PHARMACEUTICAL BEHEMOTHS BIG WINNERS WITH “MOTHERS ACT ”

For those out there who dislike government – whether at a minimal level or an all out invasion – you should really ramp up on this Act.  Of course, before I write about this, let me make this disclaimer: some will find this Act entirely appropriate – after all it is aimed at diagnosing mental illness and protecting the innocent life of the newborn.

Again, let me provide just a smidgen of my background.  My mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia – as far as could be accurately diagnosed back in the mid ’40s.   She was treated by using insulin shock therapy or, medically, Insulin Coma Therapy (ICT).  ICT is similar to electro shock therapy.  In addition to the ICT, she was also kept on several medications – and, to be honest, I couldn’t begin to tell you what they were.

When we – my brother and I – were very little, mom spent six months in the Richmond mental institution.  We spent the better part of our growing up years and our adult years in the shadow of mental illness.

I learned to know when Mom was going “downhill” – for lack of a better word.  She would start closing all the curtains to darken the house.  We would come home from school to a dim world of light.  I knew when the curtains slammed shut that it wouldn’t be long before Mom went to the hospital again.  She would be gone for a couple of weeks and then come home – seemingly better.  But there wasn’t much in those days that could be done, so her life was a cycle of hospitalization, good days, and then a slow descent into darkness.

The illness culminated in her failed attempt at suicide by overdose when I was 12 and my brother was 10 1/2.  I will never forget the medics putting her onto a stretcher, my brother and I crying, and my Dad telling us to say goodbye because we were never going to see her again.  But she did come home, and she appeared to gain a semblance of control over her mental illness.  She still suffered episodes of darkness and hospitalization, but she never tried to commit suicide again.

I understand that mental illness is serious – I grew up with it.  But the “Mothers Act” – as Congress has decided to label it – is pure patriarchal nonsense and a home run for the pharmaceutical companies.  Typically pharmaceutical companies have given overwhelmingly to Republicans to protect their interests.  But with the 2006 election cycle, pharmaceutical giants figured out where their bread would be buttered and began to bribe donate heavily to Democratic candidates.

In the latest coup for the big druggies, the House of Representatives passed the Mothers Act on March 30, 2009.  The vote – 391 yeas, 8 nays, and 32 nonvoters – is astounding in that with little fanfare or publicity, the House has now sent to the Senate for a vote, legislation that is totally unnecessary and fraught with the potential for abuse.  All nine of Indiana’s representatives voted in favor of the bill.

The following is a primary section:

SEC. 101. EXPANSION AND INTENSIFICATION OF ACTIVITIES.

(a) Continuation of Activities- The Secretary is encouraged to continue activities on postpartum conditions.

(b) Programs for Postpartum Conditions- In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary is encouraged to continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and treatments for, postpartum conditions. Activities under such subsection shall include conducting and supporting the following:

(1) Basic research concerning the etiology and causes of the conditions.

(2) Epidemiological studies to address the frequency and natural history of the conditions and the differences among racial and ethnic groups with respect to the conditions.

(3) The development of improved screening and diagnostic techniques.

(4) Clinical research for the development and evaluation of new treatments.

(5) Information and education programs for health care professionals and the public, which may include a coordinated national campaign to increase the awareness and knowledge of postpartum conditions. Activities under such a national campaign may–

(A) include public service announcements through television, radio, and other means; and

(B) focus on–

(i) raising awareness about screening;

(ii) educating new mothers and their families about postpartum conditions to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment; and

(iii) ensuring that such education includes complete information concerning postpartum conditions, including its symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources.

Of course the Act is the result of the coverage and exploitation of the 2001 death of Melanie Blocker-Stokes, who jumped to her death shortly after her daughter’s birth, allegedly suffering from postpartum depression.  In several different sessions of Congress, the same bill that just passed was introduced and failed.

However this session – with enough lobbying and donations from the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies – the Act passed its first hurdle.   Now it goes to the Senate.  If the Senate passes it, President Obama will have the opportunity to sign it or reject it.

The Act is ludicrous.  Postpartum depression is real – but only about 1 or 2 per 1000 women suffer from it.  Even those 1 or 2 do not ultimately lead to the death of the mother or the death of the child.  What the Act will do is to increase screening and medicating of pregnant mothers.   The problem is that the screening is relevant after the woman becomes pregnant.

That means that – assuming some type of mental instability is detected – the pregnant mother will be put on a prescription medication.  Today, it is common procedure to instruct women in the dangers of smoking and drinking during pregnancy yet the Act would lead to prescribing powerful and dangerous prescription drugs to the pregnant mother.

Chalk another victory up for the pharmaceutical companies and a loss for mothers, in general.

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