The West Wing last night (22 December 2004)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2004/12/23 15:46 -05:00, original URI:

The West Wing episode that was on last night was actually a rerun of last year's "Christmas" episode, entitled Abu el Banat. I have actually gotten a few emails to both accounts and several people clicking on the Contact link on this page asking about it though.

They ask about the statistic that was floated around during the episode (where an assisted suicide issue was being forced by the head of the DEA in a state that allows assisted suicide) about how one in five people who asks for assisted suicide has multiple sclerosis, and does the president want to avoid getting into it because people will being up the MS issue. They wonder if the one-in-five statistic has any basis in fact (I will assume that most of them are not wondering if I am suicidal. I'm not, by the way. Its not like I am a dentist1 or something).

It is true that of the 93 suicides with which Dr. Jack Kevorkan assisted that 20 of the people had multiple sclerosis. It is a fact that even the MS Society decided to go investigate since they really have to look ino any claim about MS, even silly ones like mercury amalgam fillings when 20/20 claims there is a connection. The results of the investigation are interesting. Though of course the results are skewed toward an MS landscape without the CRAB+T drugs (Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, Betaseron, or the new Tysabri) or other drugs like Novantrone), it is unclear how many of those looking into assisted suicide are eligible for any of those drugs anyway. So maybe the results are accurate as they are.

But I guess a bigger issue is what is really going on here. What does being put in a situation where one feels helpless do to a person?

As I often like to point out to people: MS is not a death sentence, but it is a life sentence. And there is no parole. It is easy to spend a lot of time reminiscing about all of the things one cannot do anymore, but that is only particulary effective when one is younger, not when one is older (and everyone else is noticing what they cannot do anymore). Clearly it is not the case that 1/5 people who feel helpless to control their life circumstances has MS, so what makes MS so special here? 

I try not to bother complaining anymore about what I used to be able to do because invariably the people I complain to point out that they could never do that anyway. Whether its memory or dancing or running or keeping in shape, people don't seem to realize that I never compare myself to others, I compare myself to me. What is depressing is that even allowing for age it seems like I am on a whole new curve now which takes me down faster than I would have otherwise gone down. Of course people seem to have their eyes cross during that conversation and even I have to admit that it sounds stupid when I try to say it out loud. Which probably means it it scores pretty highly on a scale of 1 to lame.

Does having a reason (MS) beyond the generic one everybody has (getting older) somehow make the situation feel more hopeless? A depressing thought, but somehow less depressing once it is explicilty stated that way, at least to me. Maybe because once I know there is a reason for it, I can move on to the next thing.

So, I have a good control over most of my life and a good understanding of the things that I do not. And though the West Wing-touted statistic is apparently a true one, it does not impact me. Because as far as I can tell its more for people who do not realize that we all have the uncertainty of life, and that being a bit less uncertain is not something to be depressed about.


1 - The 2000 movie The Whole Nine Yards had a lot of fun with the fact that Matthew Perry's character Nicholas "Oz" Oseransky was a dentist, with several characters pointing out that they read somewhere that dentists are prone to suicide. While I will joke about it for dramatic effect in my bkog, I will point out what Dr. Jerry Gordon did, which is that its not really true. Suggestions that the one out of five statistic is somehow related to the four out of five dentists who recommend Trident gum for their patients who chew gum are simply too silly to get into (though I guess I just did).

This post brought to you by "Ừ" (U+1eea, a.k.a. LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U WITH HORN AND GRAVE)
because after being turned down by Sesame Street as having too much on its mind to be a good sponsor and despondent over the success of its unencumbered cousin "U", will apparently take work anywhere -- even disreputable web sites like this one

# Anonymous on 23 Dec 2004 8:28 PM:

Why don't you have a dedicated category for your MS posts?

# Michael Kaplan on 23 Dec 2004 8:30 PM:

Good idea. Done! :-)

# hmm on 25 Dec 2004 4:17 PM:

So do you have amalgam fillings? I read the link you gave, and it is like 100 contrary to what I found information on my own language. Also it seems that Sweden is banning the use of mercury on a larger scale. Here in Finland however the ones who would end up paying the bill and take the blame have tried to silence the discussion of mercury poisoning. Your link and the fact i just had a dentist visit made me research through the subject and now I am thinking seriously of getting rid of my amalgam fillings. Good thing is that here the welfare system pays a lot of the bill most likely. After 1993 patients have had the option of choosing the type of filling they want.

# Michael Kaplan on 25 Dec 2004 6:03 PM:

I do, but I did not get them until over 6 years after my first symptoms and over 20 years after the time I most likely first had it triggered.

Mercury amalgasm fillings do not cause MS and anyone who claimsd they do is almost certainly either msking money off the deal or being fooled by someone who is....

Now with that said, if people want to choose something else then I say great, whatever makes people comfortable. But I would never recommend yanking them out.

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