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January 14, 2008

Connections (Personal, Historical)

I was launched on today’s entry when I had occasion to google bariatric surgery and quickly became surprised at the degree to which our current obesity “epidemic” has transformed a once marginal surgical subspecialty into a sought after money maker.

Morbid obesity and its opposite, the emaciation secondary to prolonged starvation, aren’t simply two extremes; they’re also a good introduction to my (recurrent) theme: the importance of our emotions in determining our behavior. In many respects, and also whether encountered in humans or animals, obesity and emaciation both involve behavioral factors because their development inevitably requires more time and outside support than ”nature” usually allows. 

To cut to the chase, there are now a variety of surgical procedures offered to the morbidly obese, arbitrarily defined as having a body mass index (weight/height ratio) greater than 40:1. As with most other choices, the more effective procedures, in terms of predicted weight loss, are also more expensive in terms of both expense and surgical risk.

That we are currently engaged in worrying about obesity, global warming, protecting our borders, and addiction shouldn’t keep us from recalling that wealth and power go hand in hand and have a way of sniffing each other out, which is why “conservatives,” who typically endorse the most traditional ways of thinking, also tend to be the most lavishly rewarded by respected organizations.

The obesity connection also highlights the money connection. Now that it's becoming almost normal statistically, there’s a lot of money to be made by treating fat people. If that  sounds analogous to drug addiction,” it's meant to.

Last week, I described how our intellectually threadbare drug policy has been corrupting Psychiatry, especially in its management of children. This week I’m raising another aspect of the same phenomenon: our fundamentally dishonest policy of drug prohibition requires considerable behind-the-scenes intellectual support from respected people and, by implication, the institutions they represent, in order to survive as protected public policy. This list, although a bit outdated, can serve as a basis future discussions.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at January 14, 2008 10:22 PM