Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spinning a Good Story on Tragedy

Years ago, I photographed a wedding - a lovely young couple. And two weeks after the wedding, the groom died - fell to his death while hiking the Grand Canyon. That hardly rated an obituary, let alone a news story.

Truth is, of course most deaths never make it beyond the obituary - there are just too many of them. For example, there is at least one death at every marathon and sometimes more when it's a large marathon.

When I was working as a computer software developer, there was a 36 year old who dropped dead on the basketball court. He was in "perfect shape" and his death confused everyone. But even that didn't rate a story in the news.

But there is ONE type of death which DOES rate a news story and that's any death that they can even -remotely- link to "obesity".

Often, regretably they play upon the tragedy of someone's life to sell a diet or surgery or perpetuate a scare about obesity.

For example, one news story this weekend, carried the headline "Grieving mum 'ate herself to death'!" The story goes on to tell us that this lady binge-d food after her 22 year old son died from suicide. "She tried every diet," continues the article saying that finally she had a gastric bypass and died from complications.

Wait a minute. If she died from complications of a gastric bypass how on -earth- did she eat herself to death? Well you see, labors the story, she was fat and so that's why she died from a gastric bypass or that's why she had a gastric bypass? If you start to process the story, it doesn't make sense - she died from the gastric bypass and if she had just stayed fat, she would still be living. That is, had they treated her for the binge eating instead of surgically destroying her digestive tract, she would have lived to possibly have gotten over the tragedy in her life. Instead, the providers used the excuse of her fatness to compound tragedy upon tragedy as she died from the invasive surgery which has been known to be somewhat ineffective in individuals with binge eating disorder.

What the news pundits are hoping is that you won't notice the small mention of the gastric bypass since most of the article is about how she was constantly stuffing her face. And they are right, most folks won't notice it!

The second story was even more sneaky about being fat-a-phobic.

The headline in most news media (and this story went out over the associated press, nationwide) read "Diabetic complains of light-headedness before dying from heart disease"

Just reading the headline, what comes to your mind? I asked my 10 year old granddaughter about this and she basically said that must be diabetes type II or the type often erroneously linked to being fat and that the lady must have been fat.

Now it's a well known fact that most folks in reading the news, do not read much more than the first paragraph. So in this story, the clincher sentence stood by itself about 6 lines into the story.

"At 36, the bride was dead from heart disease."
Only a couple of lines before the end of the article (which most people won't read) we find this:

"She had a previous cardiac episode in her 20s and was a poster child — literally — for juvenile diabetes, relatives and friends said... recalled seeing the poster featuring her on New York subways."
Juvenile diabetes doesn't mean now what it used to - because we are told daily that this obese generation of kids is coming down with diabetes in their childhood.

So the only clue that we have in the whole article is that she was a poster child- literally- for juvenile diabetes i.e. that her posters were in the NY subways.

In other words, she didn't have diabetes type II at all - she had type I which is a totally different disease and not linked to fatness or lifestyle at all (usually the death of the pancreas in type I is caused by a virus or something like that).

Additionally what they don't bother telling us is whether she had a heart condition or not because if she did have a "cardiac episode" (do they mean a heart attack here?) in her 20's, she likely had a heart condition unrelated to the type I diabetes. Her picture was only carried in the NY Daily News which apparently originated the story. And predictably, she was not fat.

But fact remains, most people who read the story will walk away being more scared about diabetes and a willing audience for another series of articles which appeared this weekend telling the public how gastric bypass cures diabetes (it doesn't really - although the sugar levels drop during the fasting phase, the Swedish Obesity study observed at the 10 year post op point that only "35 percent of diabetics were still disease free").

What strikes me is the ruthlessness of the whole thing. How far will people go to sell a product? Advocating gastric bypass i.e. a partial destruction of the digestive tract, for normal weight or fat diabetics, misrepresenting this invasive surgery as a cure for anything and capitalizing on the tragic death of a newly wed to misreport her illness in order to promote a scare tactic to fat diabetics is more than ethically-challenged.

We've gone far beyond the old "first, do no harm" which doctors used to recite in the Hippocratic Oath. Now, it's more like do anything to sell the product and who cares about how many people are hurt in the process.


Kimberly said...

Ya know, I'm way not following you on the second story and find what you are saying to be a stretch at best. I am obese and pursuing RNY and I did not read that headline and immediately decide that the person was fat. I read that she had diabetes and a heart condition. Is this because I know thin diabetic people? Maybe, but I also think that any even semi-intelligent person also knows thin diabetics. And honestly, my twelve year old son could not have given me an answer like your granddaughter did, which makes me wonder if she is just way too exposed to these kinds of issues.

SueW said...

Kimberly, you STILL are way not following me. She didn't HAVE the same kind of diabetes that they blame on fat people. She had a TOTALLY different disease from that - a disease that is caused by her pancreas having been attacked by a virus. And since you are pursuing RNY, it's obvious you may not be catching the subliminal suggestions in the media. RNY doesn't cure anything and causes a lot more problems than it "cures". The inventor of the RNY stated in 1980, after CAREFULLY following his patients for 15 years, that he felt the risks outweighed the benefits and he advocated that instead of cutting the stomach into two pieces and the gut into three pieces and sticking it back together in a very unnatural manner as done in the RNY, that surgeons are best to do types of surgery (like the lap band) which do NOT destroy the natural process of digestion.

Dr Edward Mason: "For the vast majority of patients today, there is no operation that will control weight to a "normal" level without introducing risks and side effects that over a lifetime may raise questions about its use for surgical treatment of obesity."
Mason promotes restriction only surgery

I would suggest you include in your research, the following:

On the above site he compares the lap band, the RNY and the DS/BPD - he found in HIS OWN STUDIES and in others, all three of them to have equal results but the lap band poses NO vitamin deficiency risks, no lifespan risks and 10 TIMES less risks in general than the other procedures. Good luck!

AnnieMcPhee said...

"I am obese and pursuing RNY"


violet_yoshi said...

I agree with where you say it's no longer, first do no harm. Now it's, do anything to sell the product.

It's absoutely terrifying to think the person pursuing RNY, is actively submitting themselves to butchery of their digestive system.

Deyse said...

I've been reading your blog for a while in an attempt to gather all sort of information about the WLS I can as I consider I am still not familiar with the subject itself. I decided to shape my research by gathering two big types of information: the pros and cons of this kind of surgery.

And so far I have more questions than answers (which I consider something good). If RNY is so harmful to the organism why do doctors still continue to indicate it? I assume you're a doctor too, so have you ever assisted a patient who had complications due to the RNY surgery? And if yes, were these complications caused just because of the procedure itself or did the patients have some previous condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure or high cholesterol level?

I would also like to know if the number of people who had complications caused by RNY surgery followed the diet they had to go on after the procedure, that is, take calcium, iron and vitamin B -12?

I read your other post about the floor for sick WLS patients... Why is it such a difficult floor? It takes me a lot to believe that it can be more difficult than a floor crowded with patients who have terminal diseases.

I'll be honest with you, Ms Widemark, when I saw your blog I was more scared than any other thing. For a few moments, your campaign against RNY made me think that it is a totally irreversible process and those who submit themselves to it are condemned to live ill for the rest of their life, when this is not true. Complications exist in all kinds of surgeries. Some women have their womb removed, others have to get rid of a kidney or a vesicle and they still survive. With all due respect for you and others who have posted on this blog, I guess "butchery" isn't the best term to express the RNY procedure. I did my research too, it might be not as vast as yours, but I've spoken to doctors and patients, some of these patients very happy with their WLS, some of them who had been having complications due to this.

And so far I could conclude that it's not the surgery process (either RNY or the lap band) that causes a difficult recovery and future problems. Your post isn't clear to me either. I was under the impression that all the ones who took the RNY surgery die or become ill due to the surgery itself but that their previous problems have nothing to do with it. I was under the impression that there is a conspiracy to convince people to take a surgery that will certainly be terribly harmful in the near future. This same surgery can possibly be the only hope for people in need to lose a greater amount of weight, and it takes me a lot to believe that a doctor would recommend it if he/she was aware that it wouldn't bring any benefits in the future.

PS. You also say you are an author but I can find nothing on Amazon. Could you please give me the title of one of your books?

Thanks for your attention.


AnnieMcPhee said...

What evidence have you seen that leads you to conclude that someone "needs" to lose 'a greater amount of' weight and that it will be healthier, in and of itself, for him/her to do so?

As to the intentions of doctors, I'd recommend spending a day or two reading "First, Do No Harm" - Start there with the links to the three posts that started it all, which are linked to, entitled "Fat Hatred Kills." Then move on from there.

Doctors know it's dangerous and they know it's harmful. You're not removing a defective kidney and you're not removing a diseased uterus - you're removing a healthy, working digestive system and redesigning it to produce deliberate malnutrition (malabsorption) and starvation. (See the Ansel Keyes study at junkfood science.) That's good? How could it be? Not to mention that after the window has passed for losing a great amount of weight, in the longterm the weight starts piling back on *anyway* - only now they don't have the strength (from properly absorbed nutrition - and no, vitamins are not the same thing) to fight it. Just recently there was a show where a woman was bogged down by 50 pounds or so of excess skin after WLS, and the plastic surgeon said - without equivocation - that it's more difficult to operate on previous WLS survivors, because they are malnourished and thus have a harder time healing. He didn't say "can be" malnourished, he said ARE.

But if you want more, go to the yahoo group called OSSG Gone Wrong and read some more. Real eye openers there.

SueW said...

Deyse, It is good you are carefully researching WLS before you embark on it. You have some good questions however, when I started to draft my answer and found it was too long and complex to write as a comment I decided to answer you in a new blog this morning. Thanks for reading my blog and for bringing up such thoughtful questions. I will answer the last question here though. Author means anyone who writes articles - many authors have not written books. I have, in fact, edited two books and partially ghosted another book. Although folks have told me I should write a book myself and I may, one of these days, it's very hard to get a book published unless you have name recognition from some other source, and keep in mind that even among those books published by known authors, 70 percent of these do not generate enough revenue to re-pay the fee given the author beforehand, according to a recent publisher's research article.

In fact, there are two books which, had anyone read both from cover to cover, carefully, would answer about 90 percent of questions about WLS. Both of these are on Amazon.

The first, Hart, Dani: I WANT TO LIVE. This is a patient's journal of her WLS journey and take-down, 18 months later, in order to save her life. It's pretty detailed and I have written some of the articles in there. There is also an article in there by a professor in a medical school.

The Second: Simpson, Terry, MD: WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY, A LIGHTER LOOK AT A HEAVY SUBJECT. This book, by a respected Weight Loss Surgery Surgeon (who now exclusively does the lap band but has, in the past done the RNY and the DS/BPD and has over 30 years experience in the Weight Loss surgery field) has detailed descriptions of all the surgeries, how they are done in easy to understand language and aftercare. This surgeon has an informational website on why he switched from the bypass surgeries (after careful follow up of patients) to the lap band:

Most people, even those who BUY the books do not read them cover to cover for many reasons - time constraints being one of them. So, that's why I have not YET pursued writing a book but instead concentrate on shorter articles on the internet which, I feel, may have a better chance of being read.

See my latest blog for answers to your other questions and good luck on your WLS research journey!