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Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest toManipulate Height 1st Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1585426836
ISBN-10: 1585426830
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science journalist Cohen and Cosgrove, a WebMD contributor, offer an emotionally charged indictment of the medical-pharmaceutical complex centered on efforts to control height (making boys taller, girls shorter) in otherwise normal, healthy children. Reviewing five decades of such efforts, such as in the 1950s with the administration of estrogen to stunt tall girls' growth, the authors take to task pediatric endocrinologists, drug companies and the parents who bring their children for treatment. This history is meant as a cautionary tale, and Cohen and Cosgrove raise all the right questions: when do we cross the line from treating disease to satisfying desires for perfection? can the exorbitant cost of growth hormone therapy be justified in an otherwise inadequate health system? do drug companies distort the practice of medicine? does government adequately protect the public? Because it can take decades for the ill effects of treatment to emerge, this account can only raise questions about possible threats from current practices. Fortunately, the treatments much of the book is devoted to are no longer in use. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Cohen and Cosgrove pull no punches. Medi­-cal intervention into height adjustment is nothing more than a futures gamble. Physicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and others who should know freely admit there is no way, except in rare instances, of predicting with any degree of certainty how tall or short a child will be at full maturity. So why, then, the mad scramble by some parents to intervene, hoping that medicating their children will assure gender-appropriate stature? That’s another thing the coauthors make clear. There is a great deal of money to be made playing on the fears of moms and dads of too-tall girls and too-short boys—by recent estimates, about $50,000 per inch, without guaranteed success. Furthermore, there has been no scientific study of the long-term effects of the treatments. Some delay puberty. Some speed it up. Some may have no desired effect whatsoever. Eye-opening reading for anyone considering these interventions. --Donna Chavez

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1 edition (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585426830
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585426836
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Cohen is a poet,journalist, and beginning birdwatcher in Berkeley, California. "Normal at Any Cost" won the 2010 Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers. "Throat Singing" includes poems that won the Rita Dove Poetry Award, and honors from Atlanta Review, New Millennium Writings, River Styx, and other journals. She has been a newspaper reporter, a contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine, and a faculty member of the University of California Graduate School of Journalism.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By librtea on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Normal at any Cost is a cautionary tale of doctors' attempts to control children's height through medical intervention. For more than half a century, in order to curtail growth in tall girls and to enhance growth in short boys, doctors have resorted to unorthodox, unproven, poorly understood hormone treatments. Doctors' decisions to administer treatments were not the result of sound medical practice, but the result of pressure from parents and drug companies, or doctors' own personal reasons. Initially, doctors only treated children whose hormone levels were out of normal range, yet eventually they began treating children who were healthy and developing within the norm, but whose parents wanted height adjustments for social / cultural reasons. In the Introduction, the authors note that they are not trying to "discourage a parent from taking a poorly growing son or daughter to be examined by a doctor. Growth is the primary indicator of health in a child...[but] medicine can [quickly] move from curing disease, to treating disability, to leveling disadvantage, to satisfying desires for perfection" (p. ix). Through the stories of the children, who are now adults, readers learn of the lasting physical, psychological, and emotional impact of this medical application on their lives.
Normal at any Cost is an eye-opening, thought-provoking book that provides a revealing look at the issue of height control. Meanwhile, it encourages deep consideration of the ethical issues involved. These issues are numerous and far-reaching and will become more important as medical science finds other means of manipulating our genes. Interesting and easy to follow, this book reads like a novel: One can only wish that it were.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cinsational Reader on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It has been a few years since anybody wrote a review about this book .. which is a compelling, outstanding book. I am one of the American girls that was in one of these programs that were run in Australia, was given the hormones, so that I would not hit my projected 6'2" height like my sister, and I came in at 5'9". Sounds great, right? Well it's been 40+ years now, of one medical issue after another. My life was physically destroyed by those drugs/hormones. You do NOT give drugs/hormones to little girls. This book amazed me, I did not know I had sisters-in-kind in Australia. I am a member of a Club I never asked to join.

I recommend this book as a good read for people that are seeking information. It amazes me still to read all these stories from olden days of what governments and individuals (think Tuskeegee airmen) alike attempt to do on the unsuspecting public. I wrote the author after I read the book, did an internet search and found her email address, and she was really nice & helpful. The book is a good read but I am concerned that not a lot of people know about this issue in the first place. So if you have an opportunity to read it, please do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By barbara on May 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an outstanding book which compels us to think about the appropriateness and unintended consequences of medical solutions. The thoroughness with which the authors researched the subject is impressive, and the ease with which the reader is drawn into medically sophisticated issues is a tribute to their abilities to translate terms and procedures into readily understandable concepts. The authors interweave reporting with the stories of those who were treated, about whom the reader soon cares profoundly; I was sufficiently riveted that I sometimes skipped ahead to learn how these lives progressed. The book raises important bioethical issues without being dogmatic, and presents impartial retrospective and current views on the decisions that were made. I took a day off work to finish the book, and strongly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover/Science Lover on March 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Every day we read another news story about how medicine or "big pharma" (the pharmaceutical companies) have influenced our lives or politics without us knowing and often without our best interests at heart. This book exposes how that influence plays to our vulnerabilities: All parents want the best for their children, and this book explains how dangerous hormone therapies were used to manipulate height in girls and boys for decades beginning in the 1950s, all in the interest of achieving the "ideal" height for both.
This book is a well-researched and well-written "must read" for anyone with an interest in public health and science. It provides a glimpse of how power, money, and the human desire to manipulate our destiny may impact future medical treatments.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Aurbach on December 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book. It's well-researched and documented. (Index! Foot notes!) It covers a little known area of medicine which shines a klieg light on the way the medical-industrial-marketing complex operates and the way government grants wishes to big business. Shame on the docs, labs, drug companies and FDA review committees all complicit in foisting dangerous treatments on children for decades. The book is beautifully written and surprisingly compelling. I stayed up all night reading it. Thank you Susan Cohen and Christine Cosgrove. I want my book group to read Normal At Any Cost.
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