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)