barriers. In the Philippines, however, something very unusual happened when their government rejected the internationally popular condom movement and decided instead to promote sexual abstinence and marital fidelity. How did these two radically different tactics fair? By 2003, Thailand had 570,000 people with HIV, whereas the Philippines had 9,000 people with HIV. In other words, the rate of HIV was 80 times higher in Thailand! Fortunately, this remarkable contrast didn’t go unnoticed by all of the mainstream media. A 2003 New York Times article in 2003 reported on this unexpected data in the Philippines. However, the author was clearly perplexed and unable to see the logic and reason behind it. In pitiful desperation, he suggests a theory that prostitutes in the Philippines must be less promiscuous! Would he further conclude that we should encourage prostitutes to be more chaste, all the while standing by the belief that teaching the same to school children is irresponsible and dangerous? Absurdity upon absurdity. Could anyone really believe that the HIV rate in a country saturated with condoms is 80 times higher simply because it’s prostitutes are more promiscuous than the prostitutes in a neighboring country where condoms are far more sparse? Even this far-fetched idea supports the concept that behavior is a far more influential factor than material barriers in the spread of this deadly disease.

The medical community has had to reform itself in a similar way over the past century with another issue. I speak now of a behavior that is even more habit-forming than the various sexual behaviors so vigorously promoted by the more influential members of modern society—cigarette smoking. When physicians first recognized an association between smoking and lung disease, an early approach that gained widespread popularity was adding filters to the cigarettes. Since people were going to smoke anyway (so it seemed), what better solution could there be than “safe smoking.” What foolish and religious nonsense to think that you could ever convince people to stop smoking, especially since so many youth were beginning to smoke. I wonder if anyone ever thought of passing out filtered cigarettes in schools to protect the children of the close-minded parents who didn’t accept this new progressive wisdom. Surely someone must have come up with a plan to teach the more sheltered school children about all the different varieties of tobacco products and the various ways in which they could be ingested. Imagine how much danger these children would face if not given such life-saving “health” information?

Hindsight is 20/20. We have since learned that “safe smoking” with filtered cigarettes wasn’t so safe after all. It simply forced people to suck harder while drawing the smaller carcinogenic smoke particles to deeper parts of the lungs. We then saw a shift from cancer in the large airways (like the trachea and bronchi), to the smaller airways (like the alveoli). Guess which cancer was more deadly. Yes, the ones involving the smaller airways. Fortunately, the medical community recognized this and made a radical shift in policy. We decided that as challenging as this may be, we had to encourage people to fundamentally change their behavior and abstain from cigarettes altogether. It’s not an easy answer, but we unanimously agree that it is the only one we can with integrity endorse. In fact, a physician would be thoroughly condemned if he or she failed to counsel a smoking patient to quit such harmful behavior. The attention given to smoking cessation is now unrivaled among health advocacy topics; unrivaled except perhaps by the current “safe sex with condoms” campaigns. Let us hope that sound reason and logic can soon correct the false religion of salvation by latex.

Are condoms safe?

We’ve already reviewed some of the medical harms against women caused by hormonal contraception like the birth control pill. Today we’ll discuss why the condom-based “safe sex” propaganda campaigns are misleading and irresponsible. I frequently provide my patients with counseling on what is genuine “safe sex.” However, I’ve never endorsed the use of latex barriers as a means to make intercourse somehow “safe” or merely “safer” (as most contraception proselytizers have now been forced to concede).

As I’ve alluded to previously, seldom do we see such widespread faith and even religious zeal backing a belief in an idea that is consistently refuted by objective science. The idea I speak of is the notion that latex barriers in the form of condoms are the solution to the HIV epidemic and the answer to the unacceptably high rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). Anyone who dares to question the wisdom of this condom dogma is not only derided as an ignorant fool, but is even accused of contributing to the plight of those suffering from HIV and AIDS. I can think of no better example that the media’s unfounded attacks against Pope Benedict XVI when he has accurately pointed out the deficiencies of this condom-based approach.

 

A little background in undisputed effectiveness statistics should better illustrate my point. Medical textbooks and lay educational materials alike typically quote the effectiveness of male condoms at preventing pregnancy to be 85%. Accordingly, the “failure-rate” of condoms in terms of preventing pregnancy is reported to be 15% (meaning, of 100 women, 15 per year would become pregnant despite using condoms). The latest science of reproductive biology has shown us that on average women are only fertile for 2-5 days per month or 7-17% of the time. In other words, at least 83% of the time, a woman is infertile anyway (thus the basis for the fertility awareness methods frequently called natural family planning). In this context, the condom’s 85% effectiveness rate to prevent pregnancy is even less impressive.

What about STD’s? Two basic facts will help put this issue in better perspective. While a woman is capable of becoming pregnant only about 15% of the time, she is susceptible to STD infection 100% of the time. Furthermore, in the case of HIV infection, the HIV virus is about 500 times smaller than a sperm cell and up to 50 times smaller than “voids” (holes) in latex materials like gloves and condoms. Since these facts were first pointed out in 1993 by the latex expert, Dr. Roland (the editor of Rubber and Chemistry Technology) much damage control arguments have been made in attempt to refute this objective data. Among them, it is claimed that condoms are made to higher standards and that ionic charges help prevent the HIV particles from penetrating these microscopic holes in latex. Despite wild claims in their zealous defense of the salvation by latex dogma, they can no longer honestly claim that latex constitutes an impenetrable barrier to virus (like HIV). According to the few published studies on the effectiveness of condoms to reduce the transmission of HIV (by organizations heavily invested in condom campaigns no less), their data suggests about an 80% effectiveness per year. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published an 80% effectiveness rate and the Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute has admitted this rate may be as low as 60%. Quite revealing is the curious fact that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) whose website is bloated with statistical data of every stripe imaginable, has refused to post any statistics to support their repetitive claims that condoms are “highly effective” in preventing HIV.

Unfortunately, the data supporting a claim that condoms prevent other STD’s is more sparse and even less convincing than the data on HIV prevention. Next time, we’ll discuss what constitutes a truly responsible and medically accurate discussion of “safe sex.”

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

 

What if my child has a terminal diagnosis?

This column is modified from a response written to a woman’s comment to my prior column “Is abortion ever necessary?” She explained that her physician was recommending a very premature delivery because of the child’s serious medical condition. The problem with this situation is that the likelihood of a child dying soon after delivery cannot justify a decision to arbitrarily choose to end the pregnancy and therefore the child’s life early.

As long as neither the mother’s health nor her child’s is endangered by continuing the pregnancy until term, an early delivery would not be necessary. The scenarios I wrote about are ones where both the child and mother’s health are in imminent danger. Sadly, there do indeed exist situations where prenatal ultrasound examinations can diagnose certain pathologies which indicate pre-born child is indeed likely to have a significantly shortened life after birth. Whether this is hours, days, or years depends on the severity of the disease and we can never be fully certain by mere ultrasound examinations before birth. Furthermore, the length of time the child may live after birth should have no bearing on how we treat that child in terms of provision of standard obstetric care. Frequently, however, women are advised to proceed with “termination,” one of the most popular euphemisms for induced abortion. The previously discussed examples appealing to the principle of double effect do not apply, because the only thing an early delivery would do in these situations is shorten the child’s life unnecessarily.

I fully appreciate that the motivations for an “early delivery” or “early termination” in the setting of a child with a “terminal diagnosis” are quite different when compared to the woman trying to undo an inconvenient or so-called “unplanned” pregnancy. I grieve with anyone whose child has a terminal diagnosis. We do well to recall, however, that each one of us have a terminal diagnosis. The only difference is that most of us don’t yet know our unique terminal diagnosis and when “approximately” it will take our earthly life. All we really have is the present and both you and your pre-born child are alive right now. In my experience, the problem with prenatal “terminal diagnoses” is that we start to treat the situation as if the child were already dead! Only in this context does “early termination” seem more palatable. Sadly death will come for us all, some much sooner than others. But let us not err in making ourselves a god by arbitrarily deciding where and when anyone should die.

In summary, I would not recommend a pre-term delivery for children with prenatally diagnosed lethal conditions, unless this becomes truly necessary to protect either the mother’s life or her child’s (although when necessary for the health of one it is usually necessary for the other as we discussed previously).

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank (Ob/Gyn)

IVF, why not?

Last time, I laid down some of the background for how misguided is the promotion of IVF (in-vitro fertilization) when compared to paucity of legitimate infertility treatments that seek to actually restore the healthy state of fertility. Now, I’ll detail some of the specific aspects of this process that I believe qualify it for the ignominy of being indeed the sum of all evils within the medical profession.

The attraction of IVF is mixed with both noble and selfish motives. The desire for children for their own sake within marriage is a natural and universal good. However, the desire for a child as a possession or commodity to own is an obvious reflection of fallen human nature. An appeal to the latter attitude was most conspicuous when I first saw a large highway billboard advertisement for an IVF center with a large picture of an infant’s face covered with the following phrase in 5 meter font “Want One?”. This obvious commercialization of conception is only the tip of the sinister iceberg.

Consider the following typical scenario. A couple seeking treatment for infertility undertakes the following process. The woman is taken to the operating room for a “diagnostic” laparoscopy. During the operation, the physician arbitrarily decides that her Fallopian tubes are enlarged. In a move that would rightly shock most observers, he then proceeds to surgically remove both of her tubes! The complete and irreversible form of sterilization has now guaranteed that the woman will only be able to conceive via IVF. As unbelievable as this may sound, I have personally witnessed such an outrage committed under the dubious claim that this would improve her chance of successful IVF―even though she had not yet even consented to either the sterilization or future IVF attempts.

In the later IVF cycle, the woman is given medications that dangerously overstimulate her ovaries (far beyond their natural function) in order to cause the development of 10 or more ova (eggs) at a time. Naturally, a woman only produces one ovum per cycle. She and her husband are given strict instructions to avoid marital intercourse during this process. Ironically, the woman is placed on a birth-control pill. Then, around mid cycle the couple is brought in to the office. The husband is given pornography along with instructions to collect semen in a specimen cup via masturbation in a nearby toilet stall. The same day, the woman is taken to a procedure room where her ova are “harvested,” in a most undignified and miserable process by which a large-bore needle is directed through the vagina into her ovaries. In the same room, the technician designated “embryologist” examines the eggs under microscope and literally mixes them in plastic petri dish with the recently provided semen. If at least 8 human embryo’s are conceived in this manner, it will be considered an optimal first step. These 8 newly conceived human beings are then graded by the embryologist in order to determine which are of the highest quality. About half usually make the cut; the rest are literally disposed of as mere medical waste. In fact, I was appalled to once hear an IVF doctor respond with unusual frankness to a couple asking what would happen to any spare embryos, “we throw them in the trash.” Of the four remaining, 2-4 will be “transferred” (injected via syringe) into the woman’s uterus with the hope that only one will survive. Those “high quality” embryos not already thrown into the waste bin are sometimes frozen indefinitely at great expense with small likelihood of ever surviving any thawing process for later IVF attempt. If by some “misfortune” more than one embryo survives in the mother’s womb, she is then advised to undergo “selective embryo reduction.” This of course is simply another duplicitous euphemism for a procedure intended to destroy all but one of the human lives. The maternal-fetal medicine specialists are now all too ready to use their ultrasound skills to aid in the decision of which child should be spared. Perhaps they want a boy, perhaps they want to be certain the baby spared isn’t the one with a cleft palate.

What if the harvested eggs or harvested sperm are deemed poor quality? There is a thriving and rather lucrative market of human eggs and sperm for sale wherein for the right price, the couple can purchase eggs or sperm from anonymous individuals of whatever age and background they prefer. In addition to material adultery, the injustice to the children conceived using such vendor (dishonestly called “donor”) eggs or sperm is that the children and biologic parents are separated in a most bizarre and unnatural manner from ever seeing or even knowing of one another. Ever wonder how legal disputes are settled over the custody and rights of the frozen embryos? In the U.S., such cases have established a precedent where such children are treated as property. The last time human beings were legally treated as property in Western society was during the time of African slavery.

In summary, let’s itemize the evils incorporated in the IVF process: 1) contraception, 2) sterilization, 3) pornography, 4) masturbation, 5) in-vitro fertilization itself, 6) induced abortion, 7) euthanasia (destruction of the “spare embryos”), 8) freezing of live human beings (“cryo-preservation”), 9) material adultery, 10) the degradation of human beings to mere property in striking likeness to the slave trade of past centuries, 11) the flagrant exploitation of couples seeking medical remedy for their suffering of infertility. Is there any other practice in or outside of medicine that entails so much harm to the good of the human person? If one understand that IVF is indeed the sum of all evils in modern medicine, why not?

–Dr. Frank (Ob/Gyn)

Post Navigation