Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Its discrimination

As soon as you start treating people differently because of their health, age, skin color, language, eye color, height, weight, shoe size, pant size, food allergies, eating preferences, ability to use chopsticks or not, career aspirations, job, salary, or whatever, you create discrimination.

When you are first diagnosed with cancer, you believe everyone will know that you have cancer as it is tattooed on your forehead for the world to see. They see the word cancer and either:

a. Run away - because they might catch cancer cooties or they just don't know how to talk about this.

b. Tell you how you can be cured - they know because their neighbor's second cousin's hair stylist's dog groomers, great nephew had a completely different kind of cancer thirty years ago and it cured him.

c. Ignore it and pretend you have nothing wrong with you. Now there is an upside to this - they aren't treating you differently but they still expect you to go drinking and bar hopping until 3 am and call you a party pooper when you say you can't because you have to get up early for chemo and they frown on patients with massive hangovers.

d. They treat you just about the same but understand you may not feel up to snuff for everything you used to do. This is not treating them differently this is adapting to a change in their life.

In my professional opinion with 29 years (yes really) of experience in this is that answer d is correct. Don't really treat them any differently. The other answers are a combination of fear, stupidity, ignorance, and discrimination (which is really stupidity and ignorance and fear combined).

So now the NCAA wants to start requiring all student athletes to be tested for the sickle cell anemia trait. Why are they doing this? Because lawyers and insurance companies got involved after a student athlete died because of his sickle cell issues. (Now there is nothing wrong with lawyers and insurance companies, they do a lot of good in the world, but this is clearly another case of a CYA maneuver.)

First of all, the rate of sickle cell traits in African Americans is 8 times that of Caucasians. This would reinforce bias and prejudice for the wrong reasons. Can you say 'genetic discrimination'? Regardless of skin color, this is creating two classes of athletes.

Second, just because you have the sickle cell trait, doesn't mean you have health risks. Apparently you need two parents with sickle cell traits to create a child with real problems.

Third, if you have sickle cell issues you are supposed to (and I quote): 'to stay hydrated and know when to take breaks. It's about knowing your body.' And how is this any different than what an athlete or anyone exercising should be doing?

Finally, why can't the NCAA just do what the US military is doing since the 1970's by revamping the training protocol to eliminate the risk of heat-related illnesses and exhaustion for everyone. Why create another possible area for bias?

I feel my health history is on a need to know basis. If you don't need to know, I'm not telling. Same with sickle cell testing - what is it doing as a screening for college athletes other than creating bias and 'haves' and 'have-nots' categories?

Otherwise my day started off on a rosy note - can you say sunrise? We left our adventures in northern WI at 5:50 AM. I didn't sleep well last night due to back pain, etc. Now we are in southern MN - far away from where we started. I am going to productively work from my friend's condo while she has gone to her office. I am exhausted and can't spell (giving spell check a workout). I really do have work to do but the overwhelming urge to nap may take over...

1 comment:

OCWarrior1026 said...

I completely agree with you. I've been so hesitant for this exact reason. Every person that finds out jumps right into their "I'm an oncologist, and I know best," speech. If love this post. :-)

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