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Why Barbara Ehrenreich Is Giving Up On Preventative Care

Do you ever feel like medical tests and screenings that are supposedly expected of you are just too much? Annual physical exams are one thing, but then you have cancer screenings, pap smears, eye exams, colonoscopies, breast exams…

All those appointments are done in hopes of keeping you healthy and extending your life. However, New York Times bestselling author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich, she says she is giving up on preventative care.

Are Early Screening Tests Ever Pointless? Barbara Ehrenreich Thinks So

In a recent op-ed for Literary Hub, Ehrenreich shared her personal experience and perspective on health, death, and preventative medical care (an idea she initially struggled with a lot).

“At first, I criticized myself as a slacker and procrastinator, falling behind on the simple, obvious stuff that could prolong my life.”

Many of her friends began various fitness regimens, obsessed over their good or bad cholesterol counts, and lined up the suggested myriad of medical appointments. But, in comparison, Ehrenreich stands in the opposing corner when it comes to the inevitable reality of aging: “I gradually came to realize that I was old enough to die.”

Ehrenreich’s perspective is not one that many people share because, usually, they want to live as long as possible. Surely, she sees value in living a long and healthy life, especially if it’s the only one she’s got. So, what does she mean?

Perhaps, to live happily with a few aches and pains is better than to spend a large portion of your life in the doctor’s office enduring test after test, prescription after prescription, and treatment after treatment. 

Why Ehrenreich’s Perspective on Preventative Care Is So Important

barbara ehrenreich, preventative care

Author and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich at her home in Alexandria, Virginia, on 2 March. Photograph: Stephen Voss for the Guardian

“If we go by newspaper obituaries,” says Ehrenreich, “we notice that there is an age at which death no longer requires much explanation… [It’s] usually sufficient when the deceased is in their seventies or older for the obituary writer to invoke ‘natural causes.’ It is sad when anyone dies, but no one can consider the death of a septuagenarian ‘tragic.’”

I think the average person would agree with that statement. For anyone who has had the privilege of reaching their seventies, we stand and applaud you. However, Barbara Ehrenreich’s perspective seems a bit complacent:

“Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life.”

Most people could probably get behind that philosophy. Generally speaking, no one wants to suffer, no one enjoys being annoyed, and no one prefers being bored. So, what’s she trying to get at here?

Ultimately, what Ehrenreich is saying is that she cannot be bothered with knowing what is wrong with her own body, the doctors and medical appointments, nor the treatments that could follow. And her reasons why become obvious when she speaks about doctors aggressively pushing certain screening tests and her personal physician who was so willing to drop less-than-affluent patients to turn a profit.

It’s important to note that, despite believing she is old enough to die, this does not mean Ehrenreich wants to die. Rather, it seems like she believes that medicine should always serve the people – not the other way around.

Why Ehrenreich Is More in Favor of Preventative Care Than It Seems

The irony in her statement is this: preventative care and medicine exists for everyone to use – including Barbara Ehrenreich – in order to lower the rates of suffering, annoyance, boredom and, ultimately, increase one’s quality of life (i.e., physically, mentally, and spiritually).

Granted, Barbara Ehrenreich’s main beef seems to be with conventional medicine and medical care. She even acknowledges that “all this unnecessary screening and testing happens because doctors order it, but there is a growing rebellion within the medical profession. Over-diagnosis is beginning to be recognized as a public health problem.”

A cynic might conclude that preventive medicine exists to transform people into raw material for a profit-hungry medical-industrial complex.”

If you’ve been on this journey with Healthy Holistic Living, you’re well aware of how true that can be! Unfortunately, healthcare can sometimes result in more health problems instead of less and more money spent, which is why Barbara and individuals like her should start exploring natural preventative care.

Time and again, we have seen studies exploring why colonoscopies are not always necessary and how mammograms (arguably) have no true benefit. After reading about Ehrenreich’s disappointments with her primary care physician, dentist and other doctors, her testimony is proof of U.S. healthcare’s brokenness. Thankfully, though, preventative care extends beyond conventional exams, tests, and treatments.

Safe and Effective Natural Alternatives to Conventional Preventative Care

With conviction, Barbara Ehrenreich states: “As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines.”

And she doesn’t necessarily have to, thanks to alternatives like these:

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