Monday, February 21, 2011

End Unnecessary Hysterectomies!

For the past few weeks I've been researching online the statistics and trends of current hysterectomy surgeries. The results are shocking and have left me with a 'punch in the gut' type of reaction. I began this blog a few years ago as I studied the trends and effects of natural child birth in our medical world. As a home birth midwife, I saw firsthand, the detrimental effects our medical community has upon women and babies. I believed it was my responsibility to give voice to what was happening all around us and to show that women are still being mistreated in hospitals everyday despite our advancements in medicine and the counter intuitiveness of it all.
Now as I delve into another woman's issue I have found a similar medical mentality that is detrimental to women's well being and reasoning for surgery that is unsupported by research.
In a 2010 article published by The Berkeley Electronic Press and written by Patricia Quintilian, Unnecessary Hysterectomy: The Lack of Informed Consent, it states that "the root of the problem is the monopoly of the American Medical Association and its lack of oversight, doctor review and a contrived shortage of physicians to keep medical costs soaring." A large part of their guarantee of monopoly power is through arresting paramedics, nurses and midwives who are doing their jobs and convicting them of "practicing medicine without a license". This ensures that only the elite few will have the privilege and right to practice medicine with a license and all else are criminals. There are medical boards and oversight committees that are supposed to handle complaints and remove bad doctors, but these are usually physician dominated, understaffed and ill equipped to handle the amount of complaints pending. This club of doctors is not unlike a fraternity that takes care of each other, whether in the wrong or right, while there is a strong brotherhood of protection to keep them together.
Knowing the basic structure of the medical community helps put the physician's opinions and recommendations into clearer perspective when it comes to major surgery decisions. Having a long history of sexual prejudices with women being the "weaker sex" and "more emotional" all tie into where we are today with women's health. Women visit doctors seven times more than men and are prescribed 50% more drugs. Women have more operative procedures done on them and their female organs are operated on 3.5 times more frequently than those involving the prostate or male urinary health. Any coincidence in a male dominated profession?
Hysterectomies are now the most common surgery in the United States while five of the ten next most common surgeries are obstetrical-gynecological. If the present hysterectomy rates continue 62% of all women in the US will have had their female organs completely removed by the time they are seventy years old and it is estimated that nearly 40% of these surgeries will be unnecessary!! Imagine, more than half of all the women you know having this major surgery and for what good reason???
Today's physicians are in a disagreement over what exactly constitutes the need for a hysterectomy, which allows them many various reasons to perform them 'legitimately' to their colleagues, yet unnecessarily to women's well being when many other less invasive alternatives exist. Hysterectomy complications include a string of awful complications, including; shock, heart disease, bladder and ureter injury, inability to void, gastrointestinal complications, nerve injury, depression and sexual dysfunction. Many doctors today will tell you these are minor and rare complications, yet 55% of all women under the age of 40 have suffered from depression and 46% have found an adverse affect upon their libido and sexual satisfaction following surgery.
Most of these surgeries are elective and scheduled ahead of time, which means they are not life threatening and can be postponed. Only 15% of hysterectomies are done because of gynecological cancer, yet physicians will tell you having a hysterectomy isa good preventative to uterine or ovarian cancers. There is less chance that a woman will die from uterine cancer than from a hysterectomy!
The research is shocking and eye opening and it reconfirms my passion for understanding all aspects of medical decisions before accepting them as "doctrine". Just as I have done the research for the effect of epidurals on mothers and babies and the soaring rates of cesareans performed in this country, now I add unnecessary hysterectomies to my list of unacceptable and irresponsible medical care for women. Certainly there are many women who have benefited from hysterectomies that were properly diagnosed and correctly performed, but what about the huge margin of error for those who had the surgery and now suffer the many, unfortunate and debilitating consequences? Since the reasoning is simply a matter of judgment on the doctor's part, it stands to reason that the judgment might be self serving and influenced by non-medical factors.
Please urge your mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones to look at the issue from all sides and consider less invasive procedures first. Taking the entire female organs out of the body is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Sure, it will be a quick fix for whatever ails it fibroids, heavy bleeding, uterine prolapse, backaches, endometriosis...and the list goes on...but be smart and proactive with your health! Know the facts before you make a major decison and know what you're up against before you quickly decide.
I want all women to be smart and put themselves first when it comes to their health and major decisions, such as a hysterectomy. I hope this will help someone who needs some guidance. Pass it on and stay strong!

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