Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sexual Assault Victimization

"In some jurisdictions, it's up to one-third of women who report rape who are told, 'We're not prosecuting, we're going no further'."
"Some women are even threatened with charges if they persist -- for mischief or obstructing police."
"[Sexual assault remains the only type of offence where the prosecution doesn't] start high and bargain their way down. The studies that have been done have indicated that even when there's evidence of bodily harm, evidence of a weapon, of multiple assailants, police tend to charge at the very first level of sexual assault."
Elizabeth Sheehy, professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law

"There are lots of cases where the police say, 'We're not going to charge because you don't remember what happened', not realizing that you can't consent when you're incapacitated. But that in itself is enough. If you have no memory, you're not in a position to consent."
"It's a cultural thing. In terms of the way the criminal justice and the legal system treated sexual assault cases. Up until the early '80s, it wasn't a crime in Canada to rape your wife ... and it was open season on the credibility of complainants."
"On the books, Canada has some of the most progressive sexual-assault laws in the world. Our rape-shield provisions are the only ones in the world that don't allow prior sexual history with the accused to come in automatically."
"You need a system of reward from on high (for police officers who apply their training and understand the law). And you need measures of public accountability for police, which we really lack in all jurisdictions in Canada."
"You would have to have very strong mechanism[s] of independent civilian oversight ... that's genuinely independent, that genuinely has teeth, that has powers of subpoena to force police to talk. And you have to back it up politically as a government, and finance it as well."
David Tanovich, University of Windsor

Facebook
Facebook     Rehtaeh Parsons seen in an undated photo posted on Facebook.

Nova Scotian teen Rehtaeh Parsons struggled with depression and anger after she had been bullied incessantly mocked when a video of her being sexually molested while she was in company with other teens was circulated among her peers. She was unable to cope with the notoriety and contempt she felt was directed her way after the rape was made public and finally made a successful attempt at suicide. Only years later, after public outrage motivated authorities to move on her file were the boys involved charged and brought to trial.

This was after the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service advised the RCMP through Crown attorneys who reviewed the case reached the conclusion that there was "no realistic prospect of conviction." Cpl. Scott MacRae of the RCMP had stated "Investigations can be complex in nature, police have to look at all the evidence ... and see if it meets reasonable grounds, if the evidence can support the charge. When we consult with the Crown, they look at a different burden -- the likelihood of conviction."

More latterly there was the social bombshell of revelations about the sexual predations of one of the CBC's most popular and celebrated radio personalities, Jian Ghomeshi, the host of the program Q, a man considered by the public broadcaster striving to reach the attention of the young and the celebrity-obsessed crowd, to be their goose that lays golden eggs. And he laid many golden eggs, until he finally laid a real stinker with the news that he was a violent sexual psychopath. Women whose basic human rights he had violated were loathe to step forward.
But several among the many who did speak of the great harm he did them made their names public and criminal charges were laid. Jian Ghomeshi, the man who not so long ago couldn't get enough media attention, the man who loved to preen before cameras and his adoring public, now is the recipient of the kind of attention usually reserved for the mighty fallen low, and he fell very, very low indeed. But there he is, flanked by two female lawyers prepared to defend this besmirching of his reputation.

Relatively few cases of sexual assault manage to make their way from charges and evidence to court and the justice system. Many women are quite simply too shamed as victims of sexual assault to step forward and become visible as such a victim. The credibility gap is there as well; a woman's voice against that of a man's. The gruelling appearance before a court of law, the grilling on the witness stand, the notoriety and the stress associated with re-living the assault is enough of an anticipated ordeal to convince many women to remain silent and suffer.

It is estimated that of every thousand Canadian sexual assault victims a mere dozen will ever venture to the interior of a courtroom in hopes of seeing their assailant brought to justice. Roughly 90% of victims of sexual assault will not report the crime to police, according to Statistics Canada. Even police officers with specialized sexual assault training will hear a woman's complaint and conclude there was insufficient satisfactory evidence to proceed, giving the benefit of the doubt to the accused.

Police, hearing the woman's story, may feel it to be incomplete, particularly if the woman was drunk or otherwise incapacitated, her memory  unclear; in which case an assumption is reached that a criminal conviction based on evidence available is unlikely, the accuser informed there is no legal ground for her accusation. According to Professor Tanovich who teaches law and specializes in legal ethics, they may be very wrong.

There are three levels of sexual assault appearing in the law, a progressive rise of violence held to be applicable to any given case. Minimal physical injury to the victim invites the first level, the second covering offences where multiple perpetrators are involved, bodily harm caused or threatened, or a weapon used. The most serious type, the third level, represents attacks that maim or disfigure the victim, or endanger her life.

Women's rights activists and experts in the field of sexual violence feel that the legal system should be altered so that fees for lawyers under legal-aid programs would be available to allow a victim of sexual assault to hire her own lawyer to represent her best interests, rather than depend on a Crown prosecutor.

They argue that there is a social cost associated with the tens of thousands of women whose lives have been impacted by sexual violence; eliminating that cost would more than compensate, they hold, for public funding of a victim's right to hire her own lawyer.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Particulate Pollutants and Autism Disorders

"When looking at health impact in a human population, not a controlled animal experiment, getting this level of consistency is, in my assessment, notable."
"For every health condition, there's a constellation of causal influences. It's not a 'one cause,  one disease' world. What this means is that for some children air pollution might be part of that causal pie of all the pieces that came together to tip the balance."
"It could actually be two or several chemicals acting together in synergy. In my world, this is considered the problem of mixtures; that a group of chemicals together could act very differently than a single chemical in isolation."
"Unfortunately, I don't think there's a lot that an individual person can do [to avoid potential pregnancy problems]. This is a classic public health problem, if you will, where it takes a village. It takes people working together to solve this problem."
Dr. Amy Kalkbrenner, environmental epidemiologist, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


In Dr. Kalkbrenner's world the issue is one of the impact of exposure to motor vehicle emissions in urban settings by the developing foetus having its deleterious effect when human biology comes up  against environmental degradation. Specifically the air chemistry of pollution and how in places where pregnant women are exposed to excess particle pollution the result is an increase in the number of children with autism spectrum disorder.

The issue is fine particulate matter resulting from the exhaust of motor vehicles in the burning of carbon fuel. Two types of particulate matter ensue from vehicle exhaust to mix with air; PM10, producing coarse particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter, and PM2.5, producing finer particles from auto emissions which animal studies suggest are more biologically relevant to brain developmental issues.

Aside from the matter of the two types of particles, relatively coarse and very fine, there is the chemical interaction that takes place when those particles result from within dozens of toxic air chemicals come in contact with the air, the sun, and become transformed into different compounds. It is the issue of exposure to those chemical compounds in particulate matter impacting on foetal brain development the study points to.

In the later stages of foetal development the brain undergoes a process of synaptic connectivity. Autism develops when that connectivity becomes faulty.

The discovery by scientists that weeks 31 to 36 of pregnancy appears the period when the foetus becomes most susceptible to the interfering and deleterious impacts of air pollutant particles led to the understanding of what might be happening when the natural process of development is impacted by circulating chemicals in the air that pregnant women breathe, corrupting the developing brain of the foetus they carry.

The increase of autism disorders over the past several decades has been notable. There is scientific uncertainty whether the rise is associated with greater awareness and evaluation, or whether it represents a true increase in susceptibility and occurrence due to environmental degradation. What is beyond dispute is the number of children affected; in Canada, 1 in 68 children.

That  the environment plays some role in autism development has general scientific agreement, without consensus for a single cause. Dr. Kalkbrenner places great confidence in her findings that traffic pollution is a causative, but she also qualifies that with the caution that not necessarily all instances of autism can be attributed to traffic pollution, but can arise from other causes as well.

Two U.S. states, California and North Carolina, undertook studies and Dr. Kalkbrenner looked at both that assessed pre-conception through first birthday records of over 164,000 children comparing pollution data and the number of autistic cases related to mothers exposed to higher pollution levels. Her synthesis of the studies led to her conclusion that the more traffic pollution pregnant women have exposure to the greater the chance their child will develop autism.

Her study results were published online in the online journal Epidemiology in October. Four studies have made the link between traffic pollution exposure and autism; Dr. Kalkbrenner's is the latest to be published. She has stressed the difficulty of individual women seeking a solution on their own by attempting to avoid exposure to heavy traffic pollution.

The problem is a general, global one needing to be solved by awareness and managing the risks through greater public health initiatives.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Blighting The Atmosphere?

"[Wind turbine noise] annoyance was found to be statistically related to several self-reported health effects including, but not limited to, blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus [ringing in the ears], dizziness [and sleep disorders]."
"The findings support a potential link between long-term high annoyance and health."
Health Canada

[Failure to take infrasound seriously is quite astounding] ... Given the knowledge that the ear responds to low frequency sounds and infrasound, we knew that comparisons with benign sources were invalid and the logic [of relying on audible] sound measurements was deeply flawed scientifically."
"Given the present evidence, it seems risky at best to continue the current gamble that infrasound stimulation of the ear stays confined to the ear and has no other effects on the body."
Alex Salt, Jeffery Lichtenhan, acoustic authorities, Washington University School of Medicine

"The patients deserve the benefit of the doubt. It's clear from the documents that come out of other industry that they're trying very hard to suppress the notion of WTS [wind turbine syndrome] and they've done it in a way that [involves] a lot of blaming the victim."
Steven D. Rauch, Harvard Medical School
and more features
Photo credit: Sameer Shah

Thousands of people living close to those humongous wind turbines reflecting one of the assets in the arsenal of the environmental movement to harness natural phenomenon for energy, don't feel too personally confident of the usefulness of wind as an energy source, the way it is currently being harnessed. They might perhaps think more kindly of it as a resource tool if it were not directly affecting their quality of life, with those turbines too close to where they live for comfort.

The reported deleterious impact on the health of many people in communities that have had wind turbines erected within their home ground include complaints of adverse health effects, some of which so seriously affect the complainants they feel forced to remove themselves from the source physically, abandoning their homes and moving elsewhere. Primarily it is the sound that the turbines emit when they are responding to prevailing winds.


The audible sound waves are known to medical science as "annoyance" , reflecting a state of health whose potential can lead to a full range of illnesses named wind turbine syndrome. Health Canada had commissioned a Statistics Canada survey on the issue of impact to health of people living in the direct vicinity of wind turbines, reporting on migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, blood pressure and sleep disorders. Annoyance was discovered to be statistically associated with chronic stress measurements and blood pressure.

Aside from the large amounts of sound waves at a frequency above 20 Hz the audible level, the turbines produce large amounts of sound waves as well below 20 Hz; inaudible to the human ear, and as such, according to wind-energy proponents, completely harmless. Sound waves below 20 Hz are detectable by animals, many of which communicate at that sound frequency. As well, that human-inaudible sound communicates a sense of danger to animals relating to earthquakes or oncoming tornadoes.

Essex, ON. November 7, 2014 --  Wind turbines dot the landscape near Essex, Friday November 7,  2014.  (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)Essex, ON. November 7, 2014 -- Wind turbines dot the landscape near Essex, Friday November 7, 2014. (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)

While it is known that the signals from infrasound enter the human brain, scientists have no knowledge yet of the effect of what occurs when the brain absorbs infrasound stimulation for prolonged periods; no long-term study exists. A 2001 review by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences called the Infrasound Toxicological Summary found over 100 infrasound studies globally with many of those reporting similar adverse health effects inclusive of fatigue, sleeplessness, nausea, heart disorders afflicting people living near wind turbines.

In a 2003 U.K. experiment by the National Physical Laboratory, Britain's largest applied physics institute, two music concerts were arranged to be staged one directly following on the other in London's Purcell Hall. Two different musical pieces in each concert included infrasound, the result being that when the infrasound-impacting pieces were played the audience reported elevated sensations of nausea, dizziness, increased heart rates and neck and shoulder tingling.

In the absence of long-term studies, the short-term studies that have been scrutinized may not provide the whole picture of what is occurring. Wind turbines may yet be found to be entirely benign. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a kind of affective hysteria may be responsible for the deleterious health symptoms reported by people living close to the turbines. There is also the possibility that the turbine manufacturers might conceive of a solution to the sound emitted, thus eliminating the problem.

This without considering additional complaints about the visual impact of the wind turbines marching across a landscape. On occasion, depending upon where the wind turbine farms are located, disturbing the natural visual serenity of well-loved areas, including those dependent on tourism. That also, without including the dreadful toll that wind turbines take on the avian population, killing thousands upon thousands of birds with their revolving blades.

In the meanwhile, a Canadian court is mulling the situation and is soon to make a decision whether wind turbines are in violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms through raising a risk to human health in their use to people held hostage to the sound by wind turbines installed in their geographic vicinity. One can only wonder whether, when such energy-derivative sources, beloved of environmentalist are placed where the environmentalists live, what their reaction might be.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mind Over Body

"No one knew me [in seclusion years ago] as the Ice Man. I didn't want to be nick-named, to be called crazy. They made me Super Man sort of -- the Ice Man."
"The next challenge to me is science, research. That's my Mount Everest."
"This method [meditation/self-healing] is no longer alternative."
Wim Hof, Dutch national, inspirational Guinness World Record holder
The father-of-five also holds the record for having the longest ice bath. Here he emerges from a frozen lake in the Spanish Pyrenees mountains

"Hitherto, both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system were regarded as systems that cannot be voluntarily influenced. The present study demonstrates that, through practising techniques learned in a short-term training program, the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can indeed be voluntarily influenced."
U.S. National Academy of Sciences study
Lead author of the study, Matthijs Kox of Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands considers the results outlined in the study to be preliminary, holding hope that controlling hormones with the mind, for example, can help treat depression. The study involved Wim Hof, dubbed Ice Man, teaching a dozen students his meditation technique.

The study culminated with those students and another dozen control subjects injected with a bacterial toxin inducing fever, headache and allied illness symptoms, with Mr. Hof and his students demonstrating an increased capacity to suppress the symptoms. Basically, Mr. Hof, through his method of disciplined meditation is able to control his bodily reactions to stress.

As a young man searching for meaning in his life, he familiarized himself with Buddhist texts, did yoga exercises, tried martial arts and meditation techniques, and found great inspiration within nature. When he was 17 he accidentally fell into a pond capped in a veneer of ice: "Boom, it felt so good!" he reminisced. "The cold makes you go within."

Indeed it would; it would make most people shrink internally, traumatically shocked at the instant cooling of their bodily system, and it wouldn't be long before, if they were unable to haul themselves out of such an icy environment, their body would begin to shut down, core temperature dropping quickly and alarmingly, threatening existence.

But for Mr. Hof, feeling his blood rushing in a way he was unaccustomed to, he responded by altering his breathing rhythm, realizing that breathing a certain way resulted in his feeling comfortable, despite his icy baptism. This experience led him to take control of automatic processes within his body. "That's a physical revelation. That's a mystical revelation", he stated.

Now he is embarked on a mission to prove that humans are capable of the duality of spirituality and body control whose results can be verified scientifically. Earlier he had practised his strange new 'liberation' of the spirit with his newfound capacity for his mind to control his bodily reactions and functions quietly, without fanfare. Basically now he sends a message, that what he has been able to do, anyone can, with the proper instruction.

He had received a telephone call from Dr. Ken Kamler in New York who is an expert in high-altitude medicine; Mr. Hof's fame doubtless having come to the attention of the researcher. Dr. Kamler expressed a keen interest in Mr. Hof's ability, exerting control over his body's autoimmune biological networking system. The power of Mr. Hof's will to control his body is unique to science.

The 'Iceman' Wim Hof, 55, has broken 21 Guinness World Records including running a full marathon above the Arctic circle wearing only a pair of shorts. Here, he meditates in the snow in Holland
The 'Iceman' Wim Hof, 55, has broken 21 Guinness World Records including running a full marathon above the Arctic circle wearing only a pair of shorts. Here, he meditates in the snow in Holland

The mind-over-body technique he pioneered gave way to feats of control through meditation and breath control that Mr. Hof has demonstrated in a variety of ways, earning him no fewer than 21 unique distinctions through the Guinness awards. He has climbed Mount Everest close to its daunting summit wearing only shorts. And run a full marathon in the Kalahari desert. He has immersed himself in ice water for a period far longer than any other human, and sustained no injury in the process.

Mr Hof said: 'I don't bother with gyms, I just workout where I happen to be whether it's in the garden or at home'
Mr Hof said: 'I don't bother with gyms, I just workout where I happen to be whether it's in the garden or at home'

At age 55, he is in remarkable physical shape, always challenging himself through his environment and his relationship with nature; both the world around him and the nature within. His self-discipline and comprehension of his bodily functions, setting his mind to talk to and instruct his body opens new avenues of scientific enquiry into the biology of animal life as it relates specifically to human animals

His students arrive at a point under his mentoring where they are able to produce adrenaline by willing it. The hope is that he can teach other people to do what he does and in succeeding, inflammatory diseases like multiple-sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, using his methodology, could be healed, without surgery or medication.

Dr. Kalmer inspired Mr. Hof on his mission to help improve the lot of humankind if experiments meant to test his discipline controlling the mind could be repeated. With its success, a leap forward for mankind could result. That promise alone enough to validate and inspire this teacher of an amazing technique of mind-and-body control to lend himself fully to that marvellous enterprise.  

So ... here's hoping ... !

To be fair, there have always been instances of religion-inspired mystics reaching a state of neutral-consciousness, separating the body from an experience through mind control enabling them walk over hot coals or lie on nail-studded beds without sustaining injury. These historical, sometimes cultural practices reflect in part what Mr. Hof has achieved in his exploration of the natural world; his own and nature's, both endowed by Nature.

None yet, though not from lack of trying, have succeeded in freeing themselves from another power of nature's majesty; gravity, to achieve levitation or flight.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Living Chastity Belt

"It must be carried out, because that's the way to maintain the purity of girls, to make sure that the girl is not out of control. We don't care if it's against the law or if they're trying to stop it. We know doctors who are willing to continue and have done so."
Egyptian woman, 53, interviewed for BBC documentary


It is against the law. It defies morality and human rights. Infibulation, genital cutting, consigns girls and women to a lifetime of pain and often enough dire medical conditions associated with the cultural practise. Also called clitoridectomy or excision or female circumcision, it is the surgical removal of a female's integral anatomy related to sex, the clitoral hood. The cultural tradition associated with some primitive religious rites is meant to ensure that women take no pleasure in the sex act.

Theoretically it is meant to make certain that a woman will not stray from the bed of her husband. In practical terms it often makes a semi-invalid of the woman, one for whom the sex act is fraught with pain. And the process and procedure make her dependent on her husband. To do otherwise is to flaunt societal custom and the heritage tradition of male custodianship of female dependants. It is to make certain that dishonour does not blemish the family honour code.

Women, under such social customs are little more than possessions, treasured for their capacity endowed by nature to usher new life into the world and in so doing provide the male with an heir to inherit his genes, the means by which nature presents to her creatures a mode of survival from one generation to the next. And patriarchal societies have developed this scheme of altering a woman's capacity to be fully female to suit their ends.

Throughout the Middle East and Africa and parts of Asia, the practise is dangerous to women's health, demeaning to their dignity but in those cultures a girl who has not been 'prepared for marriage' by circumcision is not considered to be marriageable. The procedure is often carried out without attention to hygiene, and crude tools used in the process. It ranges from snipping off part of the clitoris to the entire removal of all external pudenda.

And it can lead to health issues running the gamut from problems with urination, cysts and infections to severe bleeding, infertility or serious childbirth complications.
photograph
Road sign near Kapchorwa, Uganda, 2004

Ethnic groups who familiarly practise this rite of passage continue to do so when they migrate elsewhere in the world, in Western societies where they take up their new lives, bringing with them the odious custom of female genital mutilation, where mothers and aunts continue to cleave to tradition claiming they are thinking of their daughters' futures which, without circumcision will be bleak with no prospect of marrying and bearing a family.

UNICEF estimates that of the 125 million women worldwide have have suffered genital cutting in the 29 countries where it remains prevalent, mostly Africa and the Middle East, one in five lives in Egypt. Egypt is the most populous Arab country in the geography straddling Africa and the Middle East. According to the government of Egypt, the rate of female genital mutilation among women aged 15 to 49 is 91%.

Egyptian activists have been striving to eradicate the practise that girls as young as five are forced to undergo. It is not only Muslims but Egyptian Christians as well that honour the practise. Female genital mutilation is considered internationally to represent a violation of the human rights of girls and women. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in October announced a global campaign to end it within a generation.

But like banning child poverty and striving to bring about an alleviation in the condition of children throughout the world whether they lived in impoverished countries of the world or First-world economies yet live with privation, it is easier said than done. Egypt has banned the practise, imposing a universal ban in 2008. Though the practise is often referred to as circumcision, it is nothing like male circumcision where the hood of the penis is removed with no lingering ill effects.

The World Health Organization's description of the custom is succinct enough: "[It] comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons." There are no health benefits attached to the custom. It reflects only a society's obsession with virginity and chasteness; that a woman is endowed with sexuality remains a taboo subject.

Even though in Egypt there is a penalty of up to two years in prison or fines of up to 5,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly $800), the custom has proven impossible to stamp out. "Medicalized" cutting, which is to say surgery taking place in hospitals by medical staff has actually risen to 77% from 55% decades earlier. To eradicate this custom is paramount in achieving "social justice and human dignity", a pledge by women battling the practise, intent on protecting the quality of life of girls and women.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Million-Dollar Baby

"It’s a very sad position to be in. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody."
"I had a bladder infection and I hemorrhaged a bit at four months. My doctor saw no reason for me not to go."
"We had no questionnaire [from Blue Cross]."
"As of March, Blue Cross pretty much washed their hands of the whole case,” she said. “We’ve just kind of been sitting ducks not knowing what to do."
"My doctor felt my pregnancy was stable. Who can pay a $900,000 bill, not to mention the $30,000 it cost us to live down there? We’re still paying catch up from that."
"I guess our next steps are whether or not we proceed with the lawyer. We have a couple decisions to make here in the next day or two and we'll see what becomes of it."
 Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, Saskatchewan
Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel
Saskatchewan resident Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, left, gave birth to Reece nine weeks early while in Hawaii. (David Shield/CBC)

If only we mortals could look into the future, how different our decision-making and our actions might be. We would be enabled for one thing to prepare for all contingencies. Avoidance of unnecessary stress and misfortune would be priceless. But we can't even look as far ahead as two days' time to guide, inform and warn us of untoward plans best left unfulfilled in the prevention of untoward events.

On the other hand, sometimes a little common sense will fill the gap of not being capable of foreseeing certain events. That's why we look both ways before crossing the street. It's why we're careful, if we're prudent, not to spend more money than we have available at any given time. It's why we carefully consider what might conceivably go wrong if we embark on a venture that might have consequences we'd prefer to avoid.

That said, most of us tend to think that nothing can go wrong, if we really look forward to doing something. And Jennifer Huculek, pregnant six months, thought evidently that she had months to spare, and in the interim she and her husband Darren Kimmel could embark on a bit of a vacation. To some expectant parents it might seem prudent to remain put until the pregnancy was over, the child delivered to their waiting arms.

To others, obviously, the desire to celebrate unencumbered for the last time before a birth, might appear too attractive to pass up. Having had a bladder infection, and some bleeding during the pregnancy might not appear too serious, but perhaps in the interests of a trouble-free pregnancy caution might have been prescribed, although the Hucelek-Kimmels, husband and wife, felt they were home-free on the issue.

Particularly as they went to the trouble of procuring travel insurance. But when, two days after arrival in Hawaii, the pregnant woman's water broke and she was taken to hospital, the situation turned fairly serious. She was there for quite the stay, the baby was born prematurely and required a two-month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. All of which even the village idiot knows is prohibitively expensive. All the costs would have been taken care of had these hospitalizations taken place in Saskatchewan.

But Saskatchewan Blue Cross from whom the travel insurance was taken, cited a "pre-existing condition" to render them ineligible for coverage to pay the whopping hospital-medical bill they faced of almost a million dollars. The bladder infection that had surfaced before the pregnancy was the culprit, so obviously that complication is not viewed as innocently harmless to the pregnancy as the prospective parents believed it to be.


Indeed, when the pregnant woman was hospitalized reflecting a pregnancy emergency, Blue Cross contacted the couple informing them that their coverage had expired even before the baby was born. At that juncture, making arrangements to return to Saskatchewan would have required that a private jet with medical attendants be arranged for, yet another costly prospect whose cost they dismissed.

The parents of the baby have been receiving quite a bit of attention and sympathy.

Even from Blue Cross:

"The challenges facing this family are extraordinary and difficult. As such, we urge Ms. Huculak to have our decision reviewed by an independent ombudsman. OmbudService for Life and Health Insurance (OLHI) is a national independent agency that provides impartial, third party reviews of customer concerns."
Posted to the Saskatchewan Blue Cross website
Saskatchewan Blue Cross stated that the family had been presented with a two-page explanation of its review where it cited nine events that disqualified them from Blue Cross honouring their insurance claim. The family chose not to share the contents of the letter with the media interviewing them and in so doing, disseminating to the wider public the family's financial plight. They are obviously hoping that public pressure through sympathetic censure of Blue Cross will convince the insurer otherwise.

They're looking at a total bill of $950,000 of which about $160,000 represents the mother's hospital stay, $40,000 a medical evacuation, and the remainder the cost to care for the baby in the Hawaii hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Of that total sum Saskatchewan Health, the province's universal health coverage for in-province care has paid $20,000 of the bill while the United States generously paid for the cost of baby Reece's delivery of $12,000.

Hospital-surgical expenses are huge; without insurance coverage they can utterly debilitate a family's savings and future financial prospects. The family has been left with the bulk of the remaining bill of $918,000.

The lessons here are numerous; when pregnant and having experienced some hemorrhagic bleeding during the pregnancy, stay home and close to medical care; a reckless decision to travel regardless should be accompanied with the knowledge that an untoward event would be costly; when purchasing travel insurance: caveat emptor.

Wipe that scowl off your face, and shake your head over unwise decision-making. And consider, perhaps, the offer of pro-bono service from a lawyer willing to take the case. If you think you have a case, other than eliciting sympathy from the public. And continue to treasure your good health, if not wise decision-making. Cherish that healthy, growing baby.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Public Health Imperilled

"If you inject something that is not sterile, that can be life-threatening."
"This is an issue that's not going to go away ... [But] most health professionals are unaware of the issue. I would imagine that most people in Canada are unaware of the issue."
Imti Choonara, clinical pharmacologist, University of Nottingham

"What we now know, more often than not, is that when Health Canada warns about problems, it is because the drug is unstable, contaminated or defective ... which can kill you. This is a threat to every Canadian's life."
"Academics write things that upset governments every day of the week; that's part of our job."
Amir Attaran, health-policy expert, University of Ottawa; Canada research chair in law, population health and global development policy

"Having said that, it is true that the global drug-supply chain has become more complex and stretches far beyond Canadian borders."
Stephane Shank, spokesman, Health Canada

"This is highly irresponsible behaviour, playing one continent against the other [India and Africa] on the basis of a study which doesn't even follow basic protocols of scientific rigour and methodology."
"If India's Mars mission cost one-eleventh of U.S.'s Mars mission, that doesn't make it substandard. Low cost is our advantage and cheap doesn't mean poor quality."
Sudhanshu Pandey, official India Ministry of Commerce 
drugs

Just published in the journal BMJ Open is a study that highlights the annual volume of problematical drugs to be found on Health Canada's website as recalls and alerts relating to defective prescription drugs, being used in Canada The British-led study emphasizes how at-risk patients are as a result of the situation. In comparison to Canada's 143 recalls last year (42 in 2005), the United Kingdom had less than half that number of recall/alert cases.

Most commonly, stability relating to drugs that degrade before their expiration date, in all likelihood destroying their effectiveness. Contamination by the presence of foreign objects in medication represents the next most common problem resulting in a recall or warning by Health Canada. Dr. Choonara, lead author in the study, sensibly points out that consumers/patients should be forewarned and have topmost in mind if medicines are not working or appea the result of unexpected side effects, action should be taken.

Dr. Attaran is well versed in the problems. The threat he speaks of to Canadian life is very well demonstrated by the linking in 2008 by U.S. authorities to the deaths of 81 patients to contamination discovered in shipments of the blood thinner Heparin, made in China, as a particular case in point. Health Canada's Stephane Shank points out that Canada has a rigorous drug-safety system, and a newly-enacted law permits government to order a medicine recalled without the consent of its maker.

According to Dr. Attaran, the problem may lie partially in Canada's lack of adequate scrutiny of medicines manufactured in India and in other developing countries of the world. A recent Senate committee report found that 4.6% of prescription drugs used in Canada come from India, thus representing the second highest foreign source of medications after sourcing from American pharmaceutical manufacturers.

A number of Indian manufacturers of drugs such as Ranbaxy Laboratories, which markets 160 medicines in Canada have been noted for their substandard production. Imports were banned by regulators in the United States through its Food and Drug Administration, of Ranbaxy products along with three other drug factories operating in India, with the inclusion of two owned by a Canadian-based generic producer, Apotex Inc.

Dr. Attaran was previously involved in a small study with American colleagues, the results of which they published in an American economics think-tank journal. They had purchased 1,470 samples of Indian-made medications in India, and purchased other pharmaceuticals in several African and medium-income countries, surmising that those bought outside India were likelier substandard than those they bought in India. "Indians were exporting their garbage", said Dr. Attaran.

India took umbrage at this conclusion, for the National Bureau of Economics Research article gained media notice in The Economist and The Wall Street Journal. New Delhi was less than appreciative of the significant implications surrounding their drug manufacturing and distribution. Government officials spoke of a defamation lawsuit targeting the authors of the article, accusing them of a "malicious assault against the country and its drug industry."

In the end, no lawsuit saw the light of day.

But forewarned is certainly favourably forearmed. Apotex was cited as having the largest number of defective drugs among the 20 manufacturers and distributors in the study, followed by Teva Canada Ltd, Pharmascience Inc. and Vita Health Products Inc., makers of both natural-health products and over-the counter drugs. Their ranking paralleled their product-marketing numbers within Canada.

Here's hoping that pharmacists across Canada follow the literature.... And that provincial drug formularies reflect the findings in the literature...in protection of the public weal in health and in sickness.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

"What It Means To Be Human"

"And he said, what will happen is that the rod will go into your throat, into your esophagus, and you will die a miserable death."
"This is as much disability as I can handle. Under no circumstances do I ever want to repeat what I had to go through. Under no circumstances. I've gone through that once. And if I had known ahead of time what was going to be in front of me for the next half a dozen years, I would have said, 'Just no thank you. It's just not worth it'...."
"I remember being in the ditch, unable to move, conscious. The pain was so intense that you just think you're going to explode. You'd wish anything, anything to stop it."
"I was terrified. I can't talk. I can't write anything down. I have no real means of communicating. I'm fully conscious and I'm in enormous pain."
"I told my doctors if anything goes wrong, if my cognitive ability is reduced in any way or my ability to speak or hear or whatever, please walk away from the [operating] table."
"If I'm incapacitated, the direction is to actively end my life, not passively. I'm not interested in starving to death, or being deliquefied, or whatever."
"I'm disabled. I'm as disabled as you can get. But I don't think my life is going to be in any way diminished because, in the hospital down the street, there's less suffering."
Conservative Member of Parliament Steven Fletcher, Ottawa
11/26/2008  ( BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES) - Steven Fletcher meets his rescuers from his accident at a recent book launch for his biography. Fletcher has fought with MPI since the accident in 1996.

There's a reason, the personal experience of loss, trauma, determination and fear of what just may come next, that has compelled Steven Fletcher to introduce two private member's bills to legalize physician-assisted death. He is, as he describes, just about as physically disabled as any human body can become. Not his mind, however. And his mind is all he was left with. His once healthy, muscular body is no more.

But his mind, lodged in an unresponsive body had the strength and fortitude, the interest and the intelligence to insist that he was still somebody. Not only 'somebody', but extraordinarily somebody. Someone who after the dreadful misfortune he suffered would go on to attend university, excel at his academic studies and become politically involved, capable enough to persuade others to vote him into public political office.

112014-Steven_10.jpg-1122_fletcher_canoe-W.jpgCredit: Courtesy Steven Fletcher   Steven Fletcher, in 1989, on a canoe trip to Manitoba's Snowshoe Lake. Fletcher, an avid outdoorsman, loved nothing more than taking to the water in a canoe or kayak. He had a summer job leading canoe trips and was an expert paddler: he taught camp counsellors how to instruct young people in the art of handling a canoe.

When he was 23, the world and its potential stretched dreamily before him. He was an avid outdoorsman, a lover of nature, he taught canoeing techniques to instructors and beginners alike, and was studying to achieve his geological engineering degree. He aspired to get an MBA as well; his career beckoned in mining or energy extraction. He envisioned himself married, the father of rambunctious children who would love the Canadian wilderness as he did.

Nineteen years later, at age 42, he has had years of experience as a federal Parliamentarian, once held a Cabinet post. His early plans turned around completely because he is unable to canoe wilderness lakes any longer, and work in geology or energy extraction is no longer available to him with the constraints that fate placed upon him in 1996 when his vehicle collided with a moose on a highway in Manitoba on a dark winter morning.

MP Steven Fletcher is on a deeply personal quest to legalize doctor-assisted deathConservative MP Steven Fletcher has made it a personal mission to introduce right-to-die legislation in Canada. He was rendered a quadriplegic in an accident that left him in excruciating pain, and says he doesn't want to suffer anything like it again.  Photograph by: Fred Chartrand , CP files

Later, two men stopped to see why a headlight seemed to be shining out of a ditch, and that's when he was discovered, half an hour after the catastrophic collision. Specialists in Winnipeg found two vertebrae crushed in his neck, the most serious of spinal cord injuries. Then his lung collapsed and a mechanical ventilator breathed for him. A "C4" quadriplegic, he was able to move his neck and facial muscles only. A year in hospital left him ample time to think of his future.

On release from hospital a team of personal-care workers and physiotherapists tended to his round-the-clock needs; he was completely dependent, but determined to live in his own home. Living in an impaired-accessible apartment he had to come to terms with the fact that he is unable to feel his body, cannot control his bladder or bowels. Pain is a constant presence in his head and neck. For him, privacy is now an unknown quality.

Two years ago while he was still a cabinet minister the results of a MRI revealed that the titanium rod implanted to support the shattered scaffolding in his neck had been dislodged. At Toronto Western Hospital top spinal neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Fehlings, informed Mr. Fletcher no structural scaffolding was left to hold his head up; the two neck vertebrae had re-fractured. Surgery was urgent. The 12-hour surgery that followed led to the discovery that the displaced titanium rod had penetrated his throat, bacteria colonizing his spinal column

Long back at work in the House of Commons, he is determined now to nurse through legislation the legalization of physician-assisted death. Ending the prohibition on assisted death "Is the moral issue of our time", he insists. "Its importance will reveal itself in the peace of mind that it provides to individuals who are suffering -- and their families. It speaks to what it means to be human."

His mission is not a popular one. It is not shared by all those living with disabilities by any means.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Culture of Violence and Death

"She knew that the questions would be about the insecurity and violence [in her native Honduras] because that is what the world knows about Honduras. Her goal was to explain that she wanted to contribute to a Honduras in which children could walk the streets without fear of being murdered."
Jose Eudaldo Diaz, philosophy professor, Santa Barbara, Honduras

"If she had been any other girl, if she hadn't been Miss Honduras, this would have been one more crime amid the impunity of Honduras."
"They would have said what they always do: that this was the settling of accounts between drug traffickers, and they wouldn't even have bothered to investigate."
This region is imbued with narco culture represented by the image of a man who moves in a big car, drinks, take drugs, walks around armed and is bad. The culture of violence and death."
Jose Luis Mejia, director, Technological University campus, Santa Barbara

Miss World Contestants Mourn the Death of Miss Honduras, María José Alvarado
María José Alvarado   AP

"A man is free, a woman not; a man may choose and a woman not. And along with this is the violence that begins at home from childhood and continues throughout life ... To call the murder of a woman by a man a crime of passion, to talk of jealousy, is to avoid the daily reality of violence against women."
"The worst machismo is the one in the head of women who think that a drug trafficker is a powerful man who gives her what she doesn't have, protects her and makes her look good in a society that values money and power."
Nusly Casana, Technological University student

Sofia Alvarado, a beautiful young woman of 23 had the misfortune in life to attach herself to the wrong kind of man. The first time it was to a married man who left his wife to live with Sofia. The school where she taught was closed down, but she had the comfort of her love, until in the violence-plagued Honduran city of Santa Barbara he was murdered. Then she chose a man with a reputation of ruthlessness and violence.

He chose her because of her great beauty, as a feared and dangerous man involved in drug trafficking and with a reputation to uphold, she looked good on him, another possession acquired for a man of distinction. Such men are jealous of their possessions and when Sofia Alvarado was briefly and naively distracted enough from protecting her future by dancing with another man, her lover was enraged enough to abduct her and murder her.

Maria Jose Alvarado and her sister Sophia Alvarado Trinidad
Beauty: Maria and sister Sofia were brutally murdered

And it was Sofia's younger sister Maria Jose Alvarado's bad luck that she was with her sister at that time. At 19 years of age, attending university and aspiring to be able to do something very important for her society, Maria Jose thought of helping somehow to turn Santa Barbara's violence culture around. At her young age, crowned a beauty queen and set to take part in the Miss World pageant to be held in London, she assiduously practised her English for the event.

She was being coached by Professor Diaz. Her unfortunate destiny was not to be going to the pageant, she would not have an opportunity to demonstrate her ease in expressing herself in English should she have been fortunate enough to have been crowned Miss World. She, along with her sister, was shot to death, the bodies discarded like trash. Honduras has become accustomed to violent death.

But most often those whom life abandons so violently are the criminal class; drug traffickers. Not to mention as well the deaths of police officers, both those who are corrupt and those who attempt to do justice to their positions. Taxi drivers, innocent passersby, journalists who write of the drug-related crimes, gangs, druglords, murders, abused women. In the drug-infested macho society that is Honduras deaths are plentiful, usually shrugged off as inevitable; fallout of a certain way of life.

The disappearance of the beauty queen, the rumours that circulated of foul play and the eventual discovery of the bodies of the two sisters which their murderer had sprinkled with lime to hasten their decomposition would not likely have attracted much attention but for the fact that the young university student wore a beauty crown, set to compete abroad for the global title.

Sofia had been forewarned by friends that she was making a grave error in her choice of boyfriend. She chose for her own reasons, to continue on that path. It is one that led to Plutarco Ruiz shooting first Sofia, then Marie Jose Alvarado as she turned to flee for her life. "He felt so immune that he didn't flee because he trusted they [police] would never detain him", said Mayor Juan Alcarado.

Most of the town's 29,000 residents, said the mayor, know about everyone in town, what they do, what happens to them. It was believed that police had waited before interrogating the murderer of the two women to give him the opportunity to make himself scarce and unavailable for questioning, travelling elsewhere to place himself out of bounds; untouchable and free to carry on outside the town, as befits a man of reputation in Honduras.

It took a week after the disappearance of the two women, but once Ruiz was taken into custody, he led police to the bodies, and he and three accomplices were charged and arrested.

Getty Teresa Munoz cries over the coffin of her daughter, former Miss Honduras World Maria Jose Alvarado
Teresa Munoz weeps over the coffin of her daughter, former Miss Honduras World Maria Jose Alvarado

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Beware Flame Retardant Furniture Chemicals

"We are detecting these carcinogens in people and some of these carcinogens are not new."
"When we tried to answer that question [levels in people], we realized the analytical methods weren't there."
"Now it is really up to the consumer to ask for furniture to be flame retardant-free. That is where we are going. By increasing transparency and information about the chemicals that we use in our furniture and our building materials we can have a consumer-driven shift away from using these chemicals when they are just not necessary."
Robin Dodson research scientist, Silent Spring Institute, California

"The government takes the approach of dealing with one chemical at a time, and a lot of these flame retardants have similar properties."
"It is a situation where in both California and Canada we have a very reactive regulatory framework that deals with chemicals management. Some of these numbers are not that surprising."

Fe De Leon, researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association
Photo: Toxic flame retardants are a burning issue
Toxic chemicals are released into the environment during manufacturing and when products containing them are discarded. (Credit: localsurfer via Flickr)

Traces of chlorinated tris [TCEP], a carcinogenic chemical, were discovered in the urine of fifteen of sixteen California residents by researchers performing a new study on flame retardants. The results of their study were published in the periodical Environmental Science and Technology this week. TCEP has been banned in California from children's sleepwear for the past 40 years, but it has been used as well in furniture. Which, of course, off-gases.

Dust from furniture was found to contain high trace levels of flame retardants, stimulating researchers to seek an answer to the question that occurred to them: What about people, what are the levels of the chemicals likely to appear in the human body? Earlier recent studies demonstrated that flame retardants used in furniture have no real effectiveness in preventing or diminishing the effect of fires. And then there is the inconvenient fact that TCEP can do harm to humans' nervous and reproductive systems.
Best Car Seats for Babies and Toddlers

Alternatives are available to these conventional and quite useless flame retardant chemicals in furniture. Yet the public is quite unaware that the chemicals are used in the manufacture of the furniture they purchase and have in their homes, placing them in potential peril as the chemicals seep into their bloodstreams. The chemical TCEP is commonly used in polyurethane foam, plastics, polyester resins and textiles.

Hang a Mobile above Her Crib

A United Nations expert committee last month recommended governments give serious consideration to adding the flame retardant DecaBDE to a list of chemicals that should be banned globally. Health Canada moved in April of 2014 to ban the use of TCEP in products specifically intended for infants and children up to the age of three, stopping short of an outright ban on the products.


If you don't plan to get rid of your TV and furniture, the simple answer is to dust.
Studies have shown that consumer products, not industrial releases, are the likely source of flame retardants or, PBDEs (building up in people and animals).
These toxic chemicals — found in furniture, carpets and electronics — have been linked to cancer, adverse effects on the developing brain, and immune and reproductive problems. They are also persistent and bioaccumulative, which means they build up in the environment and our bodies (and in the bodies of animals like polar bears and killer whales). -- David Suzuki Foundation

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8-Year-Old Raises Almost $1 Mil to Save His Friend’s Life



LOS ANGELES—Eight-year-old Dylan Siegel’s best friend since preschool is Jonah Pournazarian.
A few years ago, Dylan found out that Jonah had a rare liver condition called Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD), type 1b.

With GSD Type 1b, Jonah’s body can’t process sugars very well. If his blood sugar is not strictly regulated through frequent small meals, his life could be in danger. Since the disease is so rare, research is slim, and there is no cure.

Dylan remembers one day on the way home from school when his mom told him about Jonah’s disease.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is so horrible,’” he said. “‘I want to help.’”

At first, Dylan wanted to donate $100 from his bank account.
His mom, Debra Siegel, suggested putting together a bake sale or a lemonade stand instead. But Dylan decided to do something much bigger.

He wrote and illustrated a 16-page book called “Chocolate Bar.”
Eight-year-old Dylan Siegel's book Chocolate Bar and a chocolate bar donated by Whole Food Market in Los Angeles on Nov. 14. (Sarah Le/Epoch Times)
Eight-year-old Dylan Siegel’s book Chocolate Bar and a chocolate bar donated by Whole Food Market in Los Angeles on Nov. 14. (Sarah Le/Epoch Times)

“He wrote it the next day and gave it to us and said, ‘Can you go make copies?’ and ‘We’re going to sell it,’ and ‘I want to make a million dollars.’ We thought that was kind of crazy, but now we’re almost there,” said Siegel.

The book has sold over 20,000 copies in 60 countries and all 50 states. The two boys’ families are also selling actual chocolate bars, donated by Whole Foods Market, as well as t-shirts and wristbands at ChocolateBarBook.com. They have made “well over” $900,000, according to Dylan’s father.
“Chocolate bar” is a phrase that means “awesome” to Dylan, and his book is about everything he thinks is “so chocolate bar,” like Disneyland and going to the beach.

He says helping his friends is “the biggest chocolate bar.”

Dr. David Weinstein, a professor and director of the GSD program at the University of Florida, is one of the few doctors who specialize in GSD. People come from around the world, including Jonah, to visit Weinstein’s lab, and he’s using the donated money from the book to fund studies to find a cure.
“He’s raised more money for this disease than all the medical foundations and all the grants combined. Ever,” Weinstein told ABC News.


GSD was almost always fatal until 1971, according to the University of Florida’s Glycogen Storage Disease Program website. At that time, it was discovered that uncooked cornstarch was digested slowly enough to be a good source of energy for those with the condition.

Some children, including Jonah, need to have a feeding tube installed to tolerate meals every one to three hours during the day and every three to four hours at night. Jonah often gets meals consisting of cornstarch mixed with chicken soup, to add more nutrition.

“It’s really hard when your child’s blood sugar drops, and you’re always afraid that he could have a seizure, go into a coma, and die if you don’t get to feed him on time,” said Lora Pournazarian, Jonah’s mother.

Jonah also can get seriously ill from simple colds or the flu, and has to get daily shots to boost his immunity.
Dylan Siegel (L) reads his book Chocolate Bar with his best friend Jonah Pournazarian (R) in Los Angeles on Nov. 14. (Sarah Le/Epoch Times)
Dylan Siegel (L) reads his book Chocolate Bar with his best friend Jonah Pournazarian (R) in Los Angeles on Nov. 14. (Sarah Le/Epoch Times)

“I hope this book accomplishes finding a cure for my disease and for lots of other diseases, so people with diseases can all be cured, and there’s no more disease,” said Jonah.

All the money donated at chocolatebarbook.com is given to the Jonah Pournazarian GSD 1B Fund at the University of Florida. After the fund reaches $1 million, they says they won’t stop there. They hope to eventually create a larger foundation, so they can help more people.

Dylan, Jonah, and their families are not only trying to help find a cure for GSD, they also hope to inspire other children to realize they have the power to change the world.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Two-Plus-Two Equal-Four

"The most startling finding is the dramatic increase in hospital admission for self-harm among our young people."
"We knew from previous studies that this type of behaviour is there, but just seeing the numbers and the upward trend is particularly distressing."
Juliana Wu, manager, decision support and trauma registries Canadian Institute for Health Information

The Twins. Courtesy Jonathan Hobin
"It certainly confirms our experience as care providers across North America. In the last three to five years there's really been a surge in kids who are self-harming, particularly the girls."
"What we hear from the kids is that they're having a really hard time dealing with negative emotions or stress and that cutting or hurting themselves reduces that. They really have trouble handling negative emotions like fear, sadness, anger or despair. It just bubbles up inside them ... and they have not developed the coping strategies to deal with them."
"You will see kids whose arms look like railway tracks or have done a very deep cut or in a serious place. The question then is, why are these kids not picking up better ways to reduce stress?"
"With social media, kids are essentially always with their peers. And if their peers are abusive -- as they often are -- then they are constantly exposed to an environment in which they are being taught maladapted techniques. In many ways, they are being raised by their peers."
"Many things have changed in our society over the last ten or 12 years and now it's starting to catch up. We've all heard that 'it takes a village to raise a child' -- well the village is changing rapidly."
"The culture is allowing girls to be in more fights. We're living in a more violent society. But I would say that all bets are off. We just don't know about this group of kids. This is a different phenomena."
Dr. Kathleen Pager, head of psychiatry, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
Child Abuse

It's an unfortunate fact of life that there have always been neglected children, children left to their own devices, to try to figure out on their own, through observation and experience, how they will fit into the world around them. Needless to say it's the parents' responsibility when they have children to raise them in an emotionally supporting familial environment, giving them confidence, and endowing them with values that will sustain them throughout their lives.

That's the best-case scenario for child-raising, along with the provision of shelter, nutrition and exposure to learning experiences, including schooling. Part of that support comes from the state as well, in reliable access to health care when it is required, and academic opportunities to equip the young with knowledge and social skills. When these are lacking the fallout is confusion, sometimes resentment, and sometimes social aversion.

Perhaps it's a bit too smug to offer the opinion that when children come into the world those who bring them there have an obligation to prepare them for entry to the world around them. And in raising children nothing can be more important and vital to their well-being than emotional stability, support, understanding and encouragement at every step of the way, as well as discipline in the imparting of values.

In modern society much of that obligation fell to the mother, with the father's support. Usually one of the parents was always available at home busy with domestic duties, the most vital of which was the raising of children. When a cadre of women in the West decided that this convention was demeaning to a women's independence, leaving her a virtual slave to the wage-earner to whom she was linked, and by extension the children to whom she was intrinsically obligated, changes occurred.

Dignity and fulfillment were seen to be had in working outside the home, for a salary. When children were involved, as they invariably were, the search was on for someone, not the parents, to take the parents' children in hand in a 'minding' capacity and something elemental was irretrievably lost. The concern deeply held by parents in the well-being of their offspring had been off-loaded and contracted out to someone who had no such concerns.

Left adrift, but clinging to the 'quality time' that parents could manage to spare for their children in off-work hours, the consequences could very well have led to a basic insecurity in their children. Little wonder that an evolution occurred where peers took the place of adults in forming children's values and attitudes toward life. And perhaps for far too many a permanent anomie set in to plague a child's psyche.

That, and abuse of any kind that might be perpetrated and perpetuated in a less-than-ideal familial setting. Resulting in findings that conclude that self-harm accounts for over 80 percent of intentional injuries and such self-harm has increased by over 85 percent in recent years, and girls account for 80 percent of the young admitted to hospital for self-harm injury. Poisoning by alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs represents the most common self-harm administered by both boys and girls.
"When you work in this area [helping vulnerable children and youth] the thing that strikes you is how common it is. It is children from Vanier, Barrhaven, Kanata, Orleans and outlying areas [within the greater Ottawa area]. It is everywhere."
"I think people think this is a problem for those families or those children who are not in their demographic or their neighbourhood and that is just not the case."
"Some are affected by poverty, mental health issues and addictions, and some are not."
"People recognize the physical issues and don't recognize the mental health issues, particularly in young children."
Dr. Michelle Ward, head, Child and Youth Protection Clinic, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
An estimated two percent of children in the greater Ottawa area with its million-plus population has experienced some manner of childhood trauma or abuse. Doctors at CHEO saw only those children requiring hospitalization or emergency care, resulting from abuse or neglect, in the past. Many high-risk children were left untreated for issues that could impede their growth and development.

A new clinic has opened at CHEO, headed by an expert in child maltreatment. Children are identified by the Children's Aid Society and often become their wards and are referred to CHEO for treatment. From all across the city they are seen at the clinic, from toddlers to teens, to be assessed for physical, psychological neglect, and for sexual abuse. The function of the clinic is to provide early, comprehensive, expert assistance in the treatment of issues of abuse and neglect.

At the same time, children can be screened for medical, developmental and behavioural concerns which might be associated with trauma and if left unchecked could escalate, leaving them incapable of leading a well balanced life in the future. Physicians proactively assess children and youth in need of intervention and treatment.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Casual Relations, Casual Sex, Casual Future

"It's the type of thing that I tend to get equal volumes of hate-mail and love-mail, so you know you struck a chord."
"I see modern women, so many of them who are realizing that cohabitation and casual sex is what's making them feel subordinate and desperate and losing their identity."
"I think this bill of goods that we've been sold as women -- that we should be having uncommitted sex, that we should be living together -- it's not working out for a lot of women."
"What I'm trying to do is get people to think about their life choice as women, and to see that these trends of casual sex, of cohabiting, these are pretty new in terms of dating norms. It has only been in the last 30 or 40 years that these have become commonplace, and I think it's a failed social experiment, frankly."
"I noticed such a profound difference between couples who had legally married and who had made that commitment. Even if that marriage fell apart, they worked a lot harder to try and keep it together -- they were in that commitment sort of head space."
"People who cohabit, especially boyfriend/girlfriend, they just don't have that same level of commitment."
"We're reclaiming and redefining what marriage is. I don't think it's moral or immoral to be married or not, but I do think that certain lifestyle choices are more likely to make you happy and more likely to produce long-term relationships and stable family units."
Debra Macleod, couples counsellor/relationship author, Alberta


It's fairly safe to assume that the rise of common-law relationships -- or 'cohabiting' as Debra Macleod, the author of "The Modest Minx" puts it -- responded to and gained currency from the rise of feminism, the authority of women who forged a world-wide movement to express their insistence that women be regarded as and treated as equal to men in all endeavours. The era of 'free love' rose alongside feminism and the liberal-left and the movement of social libertarianism.

Anything men could do, so could women, and sometimes better, though some feminists added that women had to work twice as hard as men to achieve a similar goal, threading their way through the maze of male domination to achieve female emancipation and empowerment. If men could enjoy casual sex, well then, why not women ... alongside challenging men in professions once delegated only to males, like engineering, orchestra conducting, construction employment and the trades.

the, biggest, regret, 20-something, women, have, about, their, sex, lives,

Living together as a loosely-committed couple meant men and women were progressive, forward-looking, confident enough in their status as man and woman to dispense with the usual social covenant-approval of religious- and/or state-sanctioned marriage. Rather than be twisted into legal knots by convention, men and women would be free to make their own choices; if they meant to remain together they would, if not, well the experiment of experience was the result.

Or should that rather be the experience of experiment. Trouble is, there's nothing usually so casual and throwaway as human emotional investment and expectations We can attempt to mould our feelings and reactions into a straitjacket of hanging loose and easy over intimate relationships but we cannot really leave biology and human nature out of the equation as we bound into the dim future of destiny and long-term relationships.

But perhaps, in the minds of many, long-term relationships were not the goal, but rather sequential ones, reflecting our state of being at any given time throughout life's journey. As we matured and gained experience our interests and self-absorption might dictate that we move on to taste-test what might await in another relationship offering a different experience and horizon? For those who were leery of what is implied in commitment and 'long-range', and forever-after it might have worked.



For those women who required the comfort and assurance of a companion through life's struggles and its joys and heartaches, to be taken for granted and considered dispensable might not have been the resolution to life's search for intimacy and companionship. Ms. Macleod recognizes that many women find happiness and fulfillment in cohabitation or casual sex, as she put it. Those women aside, she speaks of the multitudes for whom happiness in a common law relationship didn't eventuate.

Of her clients she speaks of women disappointed and disillusioned when they encountered indifference or behaviour bespeaking narcissism in the non-committed men who shared their lives. On the other hand, she pointed out, she had never heard male clients make any complaints relating to lack of commitment from their partners. It could be that she had far more female clients than male clients, or her conclusion might have been based on equal representation.

But it is also true that often enough men look for different satisfactions in co-habiting relationships than women do. If children are concerned in the relationship there are obvious reasons for women to want their children to plan for a permanent live-in father to help raise them. This biological need arose out of early society recognizing and impelling the family unit, after all.



Research appears to affirm the many measurable benefits in the convention of formal marriage; mental and physical both, over the relationship of cohabitation. Married pairs remain intact as a unit at higher rates than couples simply cohabiting.  Within marriage, finances are improved, providing that stable relationship for children (whom statistics point out fare less well in cohabiting households).

Research appears to point to greater happiness and higher reported levels of well-being among married as opposed to their common-law or cohabiting counterparts. Between 2006 and 2011 in Canada the number of common-law couples rose 13.9 percent, over four times the 3.1 percent rise for married couples. In the year 2011, 16.7 percent of all census families were identified as common-law, leaving married couples the predominant family structure at 67 percent.

The women's liberation ideology that held marriage to be associated with subordination of women and sexual repression, surprisingly enough has resulted in university-educated women on average 27 years of age and without children from previous relationships faring best in relation to marriage outcomes.

A 2010 report issued by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia demonstrated that college and university graduates of both genders reported highest levels of marital happiness. Make of that what you will.

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