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Jewish World Review April 19, 2001 / 26 Nissan, 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

How politically correct medicine can hurt you -- WHILE many folks agree that political correctness is corrupting to the mind and spirit, there is new evidence that it may be devastating to our bodies as well. That's the subject of the provocative new book "PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine," by Sally Satel, M.D.

A practicing psychiatrist and a lecturer at Yale University Medical school, Satel offers a simple but devastating critique of modern medicine, saying that a culture of victimology has begun to pervade it as it too often "puts politics before health."

Satel argues that there is a dangerous tendency in the medical world to look at correlation as causation and to make diagnoses accordingly. For instance, it's true that wealthier people tend to be healthier, which led two health experts to write in the American Journal for Public Health "we must address the social inequalities that so reliably produce" these inequalities in health.

But Satel notes that for a variety of non-economic reasons poorer people are more likely than their more affluent peers to be obese, to lead a sedentary lifestyle and to engage in various kinds of risky behavior. These are huge health hazards, which, to the detriment of poorer communities, are often ignored by the medical establishment in pursuit of more politically correct answers.

By the same token, health differences between whites and blacks are consistently, and erroneously, laid at the door of racism, Satel says.

So, for instance, the stress of living with racism has been routinely blamed for the tendency among black men to have higher blood pressure than white men. But Satel shows that the major study on which that "finding" is based is flawed. She points to less reported studies that have shown that factors such as reducing salt intake have a tremendous impact on blood pressure and that blacks tend to have more salt-sensitive hypertension than whites. When the public health establishment overlooks such sound medicine for the more politically correct position that high blood pressure is a result of racism, it's the black community, which suffers.

When it comes to women's health, including funding for disease research and inclusion in clinical trials, the standard understanding is that women are ignored or face discrimination. Satel shows that's just wrong. (In fact the National Institutes of Health just retracted such a claim it had made in 1997.) For starters a recent study in the journal Controlled Clinical Trials found, by reviewing research data at five-year increments since 1985, that female subjects outnumbered males 13 to 1 across all cancer trials. And Satel notes that since 1985, breast cancer research has received more money than any other cancer.

That brings us to another PC issue. Given the attention paid to breast cancer it makes sense for women to think that it is the biggest health risk they face. They would also be reasonable to concur with the PC contention that it is caused by various man-made chemicals. Satel shows that the very few studies that suggest such a conclusion fall apart under review. Careful studies showing a strong connection between obesity and breast cancer rarely receive much play. In any event, women are actually far more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than breast cancer. But cardiovascular disease is not exclusive to women, and no one has suggested that man-made environmental pollutants cause it. So it's not as politically correct as breast cancer, and unfortunately for women, it doesn't get as much attention from the public health establishment.

Satel lists many other examples of PC medicine, including everything from an alarming trend toward racial and gender-based "I am a member of a victim group" psychotherapy, to an organized movement encouraging nurses to see themselves as oppressed by the "male medical establishment." Satel calls those behind these agendas "indoctrinologists." While many fine doctors and researchers are valiantly resisting these trends, the influence of the indoctrinologists is growing in key areas, particularly and most ominously in medical schools.

The evidence of politically correct medicine is growing. A second volume from Satel may be warranted.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


04/05/01: King of the wimps?
04/02/01: 'Reforming' free speech
03/28/01: Some pro-thoughts about pro-life
03/20/01: The virtue of inhibition
03/12/01: Global warming crazies are full of cold air
03/06/01: Plan now for your daughter's athletic scholarship
02/22/01: Brave when the battle's done
02/14/01: Sick
02/06/01: Is nothing sacred?
01/30/01: Moral bankruptcy of the civil rights establishment
01/16/01: Who are the truly 'ugly' ones?
01/10/01: The extent to which our culture has been feminized
01/02/01: It's gettin' better all the time
12/20/00: Now that the head banging has stopped ....
12/13/00: TV keeps giving us the bad dad
12/01/00: Sorriest legacy of election has nothing to do with chads, 'aborted pregnancies' or the electoral college
12/01/00: Giving 'sleepovers' a new meaning
11/20/00: The Dems' pathetic craving for power
11/14/00: A potentially fateful indication of Gore's mindset
11/07/00: What do women really want?
10/24/00: Spare the rod ...
10/19/00: Gore is a liar --- period
10/12/00: Making the case for marriage
09/28/00: "Mommy, what's abortion?"
09/20/00: Gay righters no longer seek just tolerance but endorsement
09/14/00: The stupidity of smart growth
09/07/00: It takes more than a kiss
08/30/00: Helping out at school is more than an obligation
08/24/00: Family time comes far down the summer schedule
08/16/00: A tale of two wives
08/09/00: The Brady Bill isn't achieving its aim
08/01/00: Attention feminists: How to really keep our daughters safe
07/25/00: Everything is protective: the parents, the gear, the age
07/18/00: Say it ain't so, Ann
07/11/00: Limiting a child's choices
07/06/00: Accounting for your health
06/21/00: It's a bad time to be a boy in America
06/13/00: The state of our unions
06/02/00: Federalizing care of kids
05/17/00: The natural food threat
05/09/00: To stop gun violence, keep families intact
05/03/00: Pass the fat, please
04/25/00: Something just for boys
04/18/00: When toleration goes too far
04/10/00: Women warriors
04/05/00: Confessions of a soccer mom
03/30/00: Getting an education about schools
03/22/00: If you're a parent, act like one!
03/14/00: Not child advocates, but self-advocates
03/06/00: McCain not what he seemed at first
02/29/00: An effective answer to social problems
02/22/00: The feminists' newest target: Toys
02/06/00: Harassing the harassers
01/31/00: It doesn't take a village to raise a child --- it takes a scheduler
01/25/00: Psuedo science and global warming
01/18/00: Socially responsible nonsense
01/10/00: Monica may be onto something
12/27/99: Sometimes it matters quite a lot what government thinks
12/17/99: Teens have no inherent 'right to privacy'
12/10/99: Buying a minivan and tossing the SUV
12/03/99: On the mommy track
11/05/99:The waste of recycling
11/01/99: Welcome to Harvard pre-school
10/22/99: No disaster for women that Dole is out
10/19/99: 'Humanitarian' hypocrites
10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

© 2001, Scripps Howard News Service