A case of too much protection

A case of too much protection
The man standing behind the podium was long-time Vermillion resident and USD employee Joe Edelen.

His message, based almost solely on his personal experiences of late, had a familiar ring.

Edelen's conclusion, after enduring pain from two sources � namely a deterioriating hip joint and the federal government � is this: the government, especially on the federal level, has become too protective.

It could be compared, I suppose, to overbearing mothers who won't let their young boys and girls play ball because they might scrape their knees.

Stossel has been preaching the same message. In a recent column, he wrote: "Tell most Americans that we'd be better off if we clear-cut the regulatory jungle and simply let the market decide what products are sold, and you're likely to be told how dangerous the world would be. Most people think government keeps us safe. It's why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is regarded as absolutely necessary."

This notion, according to Stossel, is false.

"Years of consumer reporting have taught me that the regulators, by protecting us from bad things, protect us from good things, too," Stossel stated in his column published June 1. "When we let the government use force to limit our choices, we deprive ourselves of innovation that makes life better. Even genuinely compassionate officials can literally regulate us to death."

Edelen wasn't facing a life-or-death situation with his bum hip. He was, however, nearly forced to go to very extreme measures to obtain the type of treatment he desired.

The orthopedic specialists he visited all suggested he take the "traditional" approach and undergo hip replacement surgery.

With a typical hip replacement, the ball joint of the leg is severed and replaced with an artificial one, which requires a metal rod being inserted deep into the bone. The socket to the joint is also cleaned and replaced with a new, artificial socket.

Sounds good. But Edelen discovered, through research, that many people who undergo the procedure face physical limitations that he's not ready yet to experience.

Edelen desired another approach to solving his problem: hip resurfacing.

With hip resurfacing, the hip joint is not severed. It is, instead, covered with an artificial cap that neatly fits into a new, matching joint in the hip.

"People who have hip resurfacing can go back to any activity they were involved in before their hip problems limited them from doing it," Edelen said.

Hip replacement surgery sounds good. Hip resurfacing surgery sounds better.

There was just one problem. The FDA.

"Hip resurfacing is not allowed in the U.S. by the FDA except by FDA trial," Edelen said. "Ironically, there are world-renowned surgeons performing this operation in places all over the world."

Edelen mounted a battle with his insurance company, and after a lot of wrangling, was finally able to have the surgery performed here in the United States.

Had his efforts failed, Edelen was prepared to fly to India to get his hip resurfaced.

Edelen expects to be fully healed from his operation in about two months.

"The real issue is the FDA," he said. "This is not voodoo science."

Stossel notes that several years ago, the FDA held a news conference and proudly announced, "This new heart drug we're approving will save 14,000 American lives a year!" No one stood up at the press conference to ask, "Doesn't this mean you killed 14,000 people last year � and the year before � by keeping it off the market?"

Reporters don't think that way, but the FDA's announcement did mean that. Thousands will die this year while other therapies wait for approval.

As we mentioned earlier, Edelen's life wasn't in danger. But his lifestyle certainly was.

Edelen's experiences and his diligence while facing long odds demonstrate to all of us why government regulation in general is not in fact a necessary evil, but an unnecessary hindrance that limits our freedom � while not making us any safer.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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