Two Letters to the ST Forum

Since it’s been a few days since I sent them, I assume that they won’t be published.

Letter #1:

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter “Aesthetic guidelines: Leave it to the doctor” (ST, March 25) by Mr Oh. The role of the doctor is to prevent and
treat health problems. Aesthetic problems are not necessarily health problems. Ugly skin and ugly hair are not always symptoms of poor health, and when they are, they should be tackled by removing the root cause, rather than by removing only the symptoms. Excess fat should be combated by dieting and exercising, rather than by short-term fat-removal. Furthermore, it is not a general practitioner’s job to help his patients “become more self-confident”. If someone is having issues with his self-esteem, he should be seeing a psychiatrist, not going for aesthetic treatments.

Furthermore, Mr Oh draws a false dichotomy when he asks if the authorities would prefer that “consumers go to questionable sources of aesthetic treatment”. The whole point of the recent discoveries of malpractice and misinformation by GPs offering aesthetic treatment is that some GPs have themselves become “questionable sources”. As it is, both GPs and beauty treatment salons offer treatments that are scientifically unsubstantiated. But surely we should expect the medical profession to differentiate themselves from unscrupulous entrepreneurs by demanding a higher threshold of evidence for the treatments they offer. Only then will the consumer be able to reliably differentiate between doctors and the pseudo-doctors of beauty salons.

Finally, Mr Oh’s mention of Viagra as an example of a medically sanctioned drug that does not have “purely medical benefits” is
misleading. The relevant difference between Viagra and some of the aesthetic treatments recently highlighted by the media is that Viagra has passed double-blind clinical trials, and said treatments haven’t. In other words, Viagra has been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be effective for the condition it claims to treat, whereas those aesthetic treatments have not.

Letter #2:

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mrs Susan Yeo’s letter, “Ensure zero tolerance for danger by schools”. Mrs Yeo complains that prior to school-organised activities, parents are often given indemnity forms to sign, thereby absolving the school of responsibility for accidents during said activities. However, she is concerned that some of these activities might be unsafe. In this case, the obvious solution should be to simply not sign the indemnity or consent forms, hence ensuring that her child will not be involved any activities that she deems unsafe. Instead of taking this obvious action, though, Mrs Yeo would prefer that schools refrain from organising activities “with any element of danger”. She thinks that safer activities can provide the “same learning experience” for students.

Apart from the absurd notion that activities such as sports, all of which involve risks of physical harm, should be banned from schools, she is mistaken that safer activities can indeed provide the “same learning experience”. Suppose that the purpose of organizing camping expeditions is to teach the students outdoor survival skills. How else does Mrs Yeo propose to impart such skills other than by taking the students into the wilderness and bringing them into contact with the actual challenges posed by the natural environment? Virtual reality technology has not advanced to the extent that we can simulate entire rainforests and mountains, and however often you pitch a tent in the school field, it is simply not the same as doing so in the rainforest. Similarly, it is hard to imagine how one can teach students open-water canoeing without actually canoeing in open water.

The more disturbing aspect of Mrs Yeo’s proposal, however, is that she wishes to deprive other students of the chance to undergo the learning experiences she so deplores. Just because she is afraid that her child will come to harm, she would propose that an entire nation of children be deprived of the opportunity to learn more about nature, to acquire useful outdoors skills, and to improve their mental resilience. These are just a few of the many unique learning experiences that can be provided by outdoor activities. Under the guise of concern for students’ safety, Mrs Yeo ends up selfishly insisting that her child should be protected from all possible harm by depriving other children of the opportunities to develop themselves.

Letter #2 concerns an issue that particularly rankles with me. I hate to sound like an old hag but “youngsters nowadays” often seem too pampered to me. The more parents are unwilling to let their children actually get into situations of genuine strife and suffering (as one does regularly in endurance sports), the more likely it is that we will transform into a nation of oversized babies. It also seems that many parents, including my own, are reluctant to stop babying their offspring. In fact, they find the idea that they should cut them loose insulting — they find offensive any suggestion that their children could cope without them. But surely your having bred an independent child should be more cause for pride than your having to provide continual care for them. It all falls into place, though, if you accept the premise that most of these people are merely bringing up trophy children. It’s all about how they are manifested through their offspring, not about enabling new, independent minds. Once their children get out of their control, they can no longer force their personalities to be manifested through the little critters. And that’s what distresses them.

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