All Men Are Suppressed Women!
"When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God; He made them male and female. When they were created, He blessed them and named them 'man.' "
So begins the fifth chapter of Genesis. If you look at this carefully, there seems at first to be an error in grammatical agreement. God blessed them? And named them man? Them? How many people are we talking about?
Two of course.
Biology is no stranger to the Bible. But while the evolutionists and Creationists fight it out on whatever philosophical platform they may put their faith in, there are those who can see that the two need not be exclusive of the other. These early lines of Genesis are first descriptions of genetics, and it is no coincidence that both of the words Genesis and genetics have the same word origin. The first "man" is really being described as a hermaphrodite creature, torn apart to result in man and woman. Philo, a Jewish philosopher contemporaneous with Jesus, said that Adam was a double hermaphrodite being "in the likeness of God." He explains that God separated Adam into his (her?) two sexual component parts, one male, the other female, and that this longing for reunion which love inspires in the divided halves of the originally dual being is the source of the sexual attraction and pleasure. In fact, many experts on word origins feel that the word "sex" is derived from the Latin, "seco, secare," to cut or cut apart. How we fit together as man and woman, although probably not really a restitution of what was cut apart as described in Genesis, is still no small coincidence.
In fact, the word "vagina" is Latin for the sheath of a sword. The Romans felt that swords, like penises, were pretty dangerous weapons. In fact, the word "sinister" comes from the Latin word for the left hand--it was a sinister act to whip out your sword from behind your back with your left hand while shaking someone's hand insincerely with the right hand. And almost like ballistics, a particular sheath would tend to smoothly fit the sword that was meant for it.
There's a fidelity lesson here.
So before all the men, beers in hand, cigars in mouth, cheer the first creation as male, we need to listen to the nearest English teacher grammatically explain to us what "He blessed them and named them 'man' means." And if the Bible were not enough to erode the self-appointed title, "Captain of the ship," there's another problem for chauvinists everywhere who assume their Divine Right Authority. It rests in the genetics of biology: We all start out as women.
At a microscopic level, it is known that the developing fetus contains the rudimentary structures of both male and female. Now certainly a choice must be made, whether the path leads to a male or a female. But it's not merely the flip of a coin. Biology tends to favor as more natural the female, because, undeterred, the fetus will become a female, resulting in the male structures persisting only as the microscopic remnants. Of course, this is bad for reproduction, and God or evolution (or can't we all just get along and say both?) has made a way for the default female to convert to a male. It's something called Muellerian Inhibition Substance. This hormone, produced by the testes, suppresses the fetus's natural tendency to go on as a female, holds the female structures back as mere wisps of tissue, while allowing the male structures to flourish. All one needs to have Muellerian Inhibition Substance is a good Y-chromosome, unique to males. So this is why the mere flip of the coin is not a good metaphor. It doesn't just go this way or that. It tends to go the female way, and it can only go male if the female tendencies are actively suppressed. The lesson for all of the rib-counters out there is that it may be said that we all began as both men and women (theologically and embryonically), then we all began as women (biochemically), and then some of us go on as men.
Before the miracle of birth is the miracle of the fetus, the earliest form being a hermaphrodite being, likened to that as described by Genesis and Philo the philosopher. The history of word origins underscores the sexy secrets here: Genesis and genetics, sex and seco, and the vagina--fidelity as one sheath for one sword. And somewhere along the fidelity way we've embraced the institution called marriage. If God is Love, then love joins us together into that composite entity that is in His image.
And what God has joined together, it is said, let no one put asunder, because it's against both biology and the Bible. On that the Creationists and evolutionists can agree.
The World According to Dr. Fletcher
One of my hobbies is collecting antique medical books. One such book, "Our Home Doctor," is more fully entitled, "Our Home Doctor, Domestic and Botanical Remedies, Simplified and Explained, for Family Treatment, with a Treatise Upon Suspended Animation, the Danger of Burying Alive, and Directions for Restoration." (Moore Russell Fletcher, M.D., 1884.)Half of the book is a home remedy guide according to Dr. Fletcher, Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society since 1837. Books such as these are fascinating for any medical specialty, because they underscore how little was known until the twentieth century. I of course usually turn to the obstetrics and gynecology sections.
The further back in time one goes, the more chauvinistic the medical knowledge. For this article, I'd like to quote some excerpts on the subjects of "Barrenness," "Hysterics," and the "Natural Female Form." Of course, you'll find my own editorial comments not lacking-- in parentheses throughout the quotes.
"Every married (legitimately sexually active) woman who has her periodical sickness (menstrual period) may be regarded as being capable of becoming a mother. The remark is common as well as true, 'Children are the poor man's blessing,' while the rich have few, if any, to enliven their homes. The poorer the family, the greater the number of children allotted to them. The active life and plain living of the poor man and woman keep them in excellent health, while the luxury and indolence of the wealthy, tend to debilitate the physical system and induce various diseases which disqualify both the men and women from procreation (unless you're Michael Jackson). It not unfrequently happens that misfortune in business brings the family to poverty, when exercise and plain living are rewarded by health and robust children. We advise the wife to make a visit among her friends, either at the sea-shore or the mountains for five or six weeks, enjoying the out-of-door exercise...sounds to me like Dr. Fletcher would like to get these patients out of his hair for a couple of months, since he has nothing else to offer them)...and being careful to avoid excitement...(stay in bed...hmm...)...bathe the body night and morning with weak rum and water, in which put a teaspoonful of honey, and drink a wine-glass of a decoction of black-cherry bark in cider (sounds like the barren couple have been invited to a private party conducive to procreation)."
"Hysterics (PMS) is the name of an affection usually known among females, and called a woman's complaint (according to men like Dr. Fletcher, that is). The symptoms are general languor excuse me, Doctor, if I don't feel like doing ANYTHING), palpitations, pain in the left side rising like a ball to the throat (a new symptom for me), changes from fits of crying to laughing and screaming, and at times a pain in the head, causing a feeling as though a nail was being driven into it (I'd feel like screaming, too). The patient should be laid upon a bed (isolation), plenty of fresh air (isolation outside), and the clothing loosened; apply camphor or ammonia to the nostrils; give a few spoonfuls of cold water to drink, and dash some in the face (yea, right, and then run for your life?). We give our opinion from a careful and extended analysis of the attacks that it originates in a combined operation of the brain, stomach, and nervous system, in which the womb takes a prominent part."
(One of the biggest insults in gynecology is that removal of the womb is called a hysterectomy. As ridiculous and incoherent as Dr. Fletcher's observations are, I can't really say that we've come much further in treating the serious condition of PMS which causes so much misery to women.)
The Natural Female Form (A woman's figure. This is nothing more than Dr. Fletcher's diatribe railing against women's corsets and tight lacing--remember, this was the 1880s.)
"We read that God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions; and of the long list we would place the corsets at the head for sinfulness, because all of the vital organs of the chest and abdomen are displaced, and their natural functions deranged; circulation , respiration, digestion, and health are all set at defiance by a few corset lacings, and the harvest is reaped by the doctors and undertakers, and on the tombstone may be read "consumption," instead of tight lacing and thin shoes (c'mon, don't hold back--tell us how you really feel). Those races who do not deform their person by artificial means, show the women equal physically with the men, and are free from the long catalogue of diseases in the train of the corsets. John Neal, in writing upon the female, said, "Give me the girl with a waist like a cotton bag, and a foot like a flounder." (Are all of you supermodels listening?) Tight lacing is a great evil to the race. The lungs are designed to maintain the purity of the blood, by relieving it of the noxious matter it has acquired in its round of circulation. The walls of the chest are so constructed that by the admission of air the ribs are elevated and anything tight around the chest compresses the lungs, depresses the diaphragm, and displaces the stomach and bowels, the liver, womb, and bladder, depriving them of the room required for the performance of their natural functions. The result in time produces spinal curvature, heart disease, liver complaint, dyspepsia, with difficulty of the womb, bladder, piles, cough, and consumption, or premature death. (I'm convinced!) The question is often put to ladies, Why will you torture yourself by tight lacing? They answer, to please the gentlemen. We say to please the simple. Sensible men admire a good natural form."
Dr. Fletcher's book is over 300 pages of a product of the times doing the best with what little information was available in the nineteenth century. Then, as today, there were those who thought they knew it all. But even though I write here parenthetically with twentieth century smugness, I fear what today's modern doctor will seem in just twenty years. Of course, as I look at my own cotton-bag waist, I wonder whether Dr. Fletcher had a point there.
And the second half of the book? Did I say, Treatise Upon Suspended Animation, the Danger of Burying Alive, and Directions for Restoration? Dr. Fletcher documents case histories of those not quite dead, who may even have been getting better, but who were interred just a little too hastily. No, there's no gynecology there, but how could I have passed up a book like this? Although not entertaining by any stretch, it is interesting in a Jerry Springer sort of way.
What follows is from Dr. Fletcher:
"Persons are often found in their beds, in the field, or elsewhere in a comatose or inanimate condition; they are examined for breathing and pulsation, and finding neither, the family physician is called. He makes an examination for pulse or evidence of feeble action of the heart, and quietly remarks to the friends, "Died, probably of disease of the heart." Frequently the doctor and friends remark in wonder the next day, "How warm and life-like the body is, how flexible the arms are, and how fresh and florid the face is.
"In a western state, while the coffin containing the body was lying upon the table waiting for the undertaker to screw down the lid, a creditor of the deceased came in hurriedly and presented a claim for $150 against him. An unrepealed law allowed creditors' demands paid before burial. The assembled and astonished friends were moving about the room, and proposed to raise the amount on the spot, when one of them accidentally stumbled against the table and knocked over the coffin, whereupon the supposed dead man arose, and learning about the claim, said he would settle that himself pretty quickly. Without noticing his surroundings, he went to a desk and in a few minutes showed the receipt of the claim; and not only the receipt, but charges against the would-be creditor, to the amount of $175.
"In June,1870, Dr. Stroinski stopped at the house of George Chandler and was informed by Mrs. Chandler that her daughter Susan had died on the previous Saturday, and the body had been placed in a coffin for interment. The doctor, upon examining the remains, said that the girl was not dead, but only in a fit. He had the body removed and placed in a warm bath. After a good deal of rubbing, and movements made for artificial breathing, the girl was brought to life. During the next day the girl voided a tapeworm of unusually large size. We are of the opinion that the cause of epilepsy may be worms.
"At Toulouse, in France, in November, 1866, a lady died and was buried in the church of the Capuchin Friars, with a diamond ring of considerable value upon her finger. A servant who knew this fact entered the vault by stealth to steal that ring; but the finger being swollen, the ring would not come off. He then took out a knife, and began to cut off the finger, when the lady uttered a loud shriek, hearing which the thief fell prostrate and senseless. The monks shortly afterwards, entering the church, heard groans, and being directed to the spot by the sound found the lady alive and the would-be thief dead. Thus death had its victim, though with a change. The lady was removed, and in a few hours restored to her family. Rev. William Tennent of N.J., when a young man, determined to devote himself to the ministry. He applied himself so closely to his studies that his health became injured, he lost flesh rapidly, was troubled with a pain in the chest, and was reduced almost to a skeleton. One morning, while talking with his brother about future happiness, he fainted and appeared to die. After a short time he was laid out, and those in the neighborhood were invited to attend the funeral the next day. In the evening his physician, a friend, returned and was much affected by the news of the death. Upon examining the body he thought there were visible signs of life. He had the body removed to a warm bed and began working over it, insisting that people should be notified not to come to the funeral. The brother objected; but the doctor finally prevailed and continued his exertions. The third day arrived, and no hopes were entertained by anybody except the doctor, who staid by the body day and night. The people were again invited, and assembled to attend the funeral. The doctor, still objecting, continued his requests for delay. While the doctor was wetting the tongue, the brother came in and declared that such delays and working over the body were useless and shameful, insisting that the funeral should at once proceed. Just at this critical time the supposed corpse opened his eyes, gave a groan, and sank again into apparent death. All thoughts of a funeral were now banished, and every attempt made to resuscitate the man. After an hour there was a second indication of life, similar to the first, and instantly succeeded by a relapse. Before long a complete revival took place, to the great joy of the family and amazement of those who had been ridiculing the idea of restoring a corpse to life. Upon examination after recovery, he was found to be totally ignorant of every transaction of his life preceding his wonderful experience. He was obliged to again begin learning, the same as a child. By degrees, from that time, his memory returned, until he had a perfect recollection of his past life and of the knowledge which he had forgotten. Says the "south-Side Democrat," of Fredericton, June 30, 1858: "A singular circumstance took place in Allandford on Tuesday. A woman named Martha Saunders had been ill for some time past, and on Monday her family and friends assembled around her, and took, as they thought, their farewell. She appeared to expire at about ten o'clock the same day, and the ceremonies of preparing her for the grave were duly begun, and every arrangement was made of the solemn rites of burial. At three o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, and some little time before she was to have been carried to her resting-place, to the amazement of those present she raised her head, and a short time afterwards sat up in her coffin. A general stampede took place among those who came to attend the funeral; and those who remained were so stupefied with fright that some time elapsed before assistance was procured. A physician was called in and stimulants given, which immediately revived her, and at last accounts she was recovering and doing well."
Dr. Fletcher goes on and on for hundreds of these cases, many of them particularly gruesome. With EKGs, EEGs, and finally embalming, the late Dr. Fletcher himself can now rest easy, for you know his biggest fear in life was that someone at the wake would remark, "How warm and life-like the body is, how flexible the arms are, and how fresh and florid the face is."
John L. DiLeo, M.D.
My father turned 84 on January 23, 1998. He's been through fifty-seven years of marriage, sixty years of being a doctor, and fifty-two years of fatherhood. He's paid for seventy years worth of education for his children as well as served as clinical faculty at LSU providing education for many doctors--paid for with his time.
I have a newspaper picture he's in, performing a surgery at Charity Hospital during World War II, the story describing surgery during black-outs in preparation for an attack on our Gulf shores. Way back then they often operated with the windows open. They had no antibiotics. The only "scans" at the time were X-rays. There was no plastic in medicine. The IVs were glass bottles with glass tubing. The syringes and the needles were used over and over, sterilized repeatedly until they became dull. There were no pills for sexually transmitted diseases, only painful injections. Nuns ran the hospital like they ran their elementary schools--tight.
When I think back on how medicine must have been then, I have to acknowledge how much more of an art it was. A doctor had to make a judgement based on an appraisal of symptoms and physical exam only. True, these two elements are still crucial today, but we now have tests that can give a perspective to the list of possible diagnoses for an office visit. Back then, the physician was limited to his or her (but usually his) own delineation of the perspective. It wasn't so much a case of "the" diagnosis as "my" diagnosis.
My father was a surgeon, and back when he trained in the specialty it was all combined into the label, "general" surgery. Since that time the subspecialties of thoracic, neuro, and vascular surgery have split off. But he did it all because that's what the surgeons did then. As he got older, he stopped the chest surgery, decreasing the load of life-and-death situations he had to manage. Eventually he stopped operating altogether and found happiness seeing Medicaid patients in the inner city as a retirement job. His eighty-fourth year sees him completely retired, satisfied with his work over the years. At least once a week in my Ob-Gyn practice I see a patient who asks if he is my father, telling me all about their mom's or dad's lung cancer surgery or that gall bladder surgery (before the laparoscope was even a hint of an idea in some surgeon's mind). He did things the hard way because there was no other way to do it. His complication rate was extremely low in a world lacking the modern safeguards against infection and other post- op concerns. And he did it without CAT scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or the hundred times as many types of blood tests available now. He practiced medicine longer than I have lived so far, and he retired without a single lawsuit. Of course, he never sent anyone to a collection agency either.
He knew Drs. DeBakey and Cooley and ol' man Ochsner. He crossed the halls of Charity Hospital from the "white" side to the "colored" side, back and forth, over and over, failing to see the dividing line that the segregationists had drawn. He saw his share of celebrities that came to the Blue Room at the old Roosevelt Hotel, most of whom stiffed him on the bill. When President Ford came to New Orleans, he was the surgeon selected to wait in the prepared surgery area should the President need an emergency operation. (At the time, I was in medical school at LSU, and I begged him that if that were to happen, could I please be the President's medical student. I told him it would be an excellent learning experience. "C'mon, Jerry, cough for me." Fortunately, the President left New Orleans unscathed.) He was Chief of Staff of Hotel Dieu the year the new hospital was built, now renamed University Hospital.
There have been a lot of changes in medicine over the years, and the amazing thing is that I've seen medicine change more in the last ten years than my father saw during the six decades since his graduation from medical school. I have to announce how proud I am of him. Of course, seeing the longevity that runs in my family gives me a warm feeling, too.
The Dirty Secret of the Doctors Chamberlen
The use of forceps to deliver babies has had a long twisted history. As far back as the twelfth century there were instruments described in such a way as to only be useful in removing babies that had died. The use of obstetrical forceps to effect delivery to save the child didn't come into prominence until the mid eighteenth century.
Over a century later than it should have.
Power, fame, and greed all played a role in keeping this instrument a secret so that those with the knowledge could claim that they alone could deliver patients when everyone else had failed. But before we condemn the foul secrecy that was used for personal gain, the secret of omission that was responsible for countless of thousands of babies' deaths for over a hundred years, let's first talk about what the forceps does for us today.
Today the use of forceps, applied correctly, is a safe method of delivering a baby, no matter what horror stories well-meaning relatives tell already worried mothers-to-be. The important phrase is "applied correctly." When they are placed the way they were designed, there's actually less pressure on the baby's head than without them, as a protective halo of metal surrounds the brain and protects it from the compression/decompression forces of the vaginal sidewalls and pubic bone. There are ways of checking for correct application, and when the criteria aren't met, a forceps delivery should not occur. Simple. But when criteria are met, the forceps are handy in delivering a baby whose heart rate is becoming dangerous. (The same goes for the vacuum extractor, but that is another story.)
In 1813, a woman found an old hidden trunk which described and contained the invention of the Chamberlen family--the obstetrical forceps. In this trunk was evidence indicating that Peter Chamberlen, who died in 1631, was the first to use the technique. In fact, he claimed to be the one who could handle the impossible cases. Along with his brother, they became prominent practitioners with the secret, and used their success to control the instruction of midwifery in England. Peter's nephew, also named Peter, was the first Chamberlen to actually become a doctor. He maintained the secrecy, assuring his success and prominence, and was the attendant at births of the royal family, who alone benefitted from his solution for difficult births.
Had any of the future monarchs died at their deliveries, like the "little people," because of not using forceps, history might be vastly different!
Meanwhile, other male practitioners of the art became the target of pamphlets that denounced the death rate of women delivered while attended by men. Dr. Chamberlen, armed with his secret, issued his own "Cry of Women and Children as Echoed Forth in the Compassions of Peter Chamberlen." After his death, his son, Hugh, tried to sell the family secret to a French physician, Mauriceau, claiming he could deliver even the most difficult cases in minutes. Mauriceau tested him by assigning him a woman in labor who was a dwarf, and he failed. But the two men remained friends, and when Hugh Chamberlen translated Mauriceau's book into English, he wrote in the preface of how, "My father, brothers, and myself (though none else in Europe as I know) have by God's blessing and our own industry attained to and long practiced a way to deliver women...without (harm) to them or their infants." He later sold his secret in Holland, where the Medical-Pharmaceutical College of Amsterdam was given the sole privilege of licensing physicians, for a huge amount of money, to use the secret technique of the Chamberlens. Finally, someone with scruples bought the privilege and went public, but it seems he himself was sold only one part of the forceps pair, meaning that either he was defrauded by the Medical College or Chamberlen had done it to them. Meanwhile, babies suffered the consequences of this thievery.
Hugh's son, also named Hugh, was a friend of the Duke of Buckingham, and because of this his statue stands today in Westminster Abbey. He's the one who finally freed the obstetrical forceps for general use at the beginning of the eighteenth century, ending the countless needless infant deaths that his family's secret had caused. About the same time, a Dr. De la Motte addressed the Paris Academy of Medicine, declaring that a pair of forceps he had just seen exhibited there could never be used in a living woman; he also stated how he felt about anyone who might invent a successful instrument like that, and what should happen to him should he keep it secret for is own profit:
"He deserved to be tied to a barren rock and have his vitals plucked out by vultures."
That's got to sound more beautiful in French. Move over Prometheus.
History of Woman--a never ending series
As westerners, we often are horrified by how women are treated in other cultures. Women treated as property, as merely a means of producing heirs or sexual pleasure for men, still suffer cultural indignities that beg to catch up with the slogan that says, ironically, "All men are created equal." This sensitivity has moved at an amazing pace with the advent of multimedia, giving rise to sexual harassment suits and politicosexual correctness. But as westerners, before we shake our heads in disbelief over societal norms in other cultures, we should know what our own ancestors thought of women.
Most think that the roots of our western culture go back to Greek and Roman origins. In this regard, it's sobering (no pun intended) to learn about Dionysus, the god of wine, portrayed as the jolly, inebriated, fun-loving Bacchus that graces floats the Sunday before Mardi Gras day on the streets of New Orleans. Bacchus was no harmless drunk, though. His relationship with women who believed in him was a complex entanglement of debauchery, misanthropism, and secret physical self-indulgence.
In Roman times, he was the most popular deity for women, for he was the source of all of their sensual and spiritual hopes. In many cities there existed the "Mysteries," which were rites of initiation of girls into womanhood. Men were excluded from these secret meetings, the seriousness of infiltration by men emphasized in the story about Pentheus, king of Thebes, who went to check out just what his mother was doing in the woods with the other women, only to be torn apart by them in their religious frenzy. While date-rape drugs get national attention in today's media, the Mysteries involved a drink called Kykeon, the intoxicating drink of participants in these secret rites.
When the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered in the eighteenth century, many frescoes were discovered that shed light on Roman beliefs and traditions. There is a surviving collection of art in what has been called the "Villa of Mysteries," which was the place where privileged girls prepared for life as married women. It was an initiation that, in their minds, created the psychological and sensual transition as a rite of passage. Young girls entered and were apparently treated to a dramatic and musical presentation that led them through the stages to sexual and gender maturity. The frescoes merely depict, and scholars can only theorize, about what went on in this villa.
Apparently there was a signing in of sorts, scrolls checked and recorded regarding the participants. There was some undressing to some extent, and a narrative provided to escort the girls through the initiation. Mythological creatures, obscene combinations of man and animal (keeping the human brain, but borrowing the physical and sexual attributes of animals), dominated the story the participants interacted with. Nymphs suckled goats and satyrs played pipes to make the initiate aware of her closeness with nature. It was a throwback to what was called a "preconscious animal state." Music was used to emphasize this regression, a necessary step to achieve a more pristine psychological state for the rebirth of girls as women.
As the ritual progressed, the initiates were presented with what adult life holds for them, with the drama presenting scenes depicting contemplation of one's own death. One theory sees this as "the death of childhood and innocence." As an obstetrician, I have to consider that the high maternal mortality rate of ancient times had to be considered by any girl making the transition to womanhood, especially in rites designed to emphasize a woman's sensual being. This was the point wherein initiates could continue on or run away (only to return at a later, maturer time). This was also the point where the drink Kykeon may have been used for its intoxicating effects.
By this time, they are in the center of the villa, presented with dramatic, musical, and artistic depictions of Dionysus with his thyrsus. The thyrsus, a cluster of grapes, was a symbol of illicit love, passion, or lust. (Hence the connections loosely bounce off one another-- grapes, wine, women, song...and sex). What happens next is shrouded in mystery, but possibly involves a lot of Kykeon, a lot of drunk young women, and an excursion into the woods. (Don't forget what happened to Pentheus when he tried to find out what was going on.)
Frescoes in the Villa of Mysteries show their return from this night journey, and show them reaching into a basket to retrieve a phallus. Women--adolescents--married very young in ancient times. Investigating all of this underscores just how we've changed when today we designate some movies NC-17. In the Villa of Mysteries, however, mere girls--now privileged with "the knowledge"--reached into a grab-bag of male surprises. One of the final frescoes depicts a confusing juxtaposition of both torture and transformation, the initiate bearing the lash of a whip across her back while maintaining a composure of calm and detachment. Scholars don't know what to make out of this. Is it the grin-and-bear-it role of women to only provide pleasure for their "owners," the men of the time, regardless of how short-changed they themselves were in this respect? Does it go even further to document the feeling that men can do anything they want with their women, including abuse if the mood stuck? I myself see the metaphor of the childbirth experience, pain and suffering resulting in what women uniquely were able to produce. Before antibiotics, surgical techniques, and anesthesia, a woman knew she was risking her life to have children. She knew that she risked her life to be married, to be sensual, to successfully cross the rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. No wonder an initiation was deemed necessary. It was that important.
You can read ancient frescoes, translate Latin, unearth casts of people who died suddenly in volcanic ash to see what they were doing, and all aspects of women, when seen as different from men, emphasize the gift they present to the world, and the risk they take for mankind. Even in times wherein they were property, they were still seen as divinely special. Even the warped theologies of Roman deities, while traditionally and unfairly wedging them into possessions, placed them on pedestals nevertheless, perhaps the reason pedestals were invented.
The Future--Medical Adventures in Cyberspace
This world of ours is going to change so much in the next five years that it would be like a scene from a science fiction movie. No, I'm not talking about futuristic landscapes and personal flying jet packs for everyone, but about the information landscape. The Information Age is now a trite expression deserving of even a schoolchild's rolling of the eyes, but this age is in fact here and taking off at an exponential pace. Pioneer or villain--or both--Bill Gates has done much to change the world. He popularized the pretty computer screen for the masses, a chance Apple Computer had but lost. While many of us went through the trouble to learn code and computer language, Windows made the machines so easy to use that it's no longer a valid excuse to say, "I'm so computer illiterate."
The computer industry wants to make computers even the computer illiterates will buy, so they make them easier and kinder with each new issue. Additionally, computers keep doubling in capacity while halving in price every eighteen months, as predicted in the 80's. There are computers in our cars, our microwaves, our watches, and soon to be even in our ears. The Iridium project is nearly complete--a series of almost a hundred satellites around the earth so that communications on the ground can link everywhere and anywhere. Even more interesting is the fact that the Iridium project is owned by the first global corporation--a true multinational conglomerate.
Think about this.
Forget dollars, unified European currency, or even world-wide Visa/MasterCard. A company like this can issue it
s own currency in the form of credit, one swipe allowing bartering for any product or service in exchange for a digital conversation with your checking account. And even scarier, forget politics. A company like this can negotiate with it's clients with it's own Bill of Rights.
Yes, we are really moving toward a unified planet, but it won't be a religious unification or a political erasure of borders. We'll be citizens of a country but customers or stock holders of global corporations. And we'll gladly trade a political risk like that so that we can call anyone in the world at any time from our wristwatch.
So what does this have to due with health and fitness?
The solidifying of the Internet will not just be for the surfers looking for cheat codes for video games. Hand-in-hand with this technology will be Internet-handled information from doctors and hospitals. Certainly if the banking industry has reached a comfort level with confidentiality (PIN numbers, etc.), then a doctor's electronic medical charts networked for him or her by an international server poses no problem. In fact, there's a lot of good to be gained from the coming Brave New World.
A patient, for instance, walks into Dr. Jetson's office with certain symptoms. Dr. Jetson still relies on the art as well as the science of medicine. A careful history and physical exam is obtained, lab tests are run, and Dr. Jetson makes a diagnosis and recommendations for therapy. The patient's case is then stored in a database according to a confidential number, PIN, or password. This database then makes available every case like this in the world that has been treated successfully, and it sends an email to Dr. Jetson of statistics that can be used to individualize his patient's treatment. The patient, given access to this individualized anonymous database, can even check the Internet at home that evening to investigate all of this information as well as be directed to resources that can explain the subject. This patient not only has access to the excellent Dr. Jetson, he also has the benefit of the whole medical world's collective thinking on his condition.
The next day, Dr. Jetson's office experiences a tragic fire in which everything is destroyed--charts, lab reports, everything. His patient shows up for his results only to see a cinder where Dr. Jetson's office used to be. Dr. Jetson invites him to colleague's office where he can tap into his network and have his whole practice at his fingertips again. This is because all of the information can be networked internationally and backed up not on floppies but by industrial-strength protocols.
In the cartoon show, "The Jetsons," the year was always a vague futuristic year meant to be construed hundreds of years from now. But that was just a cartoon. The scenario I've just described will happen in the next five years.
Meanwhile we see the humble beginnings.
Take for instance this site--GYNOB.com. Now that thousands of visitors have checked out its information over the last two years,the numbers are escalating rapidly. A patient anywhere in the world can type a specific problem, say, "premature labor," into a search engine and be directed to www.gynob.com as well as to other web sites that have information related to this problem. We recently were surprised to see that this site was placed on the extensive medical web site of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden's only university for medicine. Suddenly we're being visited by many from Europe. The email our site generates comes mainly from the USA, but we've gotten much from Russia, South Africa, Europe, the rest of the Americas, and even Iceland.
It's exciting to be a part of it, and medicine will change more in the next few years than it has in the last century. It's only natural that this science be pushed along with a technology that is a runaway in the right direction.