Thursday, June 16, 2016

An abdominal vomiting machine and a man gets beaten with meat...

I have mentioned before on this blog that I like to read the newspaper from the area where I grew up. I still have family and friends living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and sometimes there's news about people I know.  The Daily Press also often has interesting news items.  I ran across a couple of them yesterday and shared them on Facebook.  Both items got a lot of engagement from the peanut gallery, so I figure I'll write about them here.  It's either that, or write a rebuttal to yet another outraged commenter who thinks she can tell me what I can and can't write about on my personal blog.  I've already done that enough times recently.  ;-)

First topic at hand is the FDA's decision to approve a new device intended to help morbidly obese people lose weight.  The new invention is the AspireAssist, and it's been described as an "abdominal vomiting" device.  Those two words, abdominal vomiting, were used in the headline.  If the headline had just mentioned the machine by its trade name, I doubt the outrage would be as extreme as it seems to be.

Anyway, a lot of my friends expressed disgust and disbelief that this machine is going to be marketed.  A couple of them mentioned bulimia.  I noticed comments about bulimia in other articles about the AspireAssist.  I don't blame people for being taken aback by the description "abdominal vomiting machine".  It does conjure up the thought of bulimia, which is a condition that grosses out many people.  However, I think there is a huge difference between bulimia and people using this machine.  One is a dangerous psychological disorder shrouded in secrecy and shame and the other is an invention that could potentially improve and prolong lives.

AspireAssist is to be used by people over age 22 who have a body mass index between 35 and 55.  The machine is attached to the body via a port inserted by a surgeon.  About a half an hour after eating, the patient attaches the machine to the port, opens the valve, and the machine removes about 30 percent of the calories consumed.  The food removed must be able to fit in the tubing leading to the machine.

Now, a lot of people think this machine is a bad idea because it doesn't "teach" the person anything about eating properly.  I think they are missing the point, though.  This machine is intended for people who are seriously obese and are suffering from significant health problems.  It is merely a tool.  While there is a chance the device could be abused by some people, my guess is that it would be prescribed by a physician who would combine it with psychological counseling and nutritional support.  I also think this would be something that would be used as a last resort for people who need to lose weight fast, not for "lazy people" or moderately overweight folks who don't want to diet.

The knee jerk reaction from a lot of people commenting about this new invention is that the AspireAssist promotes laziness.  I don't think that's true.  Surgery is hard for many reasons.  It's expensive, painful, and potentially risky.  It would be easier to eat less and exercise more, but not everyone is capable of doing that for whatever reason.  At least this machine doesn't permanently alter the body the way bariatric surgeries do.  It's also been proven to be more effective than simple dieting and exercise, though the jury is still out as to whether or not the effects will last long term.

One friend, who works as a teacher, says she thinks the device could be "dangerous" because it "employs" the mechanics of bulimia.  I think my friend bases her concerns on the fact that bulimia is dangerous.  However, while this machine employs "abdominal vomiting", it's not quite the same as a bulimic episode.  A person who is bulimic binges on massive amounts of food in a short amount of time, then vomits or uses other "methods" to purge.  Part of the reason it's dangerous is because of the imbalance of electrolytes that occurs during vomiting, as well as dehydration and acids that destroy the esophagus and teeth.  This machine doesn't involve any of those dangers.  It simply removes food from the stomach before it's digested.  It likely has less of an effect on a person's body chemistry the way repeated vomiting does.  It likely doesn't cause dehydration or damage from acid reflux.  And it's not used in conjunction with laxatives, purgatives, or other destructive weight loss methods.

My opinion is that people are justified in being grossed out by a machine described as an "abdominal vomiting" device.  However, many people are sounding off about this without thinking and/or finding our exactly how the machine works.  Obesity is a very difficult condition for many reasons.  Lots of people feel free to disdain fat people and hold them in contempt, assuming that they are out of control, lazy, and unmotivated.  This device could help some obese people lose weight and control serious health concerns like diabetes and hypertension.  That is a good thing for everyone.  Controlling chronic diseases means controlling healthcare costs and making it easier for obese people to fit on public transportation.  Moreover, my thought is that healthcare professionals probably know a lot more about the risks involved with using the AspireAssist than the average layperson does.   It's probably best to trust them and use your own judgment as to whether or not this device is useful.

As long as the AspireAssist is helpful to the population it's intended for, I don't see why other people should care who uses it.  But when it comes to fat shaming, people feel perfectly justified in expressing their thoughts, which for a lot of people seem to be:  Don't you dare get fat in the first place.  If you do get fat, lose weight "the old fashioned way" or you'll still deserve contempt.  Fat people don't deserve help from modern medicine.

Good grief.

The second news item I posted about that got attention was a true crime case from Newport News, Virginia.  51 year old Jaqueline Elizabeth James was arrested on June 12th after an altercation she had with a 57 year old unidentified man during which she smacked him with frozen meat.

I will admit, the headline made me chuckle.  On further reflection, I realized that it probably hurts like hell to be hit with frozen meat.  Frozen meat is akin to rocks.

After the attack, the man called police, but Ms. James wasn't home when they arrived.  The cops took the man to the hospital for treatment.  James later called police herself to report the incident and, after interviewing her, the cops determined that she was the aggressor and arrested her.  She has been charged with malicious wounding.  Alcohol was a factor in this case for both parties.  I can't say I'm surprised.

Let the meat beating jokes commence.

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