All posts filed under: Health

Glimpsing Our Own Health Secrets: The Coming Revolution in Health-Care Transparency

It was a random flip through an old family binder that changed the course of Selina Brudnicki’s career. Brudnicki’s late mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer eight years earlier. A few months after her mastectomy, she complained to her doctors of new pain—a symptom that Brudnicki, a Program Lead of Digital Patient Experience based in Toronto, had assumed was being properly investigated. Brudnicki’s mother passed away of metastatic breast cancer shortly thereafter. It was in 2015, three years after her mother’s death, that Brudnicki came across that binder, which was tucked away with her mother’s belongings. There were medical test results, pathology and imaging reports, and a few oncologist notes. She also found a note her mother had written herself, commenting on a doctor’s report. It read: “[The doctor’s] report does not seem correct.  I always mention ‘pain’ not discomfort. I kept complaining about a new pain.” “While there are never guarantees, I always wonder: If [my mother] had access to her complete medical records and notes, would she have realized [sooner] that she …

The Uncharted Territories of Medically Transitioning Children

In medieval times, maps warned adventurers away from unexplored territories with drawings of mythological beasts and a warning that read, “Here be dragons.” Are we venturing into dragon territory with the transitional therapies increasingly made available to transgender youth? 12-16-18 Twelve-sixteen-eighteen isn’t a date, it’s a program developed in Holland for treating children experiencing gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling there is a mismatch between one’s experienced gender and one’s biological sex. When Dr Norman Spack, pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, learned of the approach, he decided, “I’m going to do this.” And he did. In 2007, Dr Spack co-founded the hospital’s Gender Management Service (GeMS), the first clinic in North America devoted to treating transgender children. There, he implemented the 12-16-18 program, which has since been adopted by clinics nationwide. (Dr. Spack did not respond to an interview request.) Hormones are the tools of the endocrinologist’s trade, which is why, in 1985, a transgender Harvard graduate sought Dr. Spack’s assistance. The patient, born female, had lived as a male named “Mark” throughout his …

In Defense of Male Stoicism

I dealt with the most stereotypically feminine of mental illnesses in the most stereotypically masculine way. After acknowledging that I was anorexic, and deciding that I had no wish to be, I put my head down and tried to recover with the minimum of fuss. I told almost nobody about my condition, and almost never discussed it with the people I had told. I had two sessions with a therapist—almost missing the first after getting myself lost and terrifying pedestrians by running up to them, wild-eyed, to ask for directions to the mental health center—and then abandoned them out of embarrassment and reticence. I did not want to talk, and I did not cry, and I had no wish to hold anyone’s hand or be hugged. As a means of recovery, I would not recommend this. I was fortunate enough to have a family who supported me as I recovered, and someone less privileged would need additional support. Had I been more open to professional help, meanwhile, I might have made a quicker and more comprehensive recovery, …

A Surfeit of Empathy and an Absence of Compassion

As a parent of an ROGD teen, it has been so disheartening to see so few mainstream sources publishing balanced views on this topic. We have glowing “protransition” pieces in the left-wing press, and (often) angry, and even anti-trans pieces in the right-wing or religious press. These articles are just what we need to open up a more balance, less hate filled dialogue. More, please.  ~comment from parent, Psychology Today. I am an anthropologist and professor of Psychiatry at McGill University. I have published and been mentioned in the media widely on the study of cultural evolution, social media addiction, new internet subcultures, social dimensions of cognition and mental health, and the impact of recent cultural shifts in gender norms on the wellbeing of young people. As an essayist and popular science commentator, I have written extensively on the evolutionary basis of contemporary issues, from tribalism in politics to cultural paranoia in the wake of #MeToo and nocebo effects in the medicalization of everyday problems. So far, I’ve managed to avoid scandal and outrage almost entirely by …

Anthony Bourdain vs. the Tyranny of Wellness

In Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain wrote: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” Bourdain encouraged us to travel to far-flung regions to experience other cultures through the communal act of eating. In Bourdain’s philosophy, food brings strangers together, so eating unfamiliar foods is a way to embrace other peoples and cultures and to welcome the unknown. Food—like life—is adventure and risk. Eating with others is choosing to live while we can. Bourdain was at the height of popularity in an age defined by the sometimes perverse pursuit of health and longevity. Modern diet and health culture has become exactly what Roland Barthes predicted in a 1980 Playboy piece: its own religion and mythology. For perhaps the first time in history, fasting is more readily associated with the concept of “intermittent fasting” (which promotes autophagy, or cellular cleansing to increase lifespan) than with the idea of prayer. Put another way: we fast to cleanse our cells, not our souls.  Bourdain, on the other hand, represented a refreshing escape from the religiosity of the wellness movement, and …

Exterminate Mosquitoes for the Sake of Humanity

A Plea to President Trump:  Save Millions of People by Exterminating Some Annoying Bugs A hundred species of beetles will go extinct unless we eliminate 830,000 people each year to protect the insects’ habitat.  Tiny poison-filled drones can do the killing.  The drones’ automation will free us from any moral burden arising from their actions.  Fortunately, since the threatened beetles live in impoverished areas, most of the dead will be poor people in poor countries whose demise will attract little media attention.  Yes, all human life is in theory precious but to preserve a few species of insects on our sacred mother earth shouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice a mere 0.01 percent of us each year? Okay, I made up the parts about the beetles and drones, but mankind really does face a similarly weighted tradeoff between insects and humans.  Mosquitoes kill around 830,000 people each year mostly by spreading malaria in underdeveloped nations.  Mosquitoes sicken and cause lifelong debilitation in many who don’t die.  By decimating human capital, mosquitoes do much to keep …

Why Trans Kids Need Gatekeepers

I’m a transsexual woman in my thirties who transitioned in my early twenties, and I wish I could have done so earlier. Even so, I am wary of today’s Brave New World of transgender activism in which important safeguards of transition are under attack and any counter opinion, even if made by a trans woman such as myself, are labelled as an attack on trans rights. At first it was easier for me to not ruffle the trans activists’ feathers, but my conscience got the better of me, and now I am continuing to speak up in order to help those who deserve better in their own journey of transition. Through talking to other trans people in my life, it has become apparent to me that transition surgeries are an answer but not the answer to the long-term health and well-being of gender dysphoria patients. Unfortunately, many trans people get so fixated on surgery for so long, that they may forget that there is more to life and transitioning than just surgery and other medical …

Trans Activism’s Dangerous Myth of Parental Rejection

When children and adolescents experience gender dysphoria, our aim should be to provide them with treatment of the highest standard of care. We should be attempting to provide assistance that will result in the best outcomes—in the short-term, as well as the long-term. Unfortunately, treatment of childhood dysphoria is an area not yet well understood. The extreme contentiousness around the topic means that research can be difficult to conduct and is often hampered by ideological agendas. (For example, see here.) Without a clear consensus among researchers about the best way to treat gender dysphoric children and teens, input from parents increases in importance when determining course of treatment, since it can be assumed that most parents know their children well and have their best interests at heart. However, narratives promoted by activists and the media currently undermine the crucial parental role in diagnosing dysphoria and helping to determine the most appropriate treatment. Amid glowing media discussions of brave trans kids and their heroic, supportive parents hangs an ominous specter of ignorant, bigoted parents who coldly …

Transgenderism and the Social Construction of Diagnosis

Last week saw another attempt to silence debate and research whose findings diverge from an accepted orthodoxy. In the Advocate, transgender activist Brynn Tannehill decried a 2017 abstract that appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health, stating that the research into rapid onset gender dysphoria or ROGD was “biased junk science.” The research that Tannehill so strongly objected to was undertaken by Lisa Littman, MD, MPH. Littman surveyed parents about their teen and young adult children who became gender dysphoric and transgender-identified in the context of belonging to a peer group where one, multiple, or even all the friends in a pre-existing peer group became transgender-identified in a similar time frame, an increase in social media use, or both. The findings of the research support the plausibility of social influences contributing to the development of gender dysphoria. The full research paper has not yet been published. Tannehill subsequently posted the article to the Facebook page of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). A discussion ensued in which some commentators asked WPATH leadership to request that the journal …

In Memory of the Spanish Flu

A hundred years ago the First World War was lurching bloodily towards its squalid end. The Germans were planning their Spring Offensive: a desperate attempt to beat the Allies before the Americans could intervene. Its failure led grindingly to their defeat. An Allied counteroffensive smashed the Hindenberg Line, General Ludendorff endured something close to a breakdown and the Germans slowly, sullenly began to surrender. I would argue that the First World War was the most important episode of the 20th Century. The Tsar’s bad joke of a campaign fuelled the rise of communism. Germans, humiliated and impoverished at Versailles, were left to stew in the resentment that inspired Nazism. The British, who had lost almost three quarters of a million men in a war many had expected to be won in months, had been devastated militarily and psychologically. The French had lost a million men. Europe was not the same. Even as the war began to end, however, and as people might have been excused for breathing sighs of relief, the world was stumbling into …