Thursday, January 18, 2007

I learned a new phrase today:

Cosmetic Endocrinology. (LA Times story, registration may be required.)

In 2003, the FDA approved the use of Human Growth Hormone to treat children with idiopathic short stature. That's shortness that is not caused by a known disease process. Girls whose projected height is less than 4'11", and boys expected to be 5'3" or less, are eligible for this brave new treatment. Over the course of several years, daily injections of growth hormones are administered. If successful - and it isn't always successful - children may gain a couple of extra inches.

Bear with me as all 4 feet and 11 inches of me shakes with rage.

Ellen Frankel points out:

But being short isn’t the problem. The real difficulties lie in the social bias against short people. Are we willing to treat the victim of a social prejudice with medical technology that supports and reinforces that prejudice? Are we willing to take a healthy child and turn him or her into a patient in need of treatment? We live in a culture that is obsessed with being tall and thin and now the pharmaceutical companies have jumped on the bias against short people. They calculated that they have a built in population to treat that could boost profits significantly, because there will always be those who fall into the lower height percentiles on a bell shaped curve.

How interesting. The "stunting" of a severely mentally handicapped child's growth evoked a media firestorm, but the expensive, medically unnecessary attempts to make otherwise healthy children a couple of inches taller is condoned.

Cosmetic endocrinology: a fancy term for a grotesque practice.

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