On an episode of Loveline that aired last week, cohost Dr. Drew Pinsky fielded a call from a man in Florida who mentioned the pain his fiancee feels as a result of her endometriosis. In response, Dr. Drew referred to endometriosis as a "garbage bag disorder" and suggested that the man's fiancee wasn't really sick; instead she was probably someone who had been sexually abused as a child who was maybe kinda into being sick. This didn't go over well with women actually suffering from the incredibly painful disorder. No siree.
The caller began by telling Dr. Drew what a fan he was of the show, and then explained that his fiancee was dealing with an array of disorders localized in her pelvic region — endometriosis, IC, lactose intolerance, and a lack of stomach lining. But before he could finish asking his question, Dr. Drew interrupted, saying,
These are what we call sort of functional disorders. Everything you mentioned, everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren't discernibly pathological. They're sort of — they're what we call 'garbage bag disorders,' when you can't think of anything else, you go 'eh, well it's that.' So it then makes me question why is she so somatically preoccupied that she's visiting doctors all the time with pains and urinary symptoms and pelvic symptoms, and then that makes me wonder, was she sexually abused growing up?
The caller clarified that his fiancee actually hates going to the doctor and had been diagnosed with those disorders before they were together. Dr. Drew countered by laughing haughtily and assuring the caller that his fiancee must have gone to LOTS of doctors to get those four diagnoses.
After the caller admitted that his fiancee had been sexually abused growing up, Dr. Drew triumphantly proclaimed that much pelvic pain is actually the result of sexual abuse because that's the way the body "can tell its tale of woe" and told the caller that his fiancee needed a trauma specialist, not a urologist, thus answering a question that the caller didn't even ask in the first place. Pinsky then ended the call without even hearing the caller's question.
Dismissal of concerns, air of superiority, haughtiness? Calling into Loveline is just like going to a real doctor, but so much cheaper!
Pinsky's cohost Mike then made things worse by spending the next 30 seconds making pretty tasteless jokes that were basically like "SEXUAL ABUSE PAIN? That's nothing compared to the pain caused by Alan Thicke's penis! Because it's big!"
The exchange starts at around 31:00 in this recording of the show.
Loveline listeners who suffer from endometriosis were quick to point out that Dr. Drew's confident assessment was not only poorly worded, but flat out wrong. One blogger who suffers from endometriosis writes,
You are not the doctor(s) of the fiancee you were so quick to judge and toss aside. You are not a women's pain specialist or an expert in endo, adeno, IC or PCOS. You haven't seen it or lived it.
We have. Millions and millions of us.
We have seen our photos and videos from surgery. They're out there on YouTube if you haven't. We have been to doctor after doctor — yes, including therapists — and suffered the consequences every day of being in pain and trying to function. Being in so much pain that even yoga pants hurt to the touch. Missing work and school because we can't get out of the fetal position and if we do, blood is rushing down our legs. Missing sex. Miscarrying. Having very real complications, like endometriomas (which cause my right ovary to explode), and GI inflammation. Endometriosis and interstitial cystitis both have very real, tangible, observable pathologies.
Dr. Drew, whose specialty is internal medicine, not gynecology and endocrinology, also pissed off some doctors who deal with PCOS and endometriosis every day. This "suggested post" popped up on one Jezebel staffer's Facebook wall today:
Comments on Loveline's page were less than thrilled.
After the shitstorm spread from the endometriosis blogosphere (in the future, everyone will have their own blogosphere) to Twitter and Facebook, Pinsky felt compelled to respond with a fairly sincere-sounding clarification and apology on last night's show. He told listeners that he didn't mean that all endometriosis diagnoses were "garbage," just that in the particular case of that particular caller, who said during a part of the call that we didn't hear that none of his fiancee's diagnoses had led to effective treatment, it sounded like doctors were searching in vain for an explanation for her pain.
Then the cohost (a very agitated man named Mike who never stops yelling) said this,
And you mentioned, Dr. Drew, 30 years of doing this. Which is longer than most of these twats have been alive who are complaining to our Facebook page. [...] Since you assume that Dr. Drew and I won't take your calls and we're not man enough to let you endometriosis lady walk people be heard, go ahead and call up. The Open Forum is devoted to you.
Ah, yes. The Bad Cop to Dr. Drew's soothing Good Cop. How dare women who suffer from endometriosis react negatively to a very public medical professional speaking carelessly about a diagnosis that, for many, is debilitating. Haven't they considered the personal hurt feelings of a medical doctor?
This shitstorm's forecast: not over yet.