Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2003 /24 Kislev, 5764
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
Crossing Fruit Street: Some Movies Like "Stuck on You" Cross the Medical Line
One of the great, slow progresses of our civilization is learning to treat
people with disabilities as human beings, not objects of ridicule. Often,
Hollywood has been in the forefront. Movies like "A Beautiful Mind," "Scent
of a Woman," "Children of a Lesser G-d," "Rain Man" and "Forrest Gump" have
enriched our understanding of those with mental illness, visual and hearing
impairments, autism and retardation.
We should expect no less in the presentation and personification of those
who are born conjoined as Siamese twins. But now Tinseltown is doing
something both tasteless and unconscionable. Here I am talking about how
Hollywood and Madison Avenue, in their lust for laughs, lucre and larceny,
offend our medical senses with movies like "Stuck on You."
This movie is filled with sight gags and one-liners as male twins joined at
the waist go about their daily extreme routine. Yes, it is difficult for a
guy to have sex with his girlfriend while his brother is standing outside
the curtain! One venerable paper desribes the movie as "hilarious." Other
reviewers give it "two thumbs up x 2." What are they thinking?
My disappoinment with the movie is that unlike the other movies mentioned
above it portrays only the bright side of the diagnostic shadows. The
twins are endowed with only the most minimal form of the abnormality
easily separable in this day.
They are able to cook on short order; bar hop; chase beautiful women; play
baseball, football, ice hockey, golf and tennis; and one becomes a
Hollywood actor. Wow! In fairness, there are moments of humor and
endearment. But the price of tradeoff is too high!
Notes Lynn Bloomberg, veteran registered nurse and school counselor, from
Orange County, Calif.: "This is just not funny stuff. Now when I watch
movies, Saturday Night Live or Leno there is rarely anything that is
"fall-over-laughing" funny. The jokes are cruel. This generation laughs at
things their parents would never consider funny."
Has Hollywood considered that this movie might be offensive to the 48
million Americans who are disabled?
Let's look at the other side of the shadows.
Siamese twinning is not a humorous issue. Conjoined twins have intrigued
society for centuries and are among the rarest of human beings, treated as
both gods and monsters over history's timeline. According to a BBC Web
site, only a few hundred pairs of conjoined twins are born in the whole
world each year they appear once in approximately every 100,000 births
but more than half of them are stillborn and one-third live for only a few
days. There are few adult pairs living in the world today.
Of those who survive, a very small number will be medically eligible for
separation surgery. But as there are few countries that have the hospitals,
physicians, nurses and technicians with the skills and experience to
perform this delicate surgery, separation is a very unusual event.
Before surgery, endless diagnostic and imaging procedures must be
performed. Dozens of specialists and subspecialists are consulted and
intricate plans drawn for surgery. There are dress rehearsals, lasting
hours, with scores of personnel involved. The cost of separation surgery is
in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, even though most
physicians donate their time.
The agonizing decisions that surgeons and other specialists have to make
when faced with Siamese twins have been highlighted by recent cases.
Separating these twins is not only technically challenging, it also usually
involves life-and-death decisions about whether one twin should be
sacrificed in the hope of saving the other. In one recent headlined case
the twins shared the same complex venous drainage from separate brains.
The misfortune for conjoined twins who live together is that they
ultimately die together, too. When one twin dies, the heart of the other
twin keeps pumping until he or she is void of blood.
The venerable Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard teaching hospital,
the largest hospital in New England and the nation's third oldest, is
located on 55 Fruit Street in Boston. The residents work hard and long and
the competition is fierce. There are humorous moments in all this
seriousness, but when I was there in the '60s and '70s no one thought of
crossing the line. You didn't make fun of disabilities any more than you
would of cancer!
Have we become so insensitive and anesthetized and lost our sense and
sensibilities that we can no longer differentiate between crass humor and
compassionate portrayals of the disabled and congenitally deformed?
Others may ridicule for fun and profit, but I hope you do not. As for this
writer on this issue I choose not to cross the medical line or push the
dignity of Fruit Street and the halls of Harvard and The Massachusetts
The socially redeeming values of this movie could be better met by donating
the $20.00 to an organization for the disabled!
And perhaps in sum, conjoined twins are nature's special way (and
challenge) of teaching us how to get along and make the most of what we
have. For those who are conjoined, and remain so, must always think of the
needs of the other person.
Editor's Note: Michael Arnold Glueck wrote this week's column.
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments
on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute
Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians
and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists.
Comment by clicking here.
12/12/03: Silver Lining in the Medicare Clouds?
12/05/03: Medicare mop up
12/01/03: The Dirty Radioactive Bomb: Rational Response or Fear Itself?
11/24/03: The Caduceus Conspiracy: How the People Lost Medicine and How We Can Take It Back
11/14/03: Mosquitoes kill us; DDT doesn't
11/07/03: Avoiding the Schiavo Scenario: Readers Speak Out With Life-and-Death Comments
10/31/03: The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Case: Speaking out for those who can't
10/24/03: Want health service go on a diet?
10/15/03: The War on Legal Painkillers: Sen. Kerry owes an apology to the more than 48 million Americans who suffer chronic pain
10/13/03: Medicare defrauds itself
09/19/03: Politics prevents women from learning about abortion/breast cancer risks
09/12/03: Medical mischief
09/05/03: Unholy medicine
08/29/03: The California Tea Party and West Coast Determinism; Voter anger coming your way soon
08/18/03: The outlaw prosecutors: A Justice and Civil Liberties Issue
08/08/03: "Toxic Teeth?"
07/25/03: Resuscitating the Constitution; CPR American Style
07/25/03: Drug reimportation: Bill translates to goodnight, patients
07/11/03: Costly Medicare Changes, Without Real Reform
07/04/03: The Painful DEA II: War on legal drugs ensnares too many doctors and not enough dealers
06/20/03: The Medicare Mess: Will President Bush call Congress' Bluff?
06/13/03: Diagnosis: School Insanity: A suit for sanity and school discipline
06/05/03: Soaring Medical Costs: Rational ignorance or rational enlightenment?
05/30/03: A Tale of Two Admirable Women: Jessica and Annika
05/23/03: Latest medical innovation: Cash
05/09/03: We feel your pain; Physicians have it too no thanks to the DEA
05/02/03: Medical Quarterbacking
04/25/03: CNN the "Conscience-Not Network"
04/21/03: Medical Miranda?
04/11/03: Are childhood vaccines shots in the dark?
04/09/03: The PETA Principle -- The lambshank Redemption
03/28/03: American conscience?
03/21/03: West Wimps or Wings: Treatment for Hollywood Hypocrisy
03/13/03: Worldwide schmaltz shortage looms --- all because of a featherless chicken
03/06/03: Legal metastases are killing us
02/28/03: Outside the Jury Box: Seeking Justice rather than a Lottery in Medical Liability
02/21/03: Workforce temperature rising; employer TLC in demand
02/14/03: Malpractice Insurance: They Reap What They Sue
02/12/03: Hawk, Dove or Groundhog: Diagnosis Critical List; Prognosis Uncertain
02/07/03: How about tax cuts for the "rich" and "poor"?
01/31/03: AIDS Bug Chasers
01/24/03: Libertarian moment or movement?
01/17/03: It's not just 'sue the docs' anymore
01/03/03: A pox on the critics; diagnosis sour grapes
01/03/03: If protesting is good for your health; then at least let's root for the home team
12/20/02: Obesidemic (obesity epidemic) or not?
12/20/02: Time for voluntary informed smallpox vaccinations
12/13/02: The real reason the state opposes homeschooling?
12/06/02: Conscience of a former conservative: Portrait of a political metamorphosis
11/27/02: Thanksgiving dinner hazard?
11/22/02: Time to think outside the box and inside the nucleus
11/15/02: The military should be protected from abusive environmental laws in times of war
11/11/02: Does Kyoto Treaty pose more harm than global warming?
10/31/02: Deep thoughts on Baseball, the World Series and Life: How about them Anaheim Angels?
10/23/02: "Pediatric rule" guinea pigs
10/23/02: Once the World Series ends, we need to create a Donnie Moore Day of Remembrance: Sports and mental health
10/18/02: Congress to senior patients: Do as we say not as we do for ourselves
10/11/02: Using pollution "scare labeling" to political advantage
10/04/02: The Great Asbestos Heist: Did Litigation and Junk Medical Science Helped Bring Down the World Trade Center?
09/27/02: The imminent rise of civic feminism: A far healthier national alternative in war and peace
09/20/02: A Ray A Day" to replace the daily apple?
09/13/02: Beware of celebrities hawking drugs
09/06/02: Avoid 9/11 overdose: Give blood to begin "September of Service," SOS
08/28/02: From Doubleday to strikeday: Baseball's collective anxiety attack
08/23/02: Should she or shouldn't she?: An alternative view on treating menopause with HRT
08/16/02: Cooking up defenses against germ warfare
08/02/02: Medicine, crime and canines
07/26/02: Lies, pathologic lies and the Palestinians
07/19/02: Medicare Drug Follies … as in "now you see it, now you don't"
07/12/02: Anti-Profiling: A New Medically False Belief System
07/08/02: Don't procrastinate, vaccinate!
06/28/02: The scientific advances on the safe and effective deployment of DDT are being ignored, or denied. Why?
06/21/02: Sex and the system: In seeking healthcare men are different from women
06/14/02: The FDA, drug companies and life-saving drugs: Who's the fox and who's the hen now?
06/07/02: Medical Privacy Lost: A hippo on the healthcare back!
05/24/02: To clean up America's game: A (soggy) ground rule
05/10/02: Free speech is good medicine
05/03/02: Medicine's Vietnam
04/26/02: Attack on alternative medicine could lead to alternative lawsuits
04/12/02: Insure the 'crazies'?
04/09/02: No Time for Litmus Tests: In War We Need a Surgeon General and NIH, CDC, and FDA Directors
04/02/02: The scoop on soot: A dirty rotten shame?
03/22/02: Too many beautiful minds to waste: The first annual Caduceus Movie
03/15/02: Terror and transformation: Defense essential for health & state of mind
03/08/02: Diagnosis: Delusional
03/06/02: The great matzah famine
03/01/02: Is new Hippocratic Oath hypocritical?
02/15/02: Why the recent moaning about cloning?
02/08/02: Searching for Dr. Strangelove
01/15/02: Score one for the value of human life
01/04/02: Medical-legal-financial wake-up call
12/28/01: Who's afraid of a 'dirty bomb'?
12/21/01: End of medicine?
12/14/01: More heroes: Docs deserve a little credit after 9/11
11/16/01: Do we need 'Super Smallpox Saturdays'?
11/09/01: Why the post-9-11 health care debate will never be the same
11/01/01: Common sense good for our mental health
10/26/01: Your right to medical privacy --- even in terror time
10/12/01: Failed immigration policy ultimately bad for nation's mental health: Enemy within leads to epidemic of jumpy nerves
09/28/01: Can legal leopards change their spots: A treat instead of a trick
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty
08/30/01: Shut down this government CAFE
08/23/01: School Bells or Jail Cells?
08/15/01: Time to take coaches to the woodshed
08/10/01: Blood, Guts & Glory: The Stem of the Stem Cell controversy