BY MIA FREEDMAN Is there a more offensive term than ‘birth rape’? If there is, I haven’t heard it. ‘Birth rape’ is the extraordinary name some women use to describe a birth that involves medical ‘intervention’, even when it is done to save the life of mother or baby. I’m confused as well as appalled by this description.
When did doctors become the enemy? And hospitals? And medicine? And how have attempts to save the lives of mothers and babies become confused with violent crimes?
Lately I’ve noticed a worrying trend among some groups and individuals towards demonising the medical profession and it baffles me.
Between the anti-vaccination brigade at the AVN who believe immunisations are an evil conspiracy between scientists, doctors and ‘Big Pharma’ (big pharmaceutical companies) to make money and those who believe the same thing about other potentially life-saving procedures such as cancer treatment, there are some seriously disturbing beliefs out there that can have deadly consequences.
Which brings me to the Freebirthers.
Freebirthing is different to home-birthing even though both involve giving birth at home. A bit like the extreme sport version of birthing, freebirthers choose to give birth “freely” at home without the assistance of doctors or midwives. So there is nobody present who has any medical experience if things go wrong.
There’s an inquest underway this week into a free birth where things did go tragically wrong and ended in the death of a baby girl (her mother, a freebirthing advocate, claims the baby was stillborn). On freebirthing websites, there is much talk of ‘birth rape’ and ‘birth trauma’, as if hospitals and doctors and even midwives were somehow conspiring to harm women and babies.
Which is a concept so offensive as to almost defy comprehension.
Equally offensive to me is the idea that doctors try to make their patients sick – even kill them - so as to make more money out of them. And that pharmaceutical companies encourage this (allegedly by bribing doctors) so they can sell more drugs. There was a story on the weekend about a guest post on Miranda Kerr’s Kora blog by 24 year old Northern Territory cancer survivor Liana Werner-Gray who wrote about how it was possible to ‘cure cancer’ in 24 hours with fresh air and positive thinking.
Ms Werner-Gray reiterated her beliefs yesterday. “People get sick and they think they have to do what the doctor says but it’s not always the best thing,” she told the NT News. “(Doctors) say to (consider chemotherapy or radiotherapy) but that’s because it’s a big, fat, money-making business,” she said.
President of the Australian Medical Association NT, Dr Paul Bauert, said Ms Werner-Gray’s comments posed “a real danger”.
“Feeling good about yourself, what you’re eating and how you’re exercising will all help your immune system but it’s not going to cure cancer,” Mr Bauert said. “If (Ms Werner-Gray) is suggesting those regimes (chemotherapy and radiotherapy) should be ignored, then that commentator is doing serious damage to cancer sufferers”.
While Ms Werner-Gray conceded that publicly advising people on how to treat cancer can be dangerous, she said “it’s (her) duty to humanity to tell the truth”.
In defending the post (before it was taken down) a Kora spokesperson worryingly said that contributors were free to express their “opinions and personal research”.
Personal research? That’s deeply disturbing. Where does ‘personal research’ differ from ‘false hope’, ‘dangerous misinformation’ and ‘fairy stories’?
Where on earth did these people get it into their heads that medical professionals are out to kill and ‘birth rape’ us? And what effect do their wild claims have on vulnerable people who are desperately looking for credible information and hope?