Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How Things Are Worded

I've been absent from my blog for awhile for a variety of reasons, most of them just general life craziness, and being ill for the first few weeks in the new year...but here it is March and I'm just a slacker.  Clearly, I can't multi-task like I used to; but I digress. I need to thank one of my readers, Joan, who sent me an message to make sure things were all right and let me know she still comes looking for blog posts.  That made me feel really good, Joanie, so thanks for that.  I'd like to tell her that it was her comment that got me back here, but I'd be fibbing.  While it did remind me that I've been remiss and make me cringe a bit, it was a disagreement I had today with Michael that brings me to the keys.

He was saying that he is distressed about a story he heard today on the news about how some of the NHS hospitals in England are placing, "still-borns, and (spontaneously or deliberately,) aborted fetuses in their incinerators, even importing them from other hospitals, and in efforts to stay in compliance with green energy mandates, using them to heat the hospitals."  Well no wonder he's distress, that's absolutely terrible and appalling!

And, I got my back up totally, too.  But, perhaps not for the reason you might think. I got angry because the story is, excuse the pun, totally inflammatory!  Let me explain why....

You all remember that I have been the spokesperson and Public Relations Director for a couple of hospitals, right?  Most large hospitals have incinerators on their campuses.  It is a way to stay in direct control of the refuse, garbage, and other waste material that hospitals generate.  It is a way to keep things that may be contagious, contaminated or problematic out of landfills .  But, mostly, it is so the institution stays in direct control of things that are no longer viable or necessary- such as amputated limbs and tissue samples. Hospitals have a moral responsibility to care for the disposal of these Human remains, and most do not take that responsibility lightly.

Now, before you go all crazy, let me tell you that these incinerators are highly maintained and in most cases even exceed the EPA regulations about particulate matter that is released, etc.  The heat is so very high in these incinerators that the burn turns into vapor and the particulate is almost none existent.  If the hospital with an incinerator belongs to a health system that has smaller hospitals as members without incinerators, it's not uncommon for those to transport their medical waste to the incinerator for burning.  There are a great deal of local, federal, and general approvals that must be acquired for this to happen, but it's not unprecedented.  Using their own resources is a cost control issue for the health system, being less expensive than hiring a contractor.

Why do I know this?  Because one of the hospitals in which I worked, was built smack in the middle of many neighborhood communities.  It truly is a community hospital.  And, when stories would hit the media about incinerators and other horror stories, I would have to refresh my knowledge of current EPA regulations and our incinerator's specifications, and be ready to respond to the concerns that our neighbors would have, yet again, thanks to the Media stories.  Not that I blamed them for their concerns, and to be honest, I totally enjoyed dealing with these sorts of scenarios.  We actually invited them to come in to see it if they wished.  When our health system considered using our incinerator for some of the waste of our member hospitals, we gained legal approvals, but met with so much resistance from our local communities and neighbors, that we did not pursue it further.

Now with Green Energy regulations taxing the resources of  most companies to remain or even meet incredibly tough regulations, it's not surprising that institutions are looking at the energy they expend to run their incinerators, their facilities, their plants, their operations in order to see how it can be recaptured in terms of benefit to the facility, in this case the hospitals in England have put in place a mechanism to heat their facilities from the heat the incinerator generates.  I say it sounds like an excellent case study in re-cycling!

But while Mother Jones or Greenpeace might find that sort of recycling story of interest, I can tell you the general Media will not.  There's no there, There.  It's a non-story.  But, talk about using babies in your incinerator to heat your building ?  You cruel, unfeeling bastards!  Now that's a story!!!!!

And, that's also crap.  Does the Media care that a gangrenous leg is placed in an incinerator for disposal?  How about a biopsy sample?  Or tumors? Or an appendix, or a ruptured spleen?  NO!  That wouldn't grab your attention.  But fetuses and babies?!  Now we're talking!!!!

Use those words in your story and you get images of sweaty goon-like men standing around tossing Hansel and Gretel into an oven...or tiny defenseless children into the flames of hell!  Worst of all, those poor innocents are simply, uncaringly tossed in with the left over salad from patient trays, and cardboard, and other junk that no one needs or wants.  It's the stuff of concentration camps.  And all to keep your sorry, insensitive butts toasty warm.

All of it- not true.  The people who run incinerators are specially trained.  They know that they are supposed to treat the Human parts with respect.  Most are not burned with the general waste.  They are held until there are enough for a separate burn.  Can I guarantee that Human remains aren't mix in with other refuse to be burned?  No.  I can't.  But, I do know what I know.

At the Catholic hospital for which I worked, the priests preformed a blessing over those parts and remains before being burned.  I always loved that additional reverence, but even at the non-faith-based institutions, the requirement for respect is still there.

At all hospitals, when a woman loses her baby, she is immediately offered professional support.  The labor and delivery staff don't treat those sad cases as less than a baby.  That lose is a baby, no matter what month it happens.  Generally the mother is asked if she would like to have her baby prepared for burial.  Many choose that option, and I might also add that most funeral homes offer their services gratis in those sad cases.

But if a woman undergoes an abortion, or if the parents do not wish to bury their baby, how would the remains be handled?  By the hospital; in their incinerator; with respect.  Even though this is something the average person wouldn't even think about until the Media decides to sensationalize a normal part of back room operations into a horror story.

Or would you and the Media prefer that the hospital simply ship it off to a landfill?  How about those amputated limbs?  Those breast biopsies?

I can't speak for how health care is delivered in other countries.  I can only attest to what I know from my own experience here in the United States.  But, I will say this...most Human Beings who decide to make a career in health care, despite how difficult it is becoming, continue to go in each day to make a difference and bring comfort to those who are in need and suffering.  Do they succeed every minute of every day?  No, but they certainly try.  They do not for one moment, take death lightly.  Do they see it all the time and become hardened to it?  Perhaps, but not when it comes to labor and delivery and the lose of one of those babies.  I don't accept that version of this news story.  And, neither should you.

How we word something changes it from something to ponder into something to horrify.  And, with all the harsh things in this world, does the Media really need to make it worse?  NO!  But, then again, I'm not in the Media and worried about my bottom line, the viewer numbers, advertising revenue, and market share.  However, you need to be aware, that those are the criteria that drive all of their stories...not, as you might think or hope, informing you about the world around you.

And, as it relates to this post, there is a reason we say, "You don't want to know how the sausage is made."  There are many aspects to running complex operations that you have never considered or even thought to wonder about.  Perhaps that's all for the better.  But, when the Media brings it up, it's best to always remember The Media has an agenda for putting forth a story.  Always.


Kyddryn said...

Heya, Mizz Holly! I haven't been about in a while, bad Kyddryn!

It's odd, but...I thought people KNEW about the incinerators. It seems like I've always known. It makes sense, to me, that what is no longer wanted or viable be disposed of in a way that is as compassionate and sanitary as possible, and the idea that it be a finger, a kidney, or a tiny body makes no difference to me. It's preferable to the rubbish bin and creating biohazards in refuse facilities worldwide!

I would like to think that any babies cremated in such a way are sent with a loving thought and great compassion and care into the flames. I love the idea of the Catholic priests saying a blessing first - it appeals to my witchy self who thinks that all life...and parts of life...is/are sacred and deserving of a modicum of respect in death.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Shade and Sweetwater,

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hi Holly,

Great write, my friend.

This is not something I'd ever really thought about even though a hundred years ago I worked in a hospital and knew it took place.

What I do know is the mess the "media" makes of things and situations such as this...-- Or like the missing airplane-- OMG... they go on and on and on fanning the flames of sadness and grief and "theories" when in fact, they have no clue of what happened to the plane. It's all part of the media circus you write about and their bottom line.

Sickening. Ugh.

Glad to see you back writing. I've missed you.

xio jj

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