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We must work to protect the health of women

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As a Certified Physician Assistant with 30 years of experience, much of it in OB/Gyn and emergency medicine, I feel the need to respond to Mr. Neal Carter’s commentary, published on April 26.

I understand there is a difference between opinions and fact, but scientific evidence should not be eliminated nor omitted. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not to their own facts.

Mr. Carter states that “I haven’t yet heard of a death or overdose from amoxicillin or antibiotics often prescribed without a physical visit.” According to recent studies, there are 500 to 1,000 antibiotic related deaths every year, either from side effects or an allergic reaction. Many people are unaware

Sharon Girard

Sharon Girard

they are “sensitive” or allergic until they react. No medication is 100 percent safe for 100 percent of the population. All a medical provider can do is practice safely and do the best for their patient. A common drug such as Tylenol, according to the National Institute of Medicine, accounts for approximately 458 deaths per year, due to acute liver failure and more than 2,600 hospitalizations.

He goes on to ask if the current decline in measles vaccinations is due to Arizona law?  I say yes, because Arizona has a lenient non-medical exemption rule. These exemptions have increased from 2012-2017.  The highest is 9 percent in charter schools and 8 percent in private schools.  Our law DOES put the community severely at risk for communicable diseases. Our “herd” immunity in communities has severely deteriorated in many counties. diphtheria is on the rise and measles, another deadly disease, has seen its highest case rate since eradication in 2000.

He goes on to discuss individual cases of harm. This is a tactic called “cherry picking.” This tactic “suppresses evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence, by pointing to individual cases or data that seems to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict the position.” In the sciences, including medicine, this tactic is frowned upon. There will always be outliers and rare exceptions to the rule. If we are to live in a fact based culture, we must rely on data and studies.  Unfortunately, untoward effects happen every day in medicine. We try hard in the medical community to make these events rare.  That is why a good understanding of science and medicine is needed to evaluate each negative outcome. Cherry picking has no legitimate place in science or patient care. It’s only use is to stir up anxiety and distrust of facts.

There can be no denying that pregnancy and childbirth is the most dangerous time in a woman’s life. According to the March of Dimes, the rate of death in pregnancy in the United States has risen over the last 25 years. The United States has the highest rates of death during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, for all high income countries, 14 per 100,000.

According to the World Health Organization, intimate partner violence during pregnancy is a huge problem and serious health concern in pregnancy. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found in 2015, “pregnancy associated homicide is 1.84 times higher than for non-pregnant women.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in pregnant women.

We have work to do to protect women’s health.  I spent much of my career caring for pregnant teens, women at high risk for substance abuse and those in poverty. I know first-hand the challenges we face and the work we have yet to do. We must protect the lives of women in Arizona by crafting legislation to address domestic violence and IPV.  We must address our provider shortage, which severely impacts care, especially in rural areas. We must work to tackle the increasing maternal morbidity and mortality rates in our country and state, especially for women of color. That should be the one true focus for all who govern and care about women and families in Arizona.

Sharon Girard is a retired women’s health care provider who lives in Eloy and is running for the House in Legislative District 8.

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