June 18, 2010

Menopause a Natural Processes: A Different Appeal to Naturalism

This post is kind of an extension of a post I did a while back entitled, "A Natural Arrogance" which was about the appeal to naturalism as a way of implying safety. That kind of appeal obviously isn't true and there is no direct correlation between somethings naturalness and its safety or in turn somethings artificiality with its lack of safety. Each thing has to be evaluated on an individual basis to establish what its affects will be. 

So this brings me to a book I am reading, Selling Sickness. In the book I ran into sort of the same flawed naturism argument used in a way that I hadn't noticed before. It was an argument, while not expressed directly by the authors, that was included without counter. The argument in question comes from the third chapter and is in relation to menopause. That chapter attempts to show how a natural process, menopause, is being turning into a 'disease' through slick marketing, celebrities, and outright deceit and does a good job showing those three things. The problem I have comes with an underlying problem cited in the chapter: menopause is a natural process and as such it doesn't automatically need treatment.

Menopause is a natural process that can be avoided if a women takes one of a variety of hormones, and in the past there was a great belief that the avoidance of menopause would cause a variety of health boons. Since that original belief there has been enough testing to show that isn't the case. So there is no reason to skip menopause, not because it is a natural process, because it causes people to be worse off then they were before. Yet, this isn't the only point the book drives home, from pages 46-50 a voice of reason is presented agianst all the people who would want to cause the medicalization of menopause.

Harvard graduate Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network is quoted as saying, "They all promote the idea that there is something wrong with women's bodies, there's  something wrong with  getting older, and these drugs are going to fix you." and her organization is quoted as saying, "Menopause is a natural bodily function, not a disease, and does not automatically require treatment."

The problem with that voice of reason is that it is undeniably false. While menopause is a natural process, and has been found to not require hormone treatment, it is false to appeal to the naturalness of the process to say it doesn't require treatment. In the 1960's, before the treatment had been tested, it was completely reasonable to attempt to subvert menopause to relieve hot flashes and to postulate that it may have further health benefits. Just because it is natural process doesn't mean it cannot be improved upon, or shouldn't be changed at all. Menopause isn't a disease, but it would have been reasonable to advise people treatment for it, if all the alleged health benefits had shown to be there. Allina's and the NWHN statements should lose the appeal to naturalism and instead point out the science of why it shouldn't be used.

Hormone replacement therapy shouldn't be used because it increases the risks of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, not because it is subverting a natural process. That appeal is just made by the NWHN and Allina because of its popularity, a type of marketing Selling Sickness expressively deplores and it only hypocritically included. Overall I like the book so far, but I also found that there are numerous small problems like the one I dealt with here.

I like the quote by Bart Kosko, and engineer of some note, who said, "Death is an engineering problem."

There is something wrong with my body, I am getting older, my memory is fading, and eventually I'll die and if I can take a drug to fix that I'd be alright with that.

Thanks for reading,
- the moral skeptic


  1. I am interested to buy the book. Gotta go to bookstores and find it.

    Signs of Menopause

  2. Thanks, it is an informative an interesting read, but it isn't devoid of false statements and appeals.

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