John McCain politicizes IBS

Superbowl is traditionally one of those times where people toss nutrition out the window. It’s a day for snacks, bbq, beer, and hanging out with your friends.

senator john mccainIt’s usually not a time for politicians to get political, or to make light of legitimate health concerns. However, Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona took the opportunity on Fox News last Thursday to get in a jab at the government for spending money on a Superbowl half time ad about the census and conflated that with what he thinks is irresponsible spending on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) research.

Said McCain February 3, 2010 on Fox: “We spend a couple million dollars on irritable bowel syndrome, and we spend a couple of million dollars on an ad in the Super Bowl Sunday, and we continue the practices that infuriate our citizenry because they’re hurting so badly,” to Greta Van Susteren. (source: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584772,00.html)

McCain objected to this back on December 12, 2009 with regard to the Health Reform act being considered currently by Congress. Said McCain: “$665,000 for, I’m not making this one up, for the Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles California for equipment and supplies for the institute for Irritable Bowel Syndrome research. <pause> Now, I have a lot of comments on them on that issue, but I’ll just pass so not to violate the rules of the Senate.” (source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/12/prweb3337674.htm)

First of all, $665,000 is not “a couple million dollars.” And second of all, if you research IBS on the internet, you’ll find that it affects anywhere between 10-20% of people in America and that “Absenteeism and presenteeism associated with IBS symptoms have been estimated to cost as much as $20 billion each year, and have been attributed to more work days missed and reduced work productivity.” That’s a lot of Americans who are “hurting so badly” from IBS. (source: http://www.chsinternational.com/Resources%5C2009.06.Constipation.IBS.WPAI.DDW.pdf)

I’m guessing McCain doesn’t suffer from IBS himself, or know anyone close to him who does, because this is a very frustrating condition which makes many of its sufferers very sick to the point where they have to structure their lives around their symptoms. This includes following a rigorous diet in order to stave off or control their symptoms. And neither doctors nor scientists know why this condition occurs, or how to prevent it from happening.

I find it frustrating that mainstream politics is being used to reduce empathy for widespread health conditions and would like to see more compassion for those who suffer on a daily basis from illness. I hope disparaging comments like those from McCain do not set understanding of IBS back; because it’s not a punchline, it’s a legitimate health condition, and its sufferers are real people.

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