Sunday, April 10, 2011

"The Business of Being Born" Review

Executive Producer Ricki Lake with Director Abby Epstein
I wrote a review of "The Business of Being Born" to highlight the educational and enlightening value of this documentary. I love that you can apply the lessons learned from this documentary and review to meaningful aspects of your life.

How Corporate Interests Affect Your Health
I was deeply intrigued by how much business practices influenced personal health. Since these practices were administered by doctors, the supposed gold standard in health, the average patient does not consider questioning suspect procedures. For many hospitals speeding up the birth process is a major priority in order to keep costs down, have room to bring in new patients and increase profits. To the detriment of the mother, conflicting drugs are used to encourage a speedy birth with no complaint of pain. I also noticed the overuse of technology and invasive techniques. As technology improves, doctors and mothers alike are becoming too comfortable with the ideas of C-sections. The plastic surgery culture is now impacting ordinary health care. This documentary also sheds light on the domination of insurance companies and health associations on health care. It’s unfortunate that these institutions can infringe on our freedom to decide on the best health care for ourselves. Many midwives and midwifery centers battle to get paid which causes many of them to go out of business. As more and more midwives are removed as an option, this decreases the competition for doctors and compromises overall health care. It’s nearly impossible for these third parties to understand individual needs however these are the institutions that make the most impact on us.

Information Conformity and Health Decisions
As the Milgram experiment has already demonstrated, obedience to authority is the typical response especially in situations when the person is distressed, in pain, have lack of experience with the situation or lack of knowledge on how to react. It is ingrained starting from childhood and reinforced throughout adulthood that the authority figure knows best and that you will benefit from doing without questioning. As the documentary revealed, it is easier for the doctors to manipulate the mother due to the deep concern she has for her baby and their title as the all-knowing doctor. The lack of information about birth cause mothers to conform to beliefs that are not in her best interests. Even if mothers have already decided on the course of action to take, doctors can use their influence and authority to encourage them to deviate from initial plans. Anna Verwaal RN Nurse and Doula (Birth Support) explains that, “Americans don’t have an image of what birth looks like. They don’t know what’s normal.” This lapse in knowledge gives tremendous power to authority figures. Just because an authoritative institution has recommended a certain treatment, does not mean that the treatment will have positive results. Also fear before and during the birth process enables authority figures to take advantage. Carolyn Haven Neimann, Certified Nurse Midwife and Sylvie Blaustein Owner and Director of Midwifery of Manhattan both point out that the media portrays birth as a scary and that the culture surrounding birth is based on fear. "The Business of Being Born" points to historical examples of drugs and x-rays, proclaimed safe by prominent health care institutions, which resulted in deformities and cancer.

Media’s Influence on Health Decisions
The media demonstrates social norms, acceptable behavior and provides a script or blueprint for navigating life. The media generally ignores and stigmatizes midwives and tells women to fear birth. One of the opening statements from a participant about midwives in the documentary is “I thought it meant having a baby in the barn somewhere.” Society often allows the media to dictate their views on certain groups of people and themselves. Many mothers simply do not see midwives as an option since it is not widespread in the media. Most TV shows or movies show panicked mothers racing to the hospital instead of calmly staying at home. A mindset develops that midwives are for third world countries and I should be afraid of birth. Society also looks to media to gain insight on what's a desirable, high class lifestyle. As many celebrities opt to have planned C-sections it’s becoming the new status symbol.

Conclusion: Lessons from "The Business of Being Born"

If you are facing a seemingly scary or unfamiliar circumstance do not avoid learning about it. Look up the options that are given and determine whether there is an “invisible hand” thrusting these options as the only options. Try to understand if there is a valid reason for why the alternative options are stigmatized. The world can be a scary place which is why it’s important to research and learn as much as possible to avoid succumbing to unscrupulous authority. As the cliché goes, do not be too afraid to question authority. In order to be open about the information you are exposed to, take steps to develop your own personal identity. Once you understand your values, goals and history you can make the best decision for you. That may in fact mean that you still prefer C-sections while others may realize they enjoy the comforts of home. The media does not have to be your script or set your values. Experience different cultures and lifestyles to expose any harmful practice that you view as normal.
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Related Entries: Exploring How Lobbyists Can Manipulate Health Care Reform: The Public Option - Uncovering Lobbyists' Influence on the Health Care Reform Debate

Photo Credit: The Business of Being Paulo Netto

Kimberly M. said...

I studied hospital administration in college (minored in it) and found your blog entry here -- its's a fascinating take on the way hospitals work. It is difficult sometimes to reconcile the fact that a hospital isn't a charity - it's a for-profit business. If it doesn't make a profit, it will fail and there will be even fewer options for those seeing healthcare.
Morgan Mother, May I?

Dianne Heath said...

@ Kimberly M.

It is difficult to reconcile which is why health care insurance agencies can exploit this clash. I'm reading a great book about this issue ( even though it's covering the 1990s) and I can't wait to do a blog post on it. Right now hospitals (and patients) are at the mercy of insurance companies. I was thinking as a I was typing this that perhaps more non profit hospitals could be the remedy?? But the money still has to come from somewhere :(

Trisha said...

Yep, learning about those unknowns that are stressing you out is the best thing you can do - and it will make you feel sooo much better!
Word + Stuff

Dianne Heath said...

@ Trisha

Very true, and it can protect you from having to learn how to cope with the unknowns from those do not have your best interest in mind.

SharonMayhew said...

Really interesting post! I think it's very important to be your own advocate when it comes to your health and your interaction in the medical community. You must ask why and how will that benefit me to be sure you understand and agree with what your doctor thinks is the best route to take in your health...because in the end it is YOUR health.
Random Thoughts

Dianne Heath said...

@ Sharonkmayhew
I love your use the word advocate...because many times we believe that you can only advocate for others. However being an advocate for yourself means lovingly standing up for yourself.
I also like your comment on asking and figuring out how it will benefit you. Many forget to do that and end up doing what benefits the doctors, insurance companies first and themselves last.

Hart Johnson said...

It's so true that the health care system has their own comfort zone and they try to push all patients into it. There are regional differences in how empowered women feel to resist this (or how skeptical they are about what they are told.) I had two babies in Portland, Oregon--the first, my insurance would only pay for a traditional doc and the nurse at the hospital tried to strong arm me into getting an IV and sitting in one spot with a monitor on my baby (basically dismissed the birth plan I handed her)--had I obeyed, I totally would have needed pain drugs, but I knew enough, I insisted on some things... Second baby there was a midwife--still a hospital, but MUCH better experience as she listened to me and was present to defend my decisions all through. I moved to Michigan in 2000, and HERE, people are baffled with the 'don't drug my baby' thought I brought with me--C-section rates are much higher--it's just not nearly as an empowered culture... far more cowed by what medicine says to do.

Dianne Heath said...

@Hart Johnson

It's interesting that you brought up the regional differences. I know that in the 1990s, early 2000s the insurance companies were being tougher in some states than others. This resulted in high death rates in some states that others. It's is very unfortunate. Culture has a huge influence on how legislators regulate health care, how people perceive authority figures and how authority figures use their power.The demographics of the regions also affect how patients perceive themselves and how authority figures perceive the patients. I guess since Michigan is more populated people are less compassionate toward one another due to the alienation and patients are probably more fearful/obedience. I bet in Detroit Michigan it's really tough. The economic conditions make doctors even more vulnerable to health insurance companies and more aggressive.

Michelle in a shell said...

Interesting post! Doctors frustrate me- they do try to intimidate patients into submission. Good way to point out the Milligram experiment- watching that video is terrifying :/

Dianne Heath said...

@ Michelle in a shell
Doctors, in fact most people in authority positions try to intimidate the people they have power over. It's frustrating! Especially when rights are invaded.
The whole documentary is definitely terrifying, it makes me wonder about other aspects of health care...

Dianne Heath said...

Thank you! I really really appreciate your comment. That's my main goal for this blog. Unfortunately I wasn't able to keep up with the a-z challenge because of outside duties and the nature of my blog.

Karl said...

Thanks a lot for that review. I just find it cool to learn how corporations affect our health in many ways.

Dianne Heath said...

@ Karl

I'm glad you liked the review. I agree, it is amazing how so many external forces have an influence on public health.

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