Shame on the System, Not on Me
You *CAN* kill the messenger, but that won't make the message go away
I inadvertently made someone I love very upset the other day. This person felt I was directly shaming and criticizing them—personally attacking their medical decisions.
For those of you who don’t know me and who aren’t on my private email list, I am an award-winning science writer and an investigative health journalist. I’ve been researching and writing about medical malfeasance for almost twenty years. In fact, I spent ten years researching and writing a book, Your Baby, Your Way, about how for-profit medicine and corporate greed influence what doctors recommend for their patients during pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of a new baby’s life.
That book contains a chapter about cesarean birth. These days, nearly one third of American moms give birth via C-section. This involves a doctor cutting through several layers of the abdominal tissue and then putting their hands inside the woman’s womb in order to pull the baby out. While it can be a life-saving operation, there are many downsides to having a cesarean, both for the mom and the baby. And, sadly, it turns out that the vast majority of the cesarean operations performed in the United States are not medically necessary, as I explain in in this article. At the same time, they are much more convenient for the doctors and nearly twice as lucrative for the hospital.
If you’ve had a cesarean birth and you were told the doctors “saved your life” or “saved your baby’s life,” finding out that women who have private insurance are much more likely to get a C-section, and that some 600,000 of these operations a year are not necessary, is incredibly upsetting.
You Were Misled
You feel angry and misled. You should be angry. You were misled.
But then you have a choice: to blame the messenger (“that Jennifer Margulis, she’s just a crazy wooey quack”), blame yourself (“Oh my god, how did I fall for that? Why was I so stupid?!”), or blame the system (“Why do we live in a country where pregnant women are treated so badly?” “Why do we have a system that puts profits over people?” “What can I do to empower other people so they don't fall into the same traps I did?!”)
The thing about blaming the messenger—a convenient and easy choice that allows you to stay smugly in the dark about systemic problems—is that it doesn’t change the message.
You are furious at the person who gave you information. But it may be that your anger is really about your inability to take off your blinders. You can feel furious for days, months, or years. But that still won’t make the message go away.
In other words, Macbeth lost. Macbeth damned the messenger, calling him a liar and a slave and threatening to hang him for speaking false. But the forest was moving forward. And Macbeth was killed soon afterwards, just as the weyward sisters prophesied he would be.
Here’s part of what my loved one wrote.
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