Against Doctors, At Least Loosely

Look, I am entirely in favor of the medical establishment.  I argue in favor of many aspects of the American medical system (although its funding and pricing system clearly needs a lot of work).  In arguments with my daughter-of-a-homeopath ex-girlfriend, I was constantly taking the side of Western medical practices, or “allopathy” as she referred to it.  I’m a big believer in the scientific method, and although I freely admit that the medical establishment almost certainly has blind spots, I believe that they become smaller every year, and that if there is a truth out there, we’ll discover it eventually.

And I’ve said, on multiple occasions, that the only two professions that I want completely staffed with arrogant-as-all-get-out, completely 100% egotistical dicks, are fighter pilots and surgeons, because if I am lying on a table, with my sternum split in half, and some guy’s hands are around my beating heart, I want him to be damn sure that he’s not going to make a mistake.

At the same point in time, there’s a fine line between appropriate confidence in your methods and outright making shit up to justify your own existence.  And, via Feministing comes news that the American Medical Association recently passed a resolution calling for a law to be passed outlawing home births.  You can read a more thorough rundown of the issues involved here.

I am quite obviously not an expert in these matters, as I lack either any formal medical training or a womb, cervix, or vaginal canal (so far as I know.)  Additionally, I am completely biased, since my mother worked in a birth center (sort of a non-medical hospital for natural childbirth) all through my formative years, and I saw more videos of more births before the age of 12 than, well, just more than is right.

I’m in favor of necessitating licensing for midwifery, if only because there are quite clearly situations where medical intervention is going to be necessary, and I want to be damn sure that a midwife knows when to make that call.  But the fact is, being pregnant is not an illness, and giving birth is, in the majority of cases, nowhere near as dangerous as surgery.  If it makes the expectant mother more comfortable to be in her home, or in a birth center where she feels like the focus of attention, rather than one sick person among thousands, then the A.M.A. should really suck it, and let the poor woman be, then get back to really important stuff, like coming up with some new, really expensive cosmetic surgery that they can sell her in a few years so she can get her pre-baby body back.

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3 Responses to Against Doctors, At Least Loosely

  1. Jim says:

    As the husband of a woman who went through a horrific child birth (and who, now five years later, is still going through surgery to recover fully), I’d have to disagree with you. Pregnancy is quite often the equivalent of an illness or even a disease. If someone who wasn’t pregnant threw up every morning for weeks on end, they’d be checked into the hospital.

    In our case, if we’d attempted home-birth, it would have ended with a last-minute ambulance ride to the hospital, huge amounts of pain, and a life-threatening situation for both mom and kid. Through the whole pregnancy, there were no signs previously to indicate that we’d have anything other than a normal childbirth. A good friend of mine who went the home-birth route with their first child ended up with firefighters charging into their house because things turned south as well. Granted, there are thousands of moms out there who talk about how childbirth was a great experience, but there are so many things that can go wrong, it seems almost reckless to not have the tools and skills handy that could help save a life.

  2. say says:

    “The American Medical Association recently passed a resolution calling for a law to be passed outlawing home births.”

    So, you know you just kind-of became the equivalent of the people who are saying that the existence of gay marriage in California means that soon it’s going to be illegal to preach traditional Christianity in their own churches, no?

    “Resolution 205: That our AMA support state legislation that helps ensure safe deliveries and healthy babies by acknowledging of the concept that the safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex, that meets standards jointly outlined by the AAP and ACOG, or in a freestanding birthing center that meets the standards of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, The Joint Commission, or the American Association of Birth Centers.”

    I’m mostly with you on these issues.

    I was born at home back in the days when midwifery was illegal (technically speaking, I think, it was illegal for anyone other than a licensed MD to receive payment for performing a medical act, and childbirth was defined as a medical act). Midwives (obviously) weren’t licensed, so finding a midwife was a competency crapshoot. If anything had gone wrong, I’m guessing the midwives would have been very reluctant to transfer the birth to a hospital and may have unnecessarily delayed the decision to do so. Because of a) the legal trouble they could have gotten into and b) the interruption in continuity of care. Especially given that my mother’s regular OBGYN had been forced (by the hospital he worked for) to terminate any doctor/ patient relationship with her midway through her pregnancy; anyone treating her would have lacked her medical history. I’m in no hurry to return to those days; we should be encouraging good relationships between doctors, hospitals, and midwives.

    But I’m not convinced that the AMA issuing a resolution saying that they think hospitals and birthing centers associated with hospitals are the safest places to give birth (because they have medical equipment that the average home doesn’t have in case something does go wrong) is inevitably going to lead to laws banning home birth. Maybe I’m insufficiently paranoid, but I’d like to see what kind of state legislation they’re actually supporting before calling out the mob.

  3. Jenny says:

    Life is risky. Giving birth is risky, even in a hospital. However a birth is is a par t of every single one of our lives, which is not something can be said of any other disease (I don’t think). Being pregnant may be a medical condition, but it is not a disease that necessarily needs to be managed in a hospital. In the interest of full disclosure, I birthed my two children in a hospital under the care of obstetricians. However, I think that if I had had the option, I would have chosen to labor and deliver in a birth center under the care of a CNM. Unfortunately, Colorado did not (and yet does not, I think) have any certified birth centers.

    For an interesting read on this topic, check out this article from the New Yorker, by Atul Gawande (a surgeon by trainging), called “The Score: How Childbirth Went Industrial”:
    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/10/09/061009fa_fact

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