2009-12-04 / Columnists

Point of View

MAMMOGRAPHY
"The Rabbi's Personal Column" Rabbi Allan Blaine Temple Beth-El, Rockaway Park

There is a Rabbinic aphorism "He who saves a life it is as if he saved a world. He who destroys a life has destroyed a world." I relate this to the recent Federal Advisory Panel recommending that women should not be screened at forty for breast cancer but at fifty and that mammography be given not annually but every other year after fifty and that doctors stop advising women to regularly check their breasts. Why? In order to reduce, "over treatment" by doctors, to reduce fear in women caused by daily examinations and finally because statistics indicate that only one woman in close to two thousand would benefit!

If only one woman's life will be saved isn't that worthwhile? Supposing you or your wife, daughter or mother is that woman! A thirteen year breast cancer survivor writes in the New York Times, "the new recommendations are alarming. I received a diagnosis of breast cancer at fortyfive with no prior family history. By fifty I would have been dead".

Another writes, "My breast cancer was diagnosed six and a half years ago during a routine mammogram. It was a month after my 50th birthday. Calcifications not there the previous year indicated a problem. In a year my cancer had spread to four of my lymph nodes. I would not be alive today if it were not for routine screening before I was 50 and early detection."

Is this an attempt to rein in costs not for women's benefit but at women's expense? Prostrate cancer, like breast cancer takes many men's lives. Perhaps the PSA test indicating a rise in normal levels should be given every three years rather than once a year. Look how much money could be saved. Besides, political correctness that people seem to worship should have dictated that the two studies one dealing with men the other with women appear simultaneously. Why single out women for discrimination?

What alarms me no end are the words, "only one in two thousand" would be affected. One life is a universe unto itself. From one life can come family and extend into the future.

Life doesn't seem to have the value that it used to. We read of six million Jews killed by the Nazis and yet the allies refused to bomb the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz reasoning that not too many Jews could be saved! We read of millions killed and persecuted in Darfur yet allow the United Nations to delay and delay and delay a proper response.

Daily stray bullets in different parts of our city kill innocent children and adults. Why is there no stringent gun control in our city? The Bill of Rights contains the right to bear arms but it has a different significance than it did during Colonial times. Saying that it costs too much just to save a few lives is unconscionable.

"Saving a life" in the Judeo/Christian tradition is valued over most other things and in the case of mammograms it's worth the cost of a few x-ray pictures or biopsies especially if it means saving a human being. Hopefully this report is not a sign of what is to come or a cynical trial balloon to test the public's reaction. Is rationing of urgent medical treatment on the way? Helping to save lives is what it means to be created in God's image. Mr. President, Members of Congress and the American voting public please take note!

******************* A WORD TO MY READERS:

This is my last monthly column in the Wave. The Arlene Topal Creative Arts Fund of Temple Beth-El has subsidized this column for all these years and is no longer active. I thank Jack Topal, sponsor, and Felicia and the "Wave" for their professionality. I especially thank the many readers who approach me on the street with kind words and praise for my column.

Aware of the religious diversity of the readers I have attempted to appeal not only to Jewish readers, but to all by bringing the ethical and inspirational teachings of Torah to bear on common problems. When all is said and done we are all the children of God, descendents of father Adam, brothers and sisters with similar needs and beliefs, hopes and dreams. God Bless.

******************* CHANUKAH IS COMING! Festivities in the Temple Shabbat Chanukah 1 (December 12th) and Shabbat Chanukah II (December 19) - Special children's presentation - All Welcome..

(This page comes through the generosity of the Arlene Topal Creative Arts Fund

of Temple Beth-El. Dedicated to educating children in the Judaic Tradition)

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