Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Things Never Change

"We believe that medical attitudes serve to create a climate of emotional and physical estrangement, to reinforce the attitudes of acceptance and self-blame for the situations we find ourselves in. This makes it impossible to ask questions or challenge what is happening around our own health and increases the feelings of despair and feeling of not being in control. What happens in hospitals can have damaging and permanent physical and emotional effects on women's lives and basically, what we ask is to retain our dignity."
I'm sure most would agree that this is a reflection of how we women feel today with respect to the treatment we receive. The interesting thing however is, that this comment was made by a member of The Women's Health Cooperative at hearings regarding activities at National Women's Hospital in New Zealand and, that it was made in 1989. Some things never change as evidenced by the twenty-two year interval since this comment was made.
When it comes to the subject of HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, a virus known to cause at least a half-dozen invasive cancers, these comments are even more significant. The ways in which women are treated when it comes to a cervical or anal cancer almost 100% of which are caused by HPV, this is much different than how a woman is treated who has a diagnosis of breast cancer. The former being viewed as something for which the patient is "to blame". No one can "blame" a woman for having breast cancer.
We are heading down a very slippery slope if members of the medical community begin determining the treatment a patient will receive based upon whether or not they can be "blamed" for their condition, cancer or otherwise. It is interesting because even patients with lung cancer which has long been associated with smoking and for which the patient could be blamed because it was after all, their behavior which brought about the disease, we have not seen this type of disparaging treatment.
When one's behavior becomes part of the criteria for treatment of disease then we are all in trouble. What of the patient whose heart attack was caused by their obesity and high cholesterol?
Until now, with research showing an ever enlarging group of cancers resulting from the human papillomavirus, we have not seen such bigoted perspectives by members of the medical community. Obviously when reading these initial comments it is evident that these bigoted perspectives have been long held when it comes to sexually transmitted infections and the gynecologic conditions they cause.
Hopefully with more women advocating against just this sort of behavior and for the education of women regarding their health, these attitudes will not continue for another two decades.