Here at Blisstree, we dig “natural” stuff… but only so far as it makes sense. Reactions to Angelina Jolie’s recent preventive double mastectomy have been mixed, to say the least. Perhaps the most disappointing and reprehensible reactions come not not from the dudebros of the internet, but from a source that many people rely upon to give them an honest look at “natural” health, hard-hitting news that allegedly challenges the status quo and offers a refreshing alternative view of topics that really influence your quality of life.
But Natural News has gone from bad to worse in its coverage of the matter. First, there was “Angelina Jolie inspires women to maim themselves by celebrating medically perverted double mastectomies.” Right off the bat the headline misleads, because precisely what’s at issue (in the serious conversations happening about this, at least) is whether preventive double mastectomies are ever warranted by the medical evidence and, if so, when. There is plenty of room for reasonable disagreement about this. But no one reasonable is suggesting that preventive double mastectomies, such as Jolie’s, are more akin to pathological self-harm (“cutting”) than they are to less controversial medical surgeries, such as the removal of cancerous moles.
Moreover, the Natural News article really focuses on the disfigurement and the perversion of the female body, which are terms clearly chosen to induce disgust instead of to promote careful thinking about tough medical choices. It then bashes the total straw man argument that preventive mastectomy patients must think cancer can only be in your breasts? And it culminates in the completely offensive suggestion that women are being abused and victimized by the medical system at large – not that that can’t happen, but why should we believe women are being medically abused even when there is ample evidence to the contrary? (as in the case of Angelina Jolie and her atypically high level of access to medical professionals and a wide variety of treatment options).
That piece was bad enough on its own, nonetheless it was shortly followed by even more fail: “EXPOSED: Angelina Jolie part of a clever corporate scheme to protect billions in BRCA gene patents, influence Supreme Court decision.” To make a long (and convoluted) story short, Natural News guy thinks that Jolie’s announcement was carefully timed to impact an upcoming Supreme Court decision on some medical patents which cover “products of nature.” Company Myriad Genetics‘s patent on the BRCA genes (that are implicated in some aggressive hereditary breast cancers) will be up for debate, and Jolie had used her results from a Myriad BRCA test in making the mastectomy decision. Myriad’s stock price rose upon Jolie’s announcement, because the company can reasonably expect to see additional profits from additional expensive BRCA screenings being sold in the wake of the general public learning more about this possibility via Jolie. There is nothing unusual about that – stock prices rise and fall routinely with various relevant news – nor is there any evidence that Jolie owns stock in Myriad or was paid by the company. Further, I’ll remind you that she quite literally has her own “skin in the game” and was abundantly wealthy to begin with anyways.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Jolie is a total gene patent shill. Why does the Natural News author think that this will affect the Supreme Court ruling by making it more likely to protect patents on genes, the greater access to which could literally save lives? On the contrary, the more people know about genetics and medicine, the less likely they seem to be to defend patents on “products of nature.” All you have to do is explain that “these patents mean that an evil corporation owns something about your body” and everyone baulks. While it’s true that Obamacare involves many politically-influenced and objectionable transfers of money from the government to private corporations, and I’ll give Natural News author that, this particular line of thought makes little sense and smacks instead of conspiracy theorizing.
Calm down, Natural News, and put your thinking cap back on. Preventive double mastectomies are not being offered as a public health policy for preventing cancer, and they do not compete with your business model of promoting healthy eating and the like. There are in fact plenty of reasonable things to say about increasing our commitment to non-invasive cancer prevention and preserving bodily integrity whenever possible, but you have not said them. Scientific studies aren’t perfect, the research corpus has its blind spots, and the medical system very obviously has its problems. However, hopefully you can see why Angelina Jolie would trust science and conventional medicine over your quite serious suggestion that she just eat more broccoli and think more positive thoughts (in lieu of other options, not in addition to them). But maybe we should cut Natural News some slack: after all, fear-mongering and groupthink do come lamentably naturally to humans.