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USA Today's Top 25 Medical Events Tell a Sorry Story

USA Today just released its list of “25 Top Medical Events” in the last 25 years, acknowledging that “Since 1982, Americans have witnessed some significant medical advances, but also a fair number of setbacks and challenges.”


But which are the advances and which are the setbacks?  Are some of the “advances” really the result of Americans failing to behave responsibly? 


AIDS took the top spot. This is obviously a setback.   USA Today asserted that of the 40 million people afflicted with it, only 900,000 are in the U.S. 


Other setbacks include the obesity epidemic (number three) and the emergence of nasty bugs (number 13) due to “globalization and misuse of antibiotics.” 


While the obesity epidemic is a huge setback for America, it is something people can control themselves by not indulging in Super Size portions and exercising more often.


The widespread use of Ritalin (number 17) should also be considered a setback.  Higher rates of ADHD diagnoses grant rowdy kids a tailor-made excuse for misbehaving, and absolve parents of responsibility for disciplining them properly.


Obvious advances include fewer Americans smoking (number two), increased cancer screening (number four), declining infant mortality (number six), medical technology that enhances detective work (number 14), minimally invasive operations (number 16), and Americans' increased wariness of the sun (number 23). 


Statins, those cholesterol-lowering drugs, made the list at number seven.  Yes, this is a medical advance, but would these be needed if people didn't let their cholesterol climb in the first place? 


Coming in at 24 and 25, respectively, were Viagra and Botox.  In these cases, medicine has moved from healing to recreation.  Viagra is used to treat erectile dysfunction and Botox is used as the Fountain of Youth for people who want to look young.  Medically these are advances, but socially they are setbacks. Do Americans really need to hear senior citizens (or anybody, for that matter) discussing their sex lives in TV commercials? Is America really so youth-obsessed that we're willing to exchange “aging gracefully” for emotionless faces? 


USA Today used this list to promote big government as well as to highlight medical events.  Number 21 on the list is child health and safety, such as laws that have been passed requiring kids to wear bike helmets and to use car seats.  Nobody is against child safety, but laws like these enable government nannyism to crowd out personal responsibility. They allow the government to micromanage the details of Americans' daily lives. 


Listed at number eight is the “cancer” vaccine.  USA Today was right in calling it a medical event, though it should properly be called the HPV vaccine, not the “cancer” vaccine.  The vaccine has sparked debate over whether vaccinations should be mandatory for teenaged girls, raising questions about parental authority, morality, and the wisdom of vaccinating against a sexually-transmitted disease. 


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.