Soporifics and soullessness

October 10, 2017

By Marilyn M. Singleton, M.D., J.D.

Have we lost our collective minds? A mass shooting with no readily apparent motive is an extreme representation of our sense that our social fabric is unraveling. This is one of those things that people don’t believe can happen until it happens. And despite the unspeakable tragedy, it took less than an hour for politicians to criticize the President, ghoulishly exhorting that we need more than prayers and consolation. Maybe we do, but at least give the circle of victims a chance to deal with their personal grief before spouting off. At least CBS had the decency to fire its soulless vice president and senior counsel Hayley Geftman-Gold after she posted “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc [sic] country music fans often are Republican gun toters [sic].”

We have become a culture where Tim Tebow is mocked for kneeling in prayer before a football game while others are praised for “taking a knee” during the National Anthem—which by the way is not praying. Taking a knee in American football is when the quarterback drops to one knee immediately after receiving the snap, thus automatically ending the play. Taking a knee is a boring but effective move by the winning team toward the end of the game, as it does not allow the opponent the opportunity to regain possession of the ball. In urban lingo it means to take a temporary break from an activity.

Clearly, “taking a knee” is not praising a Higher Power that many on this earth believe in. And standing for the Anthem does not make one a racist. Note to partisan “news” presenters: when you push a pendulum in one direction really hard, when released it swings the other way with equal or greater force.

Living in virtual reality is no longer beyond the fringe. Children are becoming obese because they are participating in sports through video games rather than actually tossing around a ball to one another.

What happened to talking to each other? You don’t need a psychology professor to tell you that smart phones increase loneliness. Just walk down the street and you’ll see far too many couples walking, each with their own cell phone, obviously not talking to each other. Texting a few abbreviated words has replaced real conversation and emotional connection.

And we wonder why opiate use has risen to epidemic levels. People have always had their troubles. And man’s desire to avoid suffering whether physical or emotional, whether through alcohol, opium, mushrooms, or coca leaves has been documented for at least 9,000 years. But now the public has been convinced they can’t just be “high on life” and learn to cope. Big Pharma’s direct-to-consumer television ads quietly list innumerable side effects while extolling the virtues of their wares and the consumer’s inability to live without them.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. The statistics from the Rochester Epidemiology Project in Olmsted County, Minnesota (which are comparable to those elsewhere in the United States) reveal that the top three medications consumed are antibiotics (17%), antidepressants (13%), and opioids (11%). Antidepressants and opioids were the most commonly prescribed among young and middle-aged adults.

As physicians we do not want to become numb to patients’ needs while being consumed by government dictates. Electronic medical records should not become the excuse for hiding behind a computer screen—particularly with members of the younger generation who came out of the womb with a cell phone strapped to their ear by the umbilical cord. We need to be free to spend precious time getting to know our patients. Medications have saved countless lives, but prescriptions cannot become the tool to move along the overbooked office schedule or a quick fix to placate the demanding patient.

Let’s take heart. When left to our own devices and stripped of artificial political labels, we humans rise. Just ask our first responders and medical personnel or the hurricane volunteers or the victims helping victims or the thousands of people donating blood or the over 30,000 donors to the Go Fund Me page for the Las Vegas victims.
United we stand.

Bio: Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist and Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) Board member. She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School.  Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law.  She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law.  She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers.

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