What the Doctor Won’t Tell You

Jennifer Margulis is an award-winning journalist, health activist, wife, and mother of four. She’s also a friend of mine; we don’t agree on everything, but I greatly admire her intelligence, commitment, integrity and passion.

Margulis’ most recent book, The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line, will leave you outraged — especially if you’re a woman who’s ever given birth. Driven by economics, student loans, fears of litigation, coziness with the drug industry, and pure arrogance, American obstetricians seem never to have encountered a pregnancy they don’t want to repeatedly test and re-test, just to make sure. After all, somebody has to pay for those fancy ultrasound machines in their offices.

This is what happens, Margulis says, when every pregnancy is automatically medicalized and viewed as an illness — even though human beings seem to have pretty reliably populated the Earth over the millennia, with or without medical intervention. And what do we end up with in our well-educated, immensely rich country? More expensive health care, more medical interventions, and a maternal death rate four times higher than Bosnia and Herzegovina’s.

Not to mention our world record rate of C-sections, which is now up to one in three. As one of Margulis’ subheads dryly notes, American obstetricians and pediatricians tend to be keen to intervene.

Anyway, I highly recommend Margulis’ book, which focuses on a segment of the problems in American health care — but illuminates the entire industry. Reading it, you will find yourself nodding angrily, recalling your own experiences with the medical industry, its expensive guesswork, its reluctance to be questioned, its endless waits, its intimidations.

I know, I know — there are many wonderful doctors out there, some of whom I’ve been fortunate to see. But look around, read about the U.S.’s  health statistics and outcomes and expenditures, and you want to book a one-way ticket to Scandinavia. The system is corrupt and we’re all part of the system — until, as Margulis suggests, we begin to stand up to it and question it.

(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read more about the runaway medical train here and
here at the end of life

9 comments… add one
  • I gave birth a long time ago, when no one was questioning birthing practices and challenging the healthcare system. Jennifer’s book sounds fascinating and informative. I’ll bet if it had been around when I was pregnant I would have questioned the status quo.

  • I read this book also and it is really eye-opening. I think a lot of people are going to take issue with a lot of what she says, but whether people agree or disagree with what she thinks, it starts a very important discussion that will at least help to educate many women and get them to ask more questions. I was impressed by the amount of research that went into this book.

  • Did you see Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary called Sicko? That’s a scathing look at our health care ‘industry.’ My daughter chose to have her son at home with a mid-wife, and all went well. No hospital intervention whatsoever. She plans on doing it this way the next time, and I think she is on the right path given the horrible statistics of obgyn’s in this country.

  • Lovely review of what sounds like a very interesting book!

  • This sounds like a fascinating book. I’m recommending it to my great niece, who “scheduled” the birth of her baby on the day she wanted, which I understand is a common practice now.

  • I’m hoping this book starts a healthily raucous, but helpful discussion of the practices of birthing. And I also hope that Jennifer Margulis may decide to look into the treatment of menopause and unnecessary hysterectomies for her next project.

  • merr Link

    This book seems to be forcing people to see a side of healthcare that is tough to look at. It may not be the experience of everyone who reads it, but it shows us a facet that can be very emotional and, for some, something they would like to deny than investigate and learn more about.

  • Very good review of the book and it’s certainly worth a read. The book, that is. Well, the review, too.

  • Thank you for this lovely review, Ruth. I’ve been following Jennifer’s journey with the book, and it’s an enlightening piece of work that makes me feel not so alone regarding my own struggles with the health care industry (and those 2 babies I had years ago – oy, the stories I could tell).

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