Terry McLaughlin: Undermining medical school
During an endocrinology course at a top medical school in the University of California system, the professor stopped mid-lecture to apologize for something he had said earlier: “If you can summon some generosity to forgive me, I would really appreciate it.”
This lecture was being recorded by a student in the class, who later provided the tape to reporter Katie Herzog.
What was the professor apologizing for? He had used the term “pregnant woman.” He went on to say, “It was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. The worst thing that I can do as a human being is be offensive.”
Let’s stop right there for a minute. The worst thing he could do as a human being is be offensive? I am pretty sure that every reader will agree that in a world that has experienced genocide, mutilation, torture, rape and so much more evil, offending someone’s feelings would not rank very high on the list of the worst things any one of us could do as a human being.
But back to the topic at hand, the professor continued: “I said, ‘When a woman is pregnant,’ which implies that only women can get pregnant and I most sincerely apologize to all of you.”
Are students at some of our top medical schools being taught that human biology is not composed of two biological sexes, but rather sex is just a man-made creation? Are they being taught that a person other than a biological female can conceive and carry a child?
In medicine, the material reality of sex matters, in part because the refusal to acknowledge it can effect patient outcomes. Many medical conditions present differently and at different rates in males and females, including hernias, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and asthma. Different normal ranges for kidney function in males and females can impact drug prescriptions and dosages.
Males and females exhibit different symptoms of heart attacks: Males complain of chest pain, while females may experience fatigue, indigestion and dizziness.
Biological sex is an enormously important factor in treating patients properly. Males and females have different DNA, reproductive organs, bodies, and brains.
Carole Hooven, an author and professor at Harvard specializing in behavioral endocrinology, stated: “Today’s students will go on to hold professional positions that give them a great deal of power over others’ bodies and minds. These young people are our future doctors, educators, researchers, statisticians, psychologists. To ignore or downplay the reality of sex and sex-based differences is to perversely handicap our understanding and our ability to increase human health and thriving.”
The rules seem to be rapidly changing. In articles posted on the National Institute of Health’s website between March and June, there are multiple references to “birthing persons” or “birthing people.”
A July 2021 posting on the CDC’s website uses only the terms “pregnant people” or “pregnant persons”; the terms “woman” or “women” do not appear.
Harvard Medical School’s Post Graduate and Continuing Education Department emphasizes on Twitter that they are intentionally using the term “birthing person.”
The American Psychological Association’s style handbook now says that “The terms ‘birth sex’ and ‘natal sex’ … are considered disparaging. … (They) imply that sex is an immutable characteristic without sociocultural influence. It is more appropriate to use ‘assigned sex’ or ‘sex assigned at birth.’” “Mothering” is also considered a “problematic” term by the APA.
WebMD social media is now promoting the policy that “Sex should be removed as a legal designation on the public part of birth certificates,” based upon a report issued in June by the American Medical Association recommending the same.
The denial of biological sex does not help anyone, including transgender patients who may require special treatment. Dana Byer, a retired surgeon and a trans activist in Maryland, says, “The practice of medicine is based in scientific reality, which includes sex, but not gender. The more honest a patient is with their physician, the better the odds for a positive outcome.”
The student mentioned earlier who recorded her professor’s apology reported to Katie Herzog that in the context of her medical school, “acknowledging biological sex can be considered transphobic.” In an online forum, students correct their instructors for using terms like “breastfeed” instead of “chestfeed,” and at the beginning of the year, students had circulated a number of petitions designed to name and shame their instructors for perceived “wrongspeak.” This type of hypersensitivity can only lead to the undermining of medical training.
Medical education and practice should be based on science, free from the imposition of ideology or ideological-based intimidation. How males and females differ genetically, anatomically, physiologically and with respect to illnesses and treatments are fundamental truths whose impact on medicine, research and patient care cannot be denied or diminished.
The medical student from California wants to have hope in the future. “I have this idea,” she said, “that the truth will eventually come out and science will ultimately prevail.” But gender ideology is being portrayed as a civil rights issue so “It seems virtuous,” she said. “It seems like the right thing to do. How can you fight against something that’s being marketed as a fight for human rights?”
Are we now departing from the Age of Enlightenment, which saw profound developments in science and medicine, into a new dark age of ideologically motivated censorship and practices? This cannot end well for anyone.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at email@example.com.
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