How Many Angelina Jolies Does It Take To Convince A Woman To Cut Off Her Breasts?
It doesn’t necessarily take a genius to connect the well thought out, correlating dots between Angelina Jolie’s journalistic debut in the New York Times and the looming Supreme Court ruling over Myriad Genetics’ patent viability.
If you dig deep enough into this story, you’ll find far more than an innocent looking woman affecting a “choice.” This isn’t about cancer or breasts; this is about protecting a trillion dollar industry through the distribution of deceptive public relations campaigns aimed at influencing the opinions of women everywhere.
So the joke’s really on you; the woman whose opinion is being manipulated to support Jolie’s ‘brave choice’. Much to the perverse pleasure of Myriad, women are being misled into supporting Jolie’s “bravery” with no idea that she is selling them out to the for-profit cancer industry.
For anyone who is out of the loop, on May 14th 2013 Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which she explained “her medical choice” to undergo a preventative double mastectomy in which both her breasts were removed.
One of the reasons for her decision was based on a genetic test that she had undergone, which determined that she possesses the “faulty” BRCA1 gene. Certain variations of the gene can ultimately lead to an increased risk for breast cancer.
Jolie’s very descriptive and “heartfelt” prose were met with much public sympathy and a media firestorm ensued. Many publications and journalists are now though debating the necessity of Jolie’s choice and its implications on other women.
The Background Story:
Utah based molecular diagnostic company, Myriad Genetics, is currently at the center of a legal debate with the Supreme Court about the acceptability of gene patenting. After spending $500 million dollars in research, Myriad developed, and now exclusively holds, the patent on the BRCA1 test that Jolie took. (Source: Marketplace. N.p., 16 May 2013 – David Brancaccio)
Sandra Park, attorney at American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), explains that Myriad currently holds a monopoly on the genetic testing so they ultimately determine the cost.
According to a report by Marketplace, the BRCA1 test can cost upwards of $4,000 and now accounts for the lion’s share of Myriad’s revenue. The testing alone is a multibillion-dollar market, but only if the patent is upheld in an upcoming Supreme Court decision.
These high costs and knowledge mongering, in the interests of corporate greed, are exactly what has gotten Myriad into hot water.
There are several problems associated with the patenting of human DNA and genetic testing. According to Art Caplan, a bioethicist with the NYU medical center, a major factor is that “It hampers scientific progress.”
According to the ACLU’s website, “The ACLU’s lawsuit against Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the BRCA genes, as well the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), charged that the challenged patents are illegal and restrict both scientific research and patients’ access to medical care, and that patents on human genes violate the First Amendment and patent law because genes are ‘products of nature.’”
A final decision on the case is expected from the Supreme Court by the end of June 2013.
The PR and Celebrity Endorsements:
No matter which way you slice the human body it still doesn’t change the fact that after Jolie’s press release, ahem, I mean, opinion piece, shares of Myriad Genetics rose 4%. The stock hit its highest level since mid-2009, according to Yahoo Finance data. (Source: N.p., 14 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013)
Speculators would like to argue that this rise in market share had more to do with Monday’s Supreme Court seed patent decision in favor of Monsanto inBowman v. Monsanto than with Jolie’s celebrity endorsement.
But I beg to assert there is no contest. Jolie’s story has quickly become a topic of household conversation, whereas the Monsanto Patent Case has hardly received any media attention.
Consequences of ‘Cutting It Off’ Publicly:
Dr. Christiane Northrup, a board-certified OB/GYN physician and author of many bestselling books, including Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, advocates that everyone has a right to do whatever they choose with their bodies. However, she believes that Jolie’s particular genetic situation could have been prevented with other more natural methods. (Source: as she expressed on the Gary Null Radio Show May 15, 2013).
“What the Jolie situation does, because she is an icon of female beauty, women uncritically look at her approach to breast cancer prevention by removing breasts and they will not understand the nuances of this,” says Northrup. “The inherent problem is that when you are a celebrity of that fame and a world citizen, your decisions unduly influence other people.”
So Now What?
The elephant in the room is, of course, the cost of these procedures. However, Jolie does make note of it in her ‘sales pitch’: “The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, remains an obstacle for many women.” (Source: nytimes.com /2013/05/14/opinion/my-medical-choice)
Aside from the costly test fee, there are also costs associated with the procedure itself and then also the added cost of reconstructive breast surgery.
So, if as women we can’t afford to cut loose our boobs, then what are the rest of us to do when death leaves a note on our door that says it’ll come by to get us some day?
Well, here’s the punchline…
The Big Business of Cancer
Between 1980 and now, 1.3 million women have been over diagnosed with cancers that they could possibly die with but may never die from. The Jolie article sets up a whole new generation of anxious women ready for their diagnoses. The article puts women into a state of unnecessary anxiety, and anxiety itself is a risk for premature death.
We spend so much time running around and spending money to save ourselves, when in actual fact, all we are doing is making these corporate titans richer and ourselves less full of life.
We are approaching prevention the wrong way; we can’t prevent by just cutting off! Women tortured by the contemplations of conventional breast cancer treatments must be made aware that the only solution is not to cut off potentially vulnerable organs.
The best prevention for cancer is leading an all round healthier lifestyle. A lifestyle filled with less anxiety and stress, more exercise and sleep, less chemicals, more natural ingredients, less genetically modified foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables… no joke.
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