What is the difference between information and propaganda? Propaganda does not need to be a pack of lies. It can hold only truth, but if it leaves out important information, it is still manipulative.
A recent piece on medical prestige in helping women who gave birth repeatedly prematurely and fatally contains a lot of information. All very nice. So what is missing and why does it matter? It misses the whole black page in history of DES – the Diethylstilbestrol medication scandal. But first something else.
A loss of a pregnancy, of an expected child, is very traumatic. When it happens several times in a row, the pain is even bigger. My mother, who in her early twenties went through the Holocaust (and after the Liberation still in the concentration camp married another survivor, my father), nevertheless called the loss of her two first pregnancies the worst trauma of her life! Obstetricians can talk forever about the medical side of spontaneous abortions, but if they have no eye for the feelings of the bereaved mothers, then what kind of healers are they? I’m horrified that a 1,856-word article can fail to mention such a crucial aspect. (Its headline has the token word anguish.)
Back to the DES scandal. DES is an artificial sex hormone. When the pharmaceutical industry starting pushing DES as the wonder cure against repeated miscarriages (1947), it knew that it was not effective at all. But it still produced (misleading) statistics to ‘prove’ its great potential. So how did they get false numbers to show their point? This is not complicated.
They demonstrated, that when women take DES during their pregnancies, they would have less premature pregnancy loss than without. What a powerful simple convincing fact, no? No, not at all! One needs to compare this result with what happens for women who get fake DES and who get nothing. They had such a comparison. It showed that the administration of DES made no difference! Even if doctors would not do anything, many women would eventually begin to carry their babies long enough so that they could survive after birth. The DES ‘miracle’ was nothing more than the natural trend of most expecting mothers to do better each time. They kept this finding in the background and kept up the false myth, to be able to continue to vend it for their own revenues only.
The eagerness to sell DES anyway, placed the pharmaceutical industry on the same plane as the tobacco and the weapon industry. In the end, they only cared about making a profit, no matter how many people get maimed and killed. At first sight it seems that producers of medication must be idealists who want to help healing. Forget it. It’s business and big business it is!
When my father, a physician, received his medical weekly, the first thing he always did was to tear out the colored glossy pages: the ads from the pharmaceutical industry. They went straight into a large wastepaper basket that was always on deck. When I asked him why, he said: My patients trust that I will treat them in accordance with the best medical knowledge once learned and updated constantly. That does not go together with me being influenced by what pill factories want me to prescribe.
He also used to say: My patients come to me for healing, not for experimentation and me turning over the results to the pharmaceutical industry. I work for the patients, not for Big Pharma. I prefer to prescribe known medication, that has proven its usefulness and of which side effects are well-known. Nonetheless, when his wife after the Holocaust, was having so many miscarriages, he agreed to what Professor Plate, the obstetrician of the Dutch Royal Family, (even not so wealthy Jews often will seek out the best doctors, who according to the Talmud (Kiddushin 82a) go to Hell) suggested: a new drug: DES. Why doubt the top specialist around?
(Thirty years on, I found the professor’s prescription for my mother: “If pregnant, high dose Stilbestrol (sic),” dated six months before my birth at 8 months of pregnancy – enough is enough and too much is plenty: I wanted out. Until the DES scandal broke, my mother kept referring to the royal doc as the third parent of her children. Professor Dr. W.P. Plate (1902-1983) until his death, never admitted the DES debacle in which he played such a prominent facilitating role.)
In 1971, cleaver doctors found that a very rare cervical cancer in women over 50 had become less rare and that seven out of eight of the young girls (ages 14-22) who they found with it, had in common that they were exposed to DES before birth. A deadly side-effect of a substance that by now was known not to have much of a desired effect in the first place, should have spelled the end of DES as medication. However, it didn’t.
Sure, in the Western world DES was no longer prescribed to pregnant women with previous miscarriages. But it continued to be used in the morning-after pill. Giving abortions! So much for its ability to save pregnancies. Worse was (but not unexpected if one understand the moral level of the pill mafia), that the DES in stock should not be wasted, so it was sold for a small price in Africa as remedy against headaches, especially helpful in … pregnant women! They’re not any better than weapon and cigarette producers, as I mentioned.
I ran a support group for child survivors of DES. We did very deep therapy. It was the most heavy support group I ever led or was in – much harder than second generation Holocaust survivors. Many worked on their early terror to be killed. Remember: DES provoked abortions. I found many psychological results of this poison in the survivors, decades after the last molecule had left our bloodstreams. (It goes too far here to give an overview of them. Maybe I’ll share the most prominent: A difficulty to remember to take breaks. I once asked where a certain DES activist was. She was on vacation in Spain. But, her colleague added quickly, she’s there also following a language course. O good, I said in irony, I was afraid for a moment that she was taking it easy.)
Physicians talking at length about helping women with multiple miscarriages and not humbly referring to the DES flop, is for me like talking about European progress in the 20th Century and leaving out the Holocaust. One thus may share great information, but it’s still propaganda, because it omits something of great essence.
Now, just like then, we see the medical world exaggerating its helpfulness by not acknowledging the often greater self-healing powers of Mother Nature and/or G-d Almighty. If one doesn’t learn from past mistakes, one is bound to repeat them.