"A Healing Voice" was the book's title, and it's now almost 15-years old, but the double-mastectomy, silicone-breast-implant woman whose story it tells is thankfully still with us. She was in her early Forties when the breast cancer struck, and it left her with physical and psychological scars and the advice of plastic surgeons that the silicone breast implants would "heal" those wounds.
She was my next-door neighbor, and so her maladies were to me--a biologist, teaching immunology and imunopathology--quite strongly in evidence. Debilitating arthritic symptoms, rashes, food allergies: all the signs of an immune system in disarray, its internal regulatory controls disrupted. With none of the symptoms present prior to the silicone implants, my friend went through scads of physicians and surgeons, who told her, essentially, that it was all in her mind. Finally, after years of intense pain and suffering, she found a surgeon willing to buck the tide of his profession, a healing voice. Willing to admit that her now-ruptured implants had almost certainly been the source of her illness, he alone agreed to remove them from her deteriorating body.
Yet today, in the 11-18-06 edition of the NY Times, I am treated to the revelation that plastic surgeons are exulting in a corrupt FDA's decision to reinstate the legality of silicone breast implants, trumpeting, after a 14-year ban, that their declaration of safety is a "triumph of science."
As a scientist, I am tempted to abjure my credentials, until I remember that despite the results of the recent election, we still live in an age of profound anti-science, anti-intellectual brain-numbness, in the supposed greatest society, a majority of whose members decry natural selection as anti-religious. What can one expect from "their" FDA? I justify, wondering at every moment whether it is I who is in denial. I entertain for the first time in 50-plus years as an American, the idea of obtaining a European passport based on my parental heritage--of fleeing this bastion of ongoing stupidity, where watching BBC News reminds me how genuinely low we have sunk into living vicariously through the lives of "stars," whose bodies we worship. Meanwhile, we ignore the very real lives of people like my friend, whose skin I know is crawling at this FDA decision, which is so apropos of a society that has almost completely ceased to think critically.
Vin has a PhD in molecular biology, taught college science in Boston, and currently writes about science for various venues. His passion is the evolution of the US healthcare system far beyond its current oversimplistic (more...)