Shoot the Messenger

Feb 1, 2012 | Shilo Zylbergold | Best Medicine

Don't blame the messenger because the message is unpleasant - Ken Starr

You probably remember the case of Stella Liebeck versus McDonalds. Back in 1992, she bought a 49 cent cup of hot coffee from the drive-through window of the fast food outlet and placed the cup between her knees while attempting to remove the lid. The resulting spill caused severe burns to her thighs, buttocks, and groin. She sued the corporate giant and won the case in what has been often referred to as the poster child of excessive litigation.

What does a scalding cup of coffee have to do with a health website? It seems to me that although we all may instinctively know that putting a container of boiling hot coffee in our laps might not be such a good idea, we don’t apply the same measure of common sense when figuratively holding other health hazards between our knees.

Take silicone breast implants, for instance. All right, you’re not likely to place these little bags between your knees, but you get the idea. For years medical watchdogs have been warning the public about the various hazards associated with surgically implanting these Pandora bags inside women’s bodies.

Have we listened? Not exactly. Not only have we not stopped demanding and performing these unnecessary procedures, but we are actually increasing their numbers. Shockingly, a "boob job" has become the number one gift that parents give to their graduating teen daughters in California today.

Why don’t we listen to the warnings? Why? Because we don’t want to hear anything that will cut down the chances of becoming more beautiful, more popular, or more successful. If we can’t hear any good news, than we don’t want to hear any news at all. In effect, we are willing to “shoot the messenger” if he is the bearer of bad news.

Time and time again we have placed our hands over our ears and looked the other way. Thalidomide? Sorry, I just can’t deal with morning sickness. DDT? What has a mosquito ever done for me? Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and Fukushima? Look at all the jobs they’ve created.

We turn a similar blind eye and deaf ear to the possible dangers of tanning salons, cell phones and Botox injections. We deny the dangers of tobacco use right down to the last breath. It takes a product recall of the anti-inflammatory, Vioxx, before we start taking note of the connections with cardio-vascular diseases.

It’s at this point that the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin. Why wasn’t anybody there to protect us? Where were the government agencies and consumer watchdogs? How could the system have let us down so abjectly?

Here’s where we take it to the next level. If we can’t get our health back, somebody is going to have to pay. We enlist our lawyers to slug it out with a squadron of legal mercenaries under the employ of the corporations pushing the health hazards. Win or lose, the irony is that nobody gets their health back and only the lawyers get rich.

As a case in point, let’s take a look at iris implants. Dovepress Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology reports "acute endothelial failure" in a 21-year old woman after the implantation of a new, coloured, artificial iris diaphragm called NewIris manufactured by Kahn Medical Devices. She reported progressive loss of vision in both eyes only three weeks after the procedure. Imagine: being willing to risk blindness so that your eyes are a more appealing colour.

Ultimately, it comes down to what are we willing to do to protect ourselves? We are our own last line of defence. We have to be our own best advocates and, in order to do this, we have to keep ourselves well-informed. If we continue to ignore warnings we don't want to hear and shoot the messenger if he tries to save us from ourselves, we might as well hold that steaming cup of coffee over our laps and start pouring.

Shilo Zylbergold

Shilo Zylbergold lives on a small island somewhere in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Canada. He grows vegetables, teaches math, and is a columnist for a local paper. Send complaints to [email protected]

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