What’s up, doc? The ills of race-based medicine.

I know you’ll all be mightily impressed to learn that I read The Lancet [although I hardly understand any of it]. I even have a subscription – actually several subscriptions: to The Lancet, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and The Lancet Oncology [I have “email subscriptions” to these journals, which are free and contain lots of links to paywalled content I can’t afford to read and probably wouldn’t understand anyway]. Despite being imprisoned by the Evil Elsevier Empire, there is actually plenty of open access Lancet content available to anyone with a web browser [and delusions of scientific literacy in multiple areas of cutting-edge medical research]. Some of that content is accessible in every sense of the word, and so outstanding that you might consider becoming a regular reader of The Lancet yourself. Exhibit A comes from the current issue: a “Viewpoint” titled From race-based to race-conscious medicine: how anti-racist uprisings call us to act.*

While I would encourage you to go read the whole thing [perhaps with another browser tab open to a medical dictionary?], I just want to highlight a few…uh…highlights.

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Chadwick Boseman, Rest In Power. Also, I need you to lie for me.

Good afternoon, beloved readers. First, I want to tell you some things. Then I am going to ask you to lie for me, and to get every adult under age 50 you care about to lie their asses off for you, too.

My heart is heavy today. I awoke to news of the death of actor Chadwick Boseman, at age 43, from colon cancer.

FORTY THREE.

Chadwick BosemanChadwick Aaron Boseman
November 29, 1976 – August 28, 2020
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Whether or not you’re a fan of Black Panther and the Marvel Universe movies, or of Boseman’s portrayals of iconic Black historical figures like Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown, this man – by all accounts a kind person and talented beyond measure – has left our world too soon. And he is gone because of a preventable disease.

And as you might imagine, beyond my sadness at this tragic loss lies a fair amount of…well, RAGE. If you or people you love happen to live in the U.S. today, you are living in a country where this is true:

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Meanwhile, elsewhere in Oregon…

…some shit is really pissing me off. And there’s something YOU can do about it.

[CONTENT NOTE: racist police, prosecutor, judicial and parole office malfeasance toward an innocent, mentally ill child, denial of care, unjust sentencing and imprisonment of a child, racist bullying, racist harassment and public violence against black people by other community members with no police action taken, sexual harassment, physical and sexual assault, self-harming…fuuuuuuuuck.]

The following is an email I received this morning from change.org.

change.org

Iris — 14-year-old Saraya Rees battles with mental illness. After being abruptly taken off her antidepressants by a local pediatrician, she suffered a mental health crisis. She poured gasoline on the living room carpet and her parents contacted Coos Health & Wellness for help. But the clinic called the police. Saraya was arrested and sentenced to 11 years in juvenile prison. Kelsey and more than 250,000 signers say this is inhumane. Add your name to demand that Saraya’s case be reopened and the charges reassessed.

painting of a teenage biracial girl (uncredited).268,349 have signed kelsey darragh’s petition. Let’s get to 300,000!

Well that all sounded pretty fucked-up to me, but this was just a summary. Even before my morning coffee, it occurred to my sleepy, chemo-addled brain that there were pieces missing in this story, some of which could be enormously consequential and thus color the true picture, in one way or another. So rather than sign-now-with-a-click and move on in the direction of my coffee pot, I read the rest of the email. And readers? When those gaps were filled in, the picture became so much uglier and far more disturbing than anything I could have imagined.

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$6,000,000,000.00

In response to my previous post wherein I helpfully suggested to my mayor that he have “BLACK LIVES MATTER” painted on the streets in giant yellow letters outside of all 77 police precincts in New York City, a much beloved commenter expressed concern about the cost of all that paint.

I’ve been thinking that the facts I mentioned in my reply are worth highlighting here, because they speak volumes about our priorities as a city, and as a society – and bring the call to #defundthepolice into crystal clear focus: [Read more…]

Medicare for All right f***ing now motherf***ckers.

I was just trawling my Twitter feed for stuff to steal, when I came across a story I just had to retweet to @JoeBiden. You see, Mr. Biden does not support single payer healthcare, for reasons (*cough* conservative *cough* corrupt *cough*).

Here’s the story:

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NYC pushing kinky COVID sex!

My little town is reopening in more ways than one. On Monday of this week, the day the city entered Phase 1 of reopening, New York City’s Health Department published a guidance document entitled “Safer Sex and COVID-19.” I am posting it below in its entirely because (1) it’s amazing, and (2) I have no idea whether other states (or countries) are doing anything similar. For instance, I highly doubt Alabama is following suit, since sex toys are illegal there. And something tells me all those conservative panty-sniffers in states where “abstinence-only” non-education is standard fare in public schools would start shooting their elected officials if they dared to publish anything so…so… reality-based.

But in order to appreciate just how good NYC’s safer sex guidance is, it is worth noting how gawdawful it is elsewhere. In case you are blissfully unaware of (or have blissfully forgotten) how disturbingly fucked-up the US is with regard to sex and sexuality, just consider a few facts. According to Guttmacher:

  • only 17 states require sex education programs in public schools to be medically accurate.
  • only 20 states (plus DC) require teaching information on contraception. (Uhh, seems to me if 30 states are not teaching students about contraception, then they really cannot call whatever it is they’re doing “sex education.” FFS.)
  • only 3 states prohibit these programs from promoting religion. (!!!)
  • at least 6 states require only negative information to be provided on homosexuality and/or positive emphasis on heterosexuality, including Alabama (I KNOW SHOCKER!), Arizona, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas. (W. T. F.)

39 states are on the taxpayer-funded abstinence-only train to STDs and teen pregnancies.

  • 10 states and DC require that abstinence be covered.
  • 29 states require that abstinence be stressed.

This is a good analysis and debunking of the smugly touted “100% effectiveness rate” of abstinence as birth control. All you have to do is measure it by the same standards as other forms of contraception, i.e. rates of “perfect use” and “typical use.” (SPOILER ALERT! Epic fail!)

Since nearly 80% of states have been engaging in this educational malpractice for decades, perhaps that explains why STD rates are at record highs.

And that’s hardly the only damage abstinence miseducation causes:

According to a 2004 report prepared for House Democrats, language used in abstinence-based curricula often reinforces “gender stereotypes about female passivity and male aggressiveness” — attitudes that often correlate with harmful outcomes including domestic violence, the report notes.

Okay, one more – and this one’s personal:

  • 36 states and DC allow parents the option to remove their child from instruction.

Mine did.

There are more jaw-dropping statistics and state-level details at that Guttmacher link, and of course none of this takes into account over a million kids homeschooled by conservative Christians. These benighted children are indoctrinated with sex-role stereotypes and abstinence-until-marriage, under penalty of eternal damnation and hellfire, right along with stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark as explanations for the origins and diversity of life on Earth.

I could go on (and on and on…) but I think this paints enough of a picture of the status quo to contrast with NYC’s…different approach. Please enjoy this reality-based document, and feel free to forward the information and/or the link to anyone and everyone you think may benefit. Especially people in Alabama.

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COVID Chic!

As I am sure my many tens of loyal readers will recall, I had to leave my apartment for the first time in months for a doctor’s appointment. This was a perilous endeavor, for two reasons I mentioned:

The virus appears far deadlier for cancer patients, according to a study by the Lancet“Researchers found that 13 percent of the current and former cancer patients died within 30 days of testing positive for coronavirus, a far higher mortality rate than has been observed in the general population.”

And:

(HealthDay News) — Ten percent of COVID-19 patients with diabetes die within a week of entering the hospital and 20% need a ventilator to breathe by that point, a new French study found.

And there’s a third: I am a goddamn New Yorker. Virus or no virus there are RULES here, people – and one breaks them at one’s peril. I speak of fashion, of course. If I die of shame, the consequences of a misstep here are worse than contracting COVID-19!

So what’s a New York City diabetic cancer patient to do wear?

I had already decided that I was gonna rock this shit like the motherfucking Queen of England.

Her Majesty Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

And so I did.

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Bad news day.

[CONTENT NOTE: racist police violence, f-bombs.]

I awoke today, as many did, to news of more widespread protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by white police, and the murder of Breonna Taylor, a black woman, by white police, and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, by white racist thugs, and, and, and, and…

I want to say this here as unequivocally as I can (and have said before): I stand in solidarity with communities of color around the country and around the world, in opposition to state violence and murder, militarized policing, unprecedented mass imprisonment and surveillance, social and economic and environmental injustice, and imperial wars.

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
Emma Lazarus

I also want to cosign Jacob Frey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, who said this:

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Mah spiritual needz!

Since this came up in comments on my previous post, I thought I’d regale readers with the tale of that one time I had a so-called nondenominational cleric and self-proclaimed “spiritual counselor” approach me during chemo.

Yes, some pasty-faced white d00d in a somber black suit and white collar straight out of central casting came by my station, introduced himself as a “spiritual counselor” and handed me his business card:

Yes that’s right: an official Staff Chaplain was here to help me with aaaaall mah spiritual counseling needz! Whoo-hoo!

Now, contrary to my fearsome reputation as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist*, I do not generally begrudge my free fellow Americans their own personal supernatural fantasies and frivolities, except for when I do absolutely and unequivocally begrudge them. For instance, when they see fit to inflict said fantasies and frivolities upon myself or others by force of law or otherwise. And I have a particularly dismal opinion of clergy, whom I hold in the very lowest esteem for many reasons, including the fact that they are either primary vectors for spreading all manner of hellish evils and deadly nonsense here in the US and around the world, or at best apologists therefor. Also, in my experience clergy are, without exception, all. flaming. narcissists.

And yet, believe it or not, I was SUPER NICE to the Staff Chaplain! We had a looong chat wherein I pretended to be interested in his theological education and its flavor of supernaturalism: some kind of Protestant Christian (*omg yawn*). Then I asked him about his chaplaining philosophy and experience: “oh, it’s non-denominational,” he answered. Why, he could provide me with Buddhist spiritual counseling, even! He said so when I pressed, and I pretended to be impressed.

This “conversation,” if we can call it that, went on and on AND ON, more or less in the form of a monologue, with just a few little prompts and prods here and there from me: his utterly captive audience, attached at the chest to slowly draining IV bags via a one-inch needle recently pierced into a surgically implanted port.

But this part was expected. Just ask any run-of-the-mill narcissist to talk about themselves, then sit back and behold the MEEEEEE that pours forth without end.

Once I was sure he was enjoying himself thoroughly, I pounced. I asked him ever so sweetly about, you know, his actual counseling qualifications. Any certifications? None. Academic degrees in psychology? None. Clinical social work? None. Perhaps institutional internships or residencies as a counselor? None. Any actual license to practice counseling in New York State? None.

NONE.

“Huh,” I said cooly, and pretended to be disappointed. Hurt, even.

By this point his hackles were visibly rising, but yet he looked torn. I mean, I had only moments ago been such a delightful, rapt and eager listener, so generous with my encouraging wide eyes, “uh-huhs” and a few tactical “wows.”

I waited a beat – and yes, I admit I enjoyed watching him squirm – then casually dropped the “Well, I’m atheist” bomb. “But I am sooo interested in discussing religion and spirituality with you! I’ve got nothing but time to kill here!”

The Staff Chaplain seemed taken aback for a second, maybe two. Then he very quickly offered up some banal farewell pleasantries, and oh man, this d00d was out the door of the chemo suite in a streaky black blur. Oh well. I guess nobody else locked up to hideous poisons drip drip dripping into their fragile veins was in need of spiritual counseling that day?**

Listen, as far as I’m concerned, amusing myself by toying with a clergyperson while I’m quite literally stuck getting chemo? Now that is addressing mah spiritual needz!

I never once saw him again at the hospital, despite being a frequent flyer. Or maybe he just saw me first.

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*Okay, so maybe I am a hopeless raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist. But I prefer to think of myself, at least in this instance, as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist Cheshire Cat.

Sir John Tenniel's hand-colored proof of Cheshire Cat in the Tree Above Alice for The Nursery "Alice"

**Yes I know, there were religious/spiritual/nondenominational/whatever patients lining the long wall of the chemo suite right along with me. But Iris, don’t they deserve access to an official Staff Chaplain to comfort them if they so desire? HOW COULD YOU BE SO AWFUL?!!! Indeed, I myself have said before, not coincidentally to my therapist, and also to my much-missed dear friend and FtB colleague Caine, cancer treatments are trauma. Full stop.

But no. No, my fellow patients most certainly do not deserve this. And I’ll tell you why in my next post.

PETITION to UnitedHealthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Kaiser: cover birth control co-pays.

via UltraViolet:

Trump just announced he will take away free birth control from up to 55 million women, claiming it promotes “risky sexual behavior.”

How ’bout you worry about controlling your own sexual behavior, and I worry about mine.

Asshole.

Women use birth control for everything from calming menstrual cramps to family planning to managing crippling pain from endometriosis. In fact, sex becomes a lot riskier without access to birth control.

Gosh, ya think?

This is just the latest attempt by the Trump administration to pander to right wing extremists who want to sabotage women‘s health care.

FIFY. You’re welcome.

The good news is that we can still save free birth control for millions of women who need it. Insurance companies benefit from covering the co-pay–in part because birth control is vastly cheaper than childbirth or endometriosis treatment. Let’s make sure that every single health insurance company, starting with three of the biggest–UnitedHealthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Kaiser–hears from us right away.

Can you sign the petition and help pile the pressure onto insurers to continue to cover birth control?

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Under a capitalist healthcare system, rights and access are dependent on a profit motive. Not on what is moral and good and the right thing to do. Not on laws or constitutions. Certainly not on the best health care practices. So we must desperately appeal to the bottom line of a parasitic, profit-driven industry, one whose notorious and egregious abuses are legion, and which in any sane and just society would not even fucking exist.

But here we are. Please sign and signal boost the petition if you are willing and able.

THANK YOU.