There’s an article in Newsweek making the round among the skeptic blogs, concerning the non-stop torrent of quackery being delivered through the vector of Oprah Winfrey:
In January, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to share her unusual secrets to staying young. Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated “bio-identical” hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she’s a younger woman. According to Somers, the hormones, which are synthesized from plants instead of the usual mare’s urine (disgusting but true), are all natural and, unlike conventional hormones, virtually risk-free (not even close to true, but we’ll get to that in a minute).
Next come the pills. She swallows 60 vitamins and other preparations every day. “I take about 40 supplements in the morning,” she told Oprah, “and then, before I go to bed, I try to remember…to start taking the last 20.” She didn’t go into it on the show, but in her books she says that she also starts each day by giving herself injections of human growth hormone, vitamin B12 and vitamin B complex. In addition, she wears “nanotechnology patches” to help her sleep, lose weight and promote “overall detoxification.” If she drinks wine, she goes to her doctor to rejuvenate her liver with an intravenous drip of vitamin C. If she’s exposed to cigarette smoke, she has her blood chemically cleaned with chelation therapy. In the time that’s left over, she eats right and exercises, and relieves stress by standing on her head. Somers makes astounding claims about the ability of hormones to treat almost anything that ails the female body. She believes they block disease and will double her life span. “I know I look like some kind of freak and fanatic,” she said. “But I want to be there until I’m 110, and I’m going to do what I have to do to get there.”
That was apparently good enough for Oprah. “Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo,” she said. “But she just might be a pioneer.” Oprah acknowledged that Somers’s claims “have been met with relentless criticism” from doctors. Several times during the show she gave physicians an opportunity to dispute what Somers was saying. But it wasn’t quite a fair fight. The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on. Somers sat onstage next to Oprah, who defended her from attack. “Suzanne swears by bioidenticals and refuses to keep quiet. She’ll take on anyone, including any doctor who questions her.”
Although the article also talks about dangerous nonsense like The Secret, it’s the health issues I want to comment on.
None of the major players — Oprah, Somers, or fellow celebrity kook Jenny McCarthy (soon to be given a similar bullshit pulpit) — were willing to be interviewed, but there are plenty of “statements” issued by them to cover their asses. “Of course,” say some PR hacks in their names, “you should talk to your doctor to see if injecting shit straight into your vagina is right for you.” Which is the problem, in America.
What typical US citizen has a “their doctor” that they see on a regular basis, a doctor who has an in-depth knowledge of (a) that patient’s full health and (b) all these claims? Few to none. I am in a pretty comfortable position and I have someone I see maybe twice a year, who is certainly capable but also has about 3999 other patients to deal with. She does a good job but she wouldn’t recognize me if I walked up to her in the street. And to see her I have to take some time off from work, go downtown, and pay a $15 co-pay. Those three things are not trivial for many people.
Unless America gets a sane health care system (and by “sane” I don’t mean we ask the insurance companies if maybe they can find some ways to cut costs that won’t inconvenience them too much, President Obama) then worthless junkbags like Somers and McCarthy will get time because it’s a hell of a lot easier for someone to see them than for someone to see a person with actual medical credentials who actually cares about the patient.
This country’s idiotic health care system (which doesn’t keep people healthy, doesn’t care, and isn’t much of a system — discuss) jeopardizes far more lives than it saves by taking doctors away from patients and by making actual medicine prohibitively expensive. As a result, people go to kook solutions, attempting to heal themselves through magic water, dubious pills, fad diets, and celebrity books. We’re more interested in saving the bottom lines of insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals than actual patients, and any attempt to change this is met by idiots bleating “socialized medicine!” as instructed by the corporate masters they worship and serve.
I am not sure what the plan is for America to stay “number one” when we don’t take health care, education, or infrastructure seriously. I assume that in the future, when we get sick, we’ll just make a pilgrimage to the Ten Commandments monument and pray for healing.