The Century of the Self and the Importance of Questions

We interrupt this mass [media] hysteria for a public service announcement: Not everything you hear or read is true.

Your inner critic should immediately ask, well why should I believe you? You shouldn’t. Form your own opinion. Maybe you live in a magical land where no one can speak a lie and unicorns frolic with hippos and it snows but isn’t cold and no one ever gets sunburned and everyone is happy. Maybe you invented a pair of shades or a hearing aid that filters information so that all you see and hear is fact-checked, verified and valid. Or maybe you need to listen critically to information you get. You tell me.

Alright, sorry for the snark, perhaps I’m a little riled up. There are a lot of crazy and horrible things going on out there kids; I don’t have to tell you that. My heart goes out to those who are suffering with loss and pain and fear. Its completely natural that we want to know what happened. Who, Why? Will it happen again? Could it happen to me or my loved ones? A thousand questions. And I’m happy they’re being asked, no matter how crazy, or hysterical, or out there, or inquisitive, or relentless, or unlikely they may seem.

So you may see now why I’m feeling a bit perturbed. Amongst the reports from Boston, MA, I’ve seen and heard a fair share of questions…generally swiftly met by a barrage of labels. “Hysterical.” “Fearmonger.” “Conspiracy Theorist.” 

I was relieved to see that not everyone has gone around the bend, there was sanity in the facebook post of a friend of mine, which included an observation of people who have called for a swift death of the suspects, without trial: “some of these people would not trust the gov’t w/ healthcare policies, or with economic policies or gun control…. but they have let all honest skepticism fly out the window in the face of terrible event and an accusation.”

Well said.

So now seems like a great time to share a great documentary with you nice folks. It’s called The Century of the Self, and it’s fantastic. It’s broken down in 4 parts: Happiness Machines, Engineering Consent, There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads-He Must Be Destroyed, and Eight People Drinking Wine in Kettering.

This 2002 BBC documentary explores and exposes the way psychology has been used to manipulate the individual and the masses in order to create a consumer-driven society. You’ll see how the propaganda machine used as a tool for World War II found a new home in consumerism after the war was over. It explores both corporate and governmental attempts (and successes) at influencing populations. A little something for everyone. Check it out.

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That’s My Placenta! A Survey of Ownership and Activities

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If something is removed from your body, who owns it? The question may gross you out, but it has a serious side. Take for example, the human placenta. A little bio-class refresher: it’s an organ grown by a woman during pregnancy to attach the fetus to her uterus via the umbilical cord. It transfers oxygen, nutrients and hormones to the baby, and removes waste. (So get that-momma’s already feeding and picking up after you even before you’re born! That’s love ladies and gentlemen.)

If a woman gives birth in a hospital, as a majority of women do in the U.S., you’ll likely never see this amazing organ. Many may thank their lucky stars but a growing number are grabbing for a doggie bag–literally and figuratively. There is a growing contingent of families that want to keep the placenta for personal use. Hospitals and governments have policies that run the spectrum from allowing momma access immediately without question, protected by law, to a waiting period or injection of a preservative, or a blanket refusal. However, a lack of uniform policy combined with social stigma creates situations that can be simultaneously comical, sad, devious or hazardous. When faced with an official policy of refusal, some women call a funeral director to have the placenta released then returned to them via straw man. Some find a sympathetic hospital staffer to drop it in a designated biohazard bin then look the other way when the bag disappears. A few are lucky enough to be able to take it home in a cooler with permission. Some need a court order to get their body part released.

Why Want it and Why Would that Be a Problem?

There are a variety of reasons a person would want to keep their placenta, but  I can summarize three main: spiritual practice, placentophagy, and memorabilia. For  many, keeping the placenta has spiritual implications–some cultures believe the soul is attached, or individuals may want to perform their own memorial or ritual by, for example, burying it near a tree so that the tree grows as the child does. There is a beautiful and fascinating book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, that describes the intersection of Hmong culture with western medicine, in which the placenta burial ceremony is depicted. Other people choose to ingest their placenta, either raw, cooked or encapsulated. There’s plenty of googling to be done on this one if you’re interested but I’ll leave that to you and focus instead here on logistics and law. Suffice it to say that many strongly believe in this practice (including yours truly) and believe it can provide healing nutrients, prevent or slow postpartum hemorrhaging  and alleviate baby-blues. Finally, some use the placenta to create art as a way to honor the woman’s body or memorialize a birth. Again, google away if you so choose.

So what’s the problem? Why would Hospital refuse to allow a mother to take home her own organ? Again, no single answer. Hospitals may cite risk of disease due to releasing human tissue full of blood. There could be prejudice to hurdle–utilizing a placenta in private circumstances is not the norm in American culture. There could be a profit incentive for the hospital–placenta is increasingly being used in beauty products for such things as anti-wrinkle creams and shampoos. More altruistically, but also with funding in mind, the placenta is a source of stem cells for medical research.

So Who Owns It? Momma or the Hospital?

I’m going to give you the classic lawyer response on this: “It Depends.” It depends on whether the state you live in has laws that directly address this, or what indirect laws the hospital and department of health choose to apply. It depends on what the placenta is called, or how it’s classified. You can find a survey of law and legal issues here and here.

In 2007 the placenta ownership question made its way to a Nevada courts in Swanson v. Sunrise Hospital. In short, Mom wanted to take her placenta and the hospital refused. Ultimately, the court ordered the hospital to release it (though too late to encapsulate so it was buried instead). But that’s just one case in Las Vegas, Nevada. It probably doesn’t apply to your situation. Precedential persuasion only goes so far, and less so the more “icky” or stigmatized the subject matter.

Hospitals have a tightrope to walk when releasing placentas–honor patient rights and wishes, while protecting themselves from liability. The sympathy a hospital has for momma’s rights will vary state to state, county to county, even hospital to hospital. Further, the official policy of a hospital may not accurately reflect the unofficial practices of staff.

And what’s in a name? The way the placenta is classified can have a bearing on it’s disposition–what a staffer will do once they have it in their hands and who then has access to it. It can be trashed as medical waste, frozen as human tissue, or considered human remains to be picked up by a coroner. With each of these classifications, different laws apply. Compare to other things that are removed from a body: stuff like swallowed change or diamond rings and likely handed over, kidney stones or lukemia cells that will likely be discarded, sperm and ova and organs that can be donated, cord blood that can be banked. You can see the power of a label.

So What If You Want To Keep Your Placenta?

The best bet for keeping your placenta is to give birth outside of a hospital, if it is a safe option for you (consult medical professionals–I am not one). However, if you plan on a hospital birth and want to keep your organ, do your homework:

  • Don’t be shy. Talk to your doctor about his or her thoughts, feelings, and policies. Have they ever heard of this? (Surprising how many have not). Have they ever allowed this before?
  • Call the hospital ahead of time to find out their policies and alert them that you want to keep your placenta. Ask to have it put in your medical chart.
  • Is there anything written down that guides the situation? Find out if there are any local laws, regulations or guidance.–state, regulations, hospital policy. This way, you can find a different hospital if need be. All of these things can be legally challenged, with varying degrees of difficulty. Don’t be surprised if there is nothing.
  • You may need to sign a release. Ask the hospital if they have one or if they require one. They’ll likely have to consult with their legal team. You can hire an attorney to write one and guide you through this process.
  • Likely you’ll be asked why you want your placenta. You don’t have to answer, but it may help the process along. If you’re going to answer, be prepared. Some people are upset by the question, thinking, “It’s mine, why do I have to justify my reasons?” If that’s your position, more power to you, but be prepared to perhaps meet some resistance. Some hospitals may not release your placenta without knowing why (that there is a legit use), because they’re thinking about their own liability or even ethics.
  • Be prepared: If the Hospital will let you take it–how is that going to happen? Are you okay with it being frozen or do you need it raw? Is your cooler ready with your hospital to-go bags? Does this need to be released to someone else as a straw man? Have that person in place. Don’t let it get to the point of needing an emergency court order, where you risk the viability of the placenta.
  • Consult an attorney to help you through the process 🙂

In Conclusion

Although you may feel strongly that something that comes from your own body belongs to you (and I agree with you), there are public health concerns and social stigma that you are fighting against. This may not be fair or proper, but it is the way it is right now. The best I can say to you is to be prepared to protect your rights. I hope that you are in a friendly environment, but you may not be.

SOURCES & ADDITIONAL READING

The Atlantic: Why Some Mothers Choose to Eat Their Placentas; March 22, 2013.

Placenta Benefits website

Patheos.com: Placenta Magic

The New DARE–Drug Abuse Reliant Education

With the school system failing them, many children are turning to drugs. Heard this one before, right? Well, how about the part where the pusher is your pediatrician, and the fed is subsidizing?

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Terrifying.

A recent NYT article spot lighted increasing psych diagnoses in children for the purpose of acquiring “brain boosting” pharma creations to increase academic performance. The purpose is to make a child more competitive on a college application, and increase funding for a school district as test scores rise. Children are being force-fed drugs instead of given the attention they need or the freedom to be creative and learn discipline on their own as pharmaceutical “solutions” are abused as steroids for the brain. Worse yet, the behavior is sanctioned by those in authority, who are supposed to advocate for their well-being–their parents, doctors and the federal government.

LivEmpire2I’m not saying that all parents, doctors and government officials are proponents of this system. Quite the opposite–I’d surmise that physicians and politicians  and parents alike would claim victimization. In fact, Dr. Anderson, quoted above, says just that–he doesn’t have a whole lot of choice. Likewise, those involved with Medicaid and the federal budget may see the unnecessary diagnosis as …oh, i don’t know… fraudulent? Criminal? Child abuse? No matter the reason, we are talking about falsifying a disorder for the sole purpose of having access to a controlled substance.

How about the parents? Can they be blamed for wanting the best education for their children? Abuse of drugs like Adderall has been going on for years in order to boost academic achievement among kids who are simply looking for a better class rank or test score, and it appears this is happening in kids younger and younger. And now instead paying cash to a friend or sibling who has a prescription, they can more easily get their own, with the blessing of parents and physicians while utilizing insurance purse strings.

Education is a highly competitive arena, whether it’s a student vying for a scholarship or admission to their college of choice, or a district teaching to standardized test scores and praying for funding. The Obama administration’s lauded “Race to the Top” initiative even goes so far as making funding an actual competition–schools submit innovative proposals for education reform in an effort to win federal money.

An anonymous California superintendent pontificated that “diagnosis rates of A.D.H.D. have risen as sharply as school funding has declined.” Poor children are being prescribed stimulants at increasing rates, and Medicare is paying the bill. If we are not directly funding public education in this country, we are indirectly doing so in efforts to respond to the problem.

Well I guess that’s one way to “Damn the Man and Save the Empire.” Good luck out there Liberty Lovers.

The Grey Area on Guns – NPR Segment

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Do my ears deceive me? Is this an actual conversation on guns….well perhaps not an actual conversation, but at least an acknowledgement within one story that there is more than one point of view that could even be rationally considered, and not all is as black and white as polarized media portrays.

Check out this 17-minute segment from NPR: The host shoots a gun for the first time and describes what it feels like to her, NPR attempts to be impartial toward gun-ownership, and 7 people (owners and non, civilian and ex-military, first or second-hand experience of gun accidents, men and women, all Caucasian and from the same town) share their points of view in sound bite form.

Oz Never Did Give Nothing To the Tin Man

“Don’t you just love it when artists write their own songs? Then you know it comes from the heart.”

If I Only Had a Heart

If I Only Had a Heart

Wow, isn’t that just neat-o? I overheard this while scanning the FM dial in my car yesterday. I think I was cruising past country at the time. There is so much wrong with this statement I had a moment of overload–First, I thought the radio host was an idiot, and I responded in disgust, “How can you call that an artist?” Then I thought I was the idiot for ranting at the radio, and caring about what this vapid host had to say.

I am sad and a bit angry that we live in a time and place where the term “artist” has been bastardized to be used to describe an actor hired by a corporation–a person that performs a lie created by someone else, designed to shape a consumer and sell a product (or ten).  In common parlance this person is a “bullshit artist,” in corporate parlance, this person is a “celebrity.”

In the music industry, men and women sit around a table and debate the finer points of mindless repetitive lyrics, and which “artist” would be better suited to sell a song. The end product is JLo or Beyonce or Justin Bieber or Brittany Spears. What’s even more sad is that it wouldn’t be done if it didn’t make money–we buy this product just like we buy “food” at McDonalds or Taco Bell.

The woman’s statement is an inadvertent confession–the music we’re offered on these stations is not “from the heart,” it’s not true….So if creative songwriting is “from the heart,” where does corporate song crafting come from?

I was also saddened at the easy way this woman mused about creativity as if it’s a novelty; as if it’s not the norm…is she right?  I can remember when I liberated myself from Top40–I went to college when Kazaa and Napster hit the scene. Suddenly I was exposed to so many types of music and so many artists that my mind exploded. In a good way. It was something old, something new, cover songs borrowed and a bit of the blues. (And contrary to popular media reports, I ended up buying much more music than I did before and venturing to shows I would have shied away from previously, not simply downloading songs.) I have very fond memories of staying in on a Friday night with some crappy pizza from the college kitchen and doing nothing but listening to music with a friend or two and searching for ways to expand my auditory horizons. And then being inspired to try my hand at strumming a 6-string…I did go to a small liberal arts college, I think that was an unofficial graduation requirement anyway.

Hey, I’m not going to say mass-produced songs aren’t catchy, and that I don’t rock out to Lady Gaga from time to time, but it’s always good to keep the source in mind, and remember that there is so much out there beyond what’s spoon fed on the radio dial. Perhaps “you are what you eat” is not limited to foodstuffs.

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Teens Concerned For Privacy Rights?

social media blogging tipsTeens are leading the charge for privacy rights…from parents. Nothing new there, really. How do we get them to understand Big Brother is watching too? According to this article, they’re leaving Facebook in favor of other social media away from the prying eyes of Aunt Edna. Perhaps also to avoid becoming an internet sensation via youtube when daddy shoots up your laptop because he doesn’t like your FB post. But seriously, this article is very interesting because it shows the dichotomy of the self in society through the instinctual preservation of one’s own thoughts versus the effect of our consumerism society that is obliterating the idea of privacy and attention spans; constantly flitting from one superficial idea or product to another is yet another way the self is being attacked and disintegrated.

Apparently I woke up on the philosophical side of the bed this morning. Hat tip to Activist Post for the article link.

Hey Doc, You Could Have Just Asked.

Please read this woman’s story of her hospital birth, and how “routine” yet unwanted procedures were done without her consent, and perhaps unnecessarily. Her ability to find the strength to speak out about this is inspirational. She’s handling this exceptionally well, and doing a great job of raising awareness of one aspect of how our health care system is broken.

I’m sure there are people out there that had a fantastic hospital birth experience. However, this doesn’t happen for everyone. This woman’s story also depicts the necessity of asking questions and getting involved in your own health care, especially when planning birth the way you want it. It’s great to talk with your doctor and the hospital staff about their routine practices, and if you want any special arrangements or have certain requests. If you’re most comfortable with a hospital birth, you can also look into having a Doula with you, who will know your birth plan and desires, and advocate for you while you’re busy doing other things…you know, like having a baby.

The delivery of health care in the U.S. is an incredibly complex, frustrating, mind-boggling system. This woman hits the nail on the head when she uses the term “patient consumerism.” While doctors have taken oaths to “do no harm” while treating the patient, in theory they must do so in a vacuum. However, they work in a world that is increasingly detaching them from the patient by use of forms and coding and standardized care protocols and finite increments of time for billing, and insurance, insurance, insurance. This woman feels betrayed by her physicians because they didn’t take a few moments to simply ask her consent, when she was in a position to contemplate the risks and benefits and make her own decision for her own health and the health of her baby.