What Looks Good to Some, but Soon Takes Over?

March 31, 2010 • Posted in Blog

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A.
Executive Director

My beloved great-aunt knew the seasons well.  After the advent of Spring, we still had to go through “Blackberry Winter” and a few other cold snaps.  She would be amazed to learn that I find these “Kudzu Days”.  She never celebrated such a time.  After all, kudzu*, which grew behind her home, is a non-native woody vine planted all over the Southeast by F.D.R.’s Civilian Conservation Corps.  Later it was designated a pest weed.  In 1953, kudzu was removed from the USDA’s list of permissible ground cover, but it has never been eradicated from the Southeast.  With a growth rate that approaches a foot per day, it covers everything in its path, as can be seen in the center of the accompanying photograph, where kudzu is covering and choking a pine tree.

Why are these “Kudzu Days”?  Each week, I read a wide range of news accounts, and I spend some time reading books as well.  When it is time to write a monthly e-newsletter, I reflect on what I have been reading.  For the month of March, 2010, kudzu seems to fit, sadly.

GAMETE Donation
EGGS:  The American Society for Reproductive Medicine publishes guidelines for compensation of women who “donate” eggs.  They recommend up to $10,000 per “donation”.  A recent study by Aaron Levine, published by the Hastings Center, showed that for every 100-point increase in SAT scores, young women were offered an extra $2,300 for their egg donation.  Nearly one quarter of ads for college students’ eggs were above the $10,000 mark. 
SPERM: In December, 2009, Newsweek published “Mapping the God of Sperm”, about a physician who began donating sperm while he was a medical student, and continued to donate twice a week for about fourteen years.  He estimates that he has perhaps 400 offspring.  He is making his genome public through the Harvard Personal Genome Project to help “correct the wrong” — of the sperm bank!

This month, our elected representatives passed, and the President signed, a “health care reform law”.  It has a huge downside.  The law provides for abortions at taxpayer expense; does not provide for conscience protections for physicians or other health care providers; and reforms federal student loans.  Oh, and it also means the federal government takes over another 1/6 of our nation’s economy.

Pediatricians and others caring for children are being advised to increase awareness of the need for pediatric organs for transplantation.  This could be done through posters in waiting rooms, conversations at well-child visits, etc. 
“Referral to organ procurement organizations in a timely manner, starting in the emergency department with admission of a critically injured child, is crucial to avoid rushing families into a decision.”  (“Pediatricians Urged to Discuss Organ Donation”)

Finally, a bit of good news comes in the form of a recommendation from Jaron Lanier:
“If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would a machine.”
You Are Not a Gadget:  A Manifesto (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 21.

What does one do with all of this information?  We might take a lesson from the kudzu eradicators.  Herbicides and physical labor do not necessarily eradicate kudzu, although they may check its growth for a while.  If you really want to get rid of kudzu, you need to employ some ruminating goats. We do not need to become goats, but we can think deeply about these issues, and come together to reason out judicious and healthy responses.  Are our children gifts or projects?  How can we provide excellent health care without selling our consciences?  Should we be approaching parents with their critically injured children in the ER, seeking the latter’s organs?  Shall we continue to use technology, or allow technology to use us?  We need to consider these things, and more.  If we refuse to consider our ways, our children and grandchildren will be stuck with something far worse than kudzu.

* For more information on kudzu, visit the National Park Service site on Alien Plants