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Before delving into the topic of this blog, I want to mention that my next novel, Unforeseen, will be released on August 18th. This is the third and final book of the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. You can pre-order a copy wherever you normally order books. Pre-ordering information can also be found on my website at https://www.devengreene.com/unforeseen.


As I wait for the publication date, I'm working on my next novel, a stand-alone medical thriller. I hope to finish the rough draft in around two months.

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Is it my imagination, or is the news of the day more depressing than it's been for a long time? Some days I avoid hearing or reading about the news altogether to escape the onslaught. A partial list of current events includes:


The war in Ukraine

The January 6 insurrection

Mass shootings and attempts at gun control

Worldwide inflation

COVID

Natural disasters due to climate change

The overturn of Roe v Wade


The last on the list brought to mind the unintended consequences of a decision made by the leader of Romania some fifty-five years ago.


Nicolae Ceausescu, the communist strongman leader of Romania from 1965 to 1989, wanted to increase the population of his country. To accomplish this, he enacted Decree 770 in 1967. Before this, Romania's birthrate had been declining as more women were working outside the home, and the low standard of living made childbearing an expense many did not want to take on. Contraceptives were difficult to obtain, and abortion became the main methodology to eliminate unwanted births.


Ceausescu and his communist cronies decided to actively promote growth of the country's population from 20 million to 30 million. Decree 770 outlawed abortion and contraception, with the following exceptions: women over 45 (for a time lowered to age 40), women with four children already (raised to five later), women whose lives would be at risk by carrying a pregnancy to term, and women pregnant from rape or incest. Contraceptives, scarce before the decree, vanished completely from stores. Women were regularly monitored by gynecologists, and all pregnancies were tracked until birth. Motherhood was praised, and girls in school were taught that becoming a mother was very fulfilling.


You may now be wondering what the consequences were. Did the goal of populating the homeland become popular? Did the women forced to bear children eventually decide their lives were enriched by the extra mouths to feed? Did the population of unplanned progeny flourish?


As most people might predict, the answer to these questions is "No."


Shortly after the decree was passed, the birthrate in Romania increased dramatically. Thousands of nursery schools, then kindergartens, were built to accommodate the increase in children. However, as the children aged, government support waned. Classroom sizes increased, and schooling was curtailed to accommodate the expanded student population.


In the 1970s, the birthrate declined again despite the decree, as women found ways to circumvent the law. Wealthy women, as expected, fared best. They avoided pregnancy by buying contraceptives illegally or obtained abortions by bribing doctors to diagnose them with a condition qualifying for a legal termination. Poor women, on the other hand, could avail themselves only to unsafe methods of abortion, and countless numbers died. Many of the dead women left behind several children. Not surprisingly, the mortality among pregnant women became the highest in Europe.


Many of the decretei, as the children born during this period were called, were poorly cared for, leading to malnourishment and physical disabilities. Large numbers of parents who couldn't care for their children placed their offspring in orphanages, abysmal institutions where children were beaten, malnourished, subjected to sexual abuse, and injected with drugs to control their behavior. Disabled children received the worst care, housed in crowded facilities without adequate clothing, food, or heat. In at least one facility, children were reported to be eaten alive by rats.


As the economy declined, and the last hired were the first fired, the decretei were the first to be terminated, adding to their hardship. At least one study concluded that children born under Decree 770 showed increased criminality later in life.


In 1989 the Ceausescu regime was violently overthrown. Although Ceausescu and his wife attempted to flee, they were apprehended and executed. Most of the revolutionaries involved in the rebellion were around 22 years old, the age of the oldest decretei.


Will the US fare better than Romania with the institution of draconian anti-abortion laws? Without a doubt, although similar to Romania, wealthy women will be able to obtain safe abortions, while countless women without means will seek unsafe, illegal abortions, and many of them will die. Other poor women will be forced to have children they cannot afford, often with poor pre-natal care resulting in a higher risk of complications. As in Romania, many women who die will leave behind several children. Some children will be put up for adoption, but many will remain unadopted.


In contrast to Romania, however, parentless children here will be well-cared for. After all, foster homes in the US are known to be wonderful places, preparing children for a fulfilling life when they are booted out at age eighteen. No abuse (physical or sexual) or deprivation could possibly take place in this country. The larger number of disabled children resulting from the higher birthrate likewise will be well-cared for by social services for the rest of their lives as Americans typically favor tax hikes to support disabled individuals, ensuring top-notch facilities and generous salaries for those taking care of our most vulnerable. School crowding, of course, won't be an issue as tax increases to support schools are usually passed by a large majority of voters, funding modern, state-of-the-art classrooms and high teacher salaries. The increased number of criminals born won't be a problem even if they are the same percentage of their birth cohort. We'll just build more prisons.


As exciting as the prospect of protecting the lives of the unborn is, I recently started thinking we could do so much more. Perhaps, as long as we are willing to force women to give up control of their bodies by bearing children, with the inherent risk of death, need for a C-section, or post-partum sequelae, including life-long incontinence, uterine prolapse, hypertension, and adverse cosmetic outcomes, we could do more to save lives. I'm referring to the lives of children and adults, people who actually want to live (as opposed to the collection of cells that comprise an unaware fetus).


Starting off, we could compel everyone to donate blood. After all, it's a small inconvenience, yet so life-saving to those who need it. Compulsory donor registration for all healthy adults would potentially save the lives of many people in need of bone marrow or hematopoietic stem cell transplants. Those who match someone in need would be required to donate their marrow or stem cells. After a few injections, donors would just need to spend a little time having their cells harvested.


Why stop there? Many people die waiting for kidney or liver transplants. Everyone with two kidneys could be required to contribute one if needed. Similarly, people with a healthy liver could be required to donate a piece of that vital organ. It's exciting to think of all the lives that could be saved with these procedures, none of which are as intrusive as carrying a pregnancy for nine months and giving birth. I imagine those in favor of outlawing abortion will be the first in line to donate a kidney or portion of their liver.



I haven’t written a blog for a while, being preoccupied with other matters. However, while watching the morning news show I usually wake up to, I saw a segment that compelled me to type something out.


Before delving into the interesting matter at hand, I want to mention what I’ve been up to in the writing world. My next novel, Unforeseen, will be released in August. This is the third book in the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy, bringing the exciting adventures of Erica Rosen to a close. I hope you’ll pick up a copy (print or e-book). If you haven’t already, the first two installations, Unnatural and Unwitting, are available now. I hate to nag, but if you’ve read my work, please leave a review (especially if you liked it). The reviews are slowly coming in but looking at past sales, I know many have read at least one book but haven’t reviewed it (you know who you are).


And now for the meat of my blog:


What is race? Do you even know? I think most people consider race to be biologically defined. Actually, it isn’t. This may date me, but for the first ten or so years of my life, I was taught that there are three races: Caucasian, Negro (that was the term, back in the day), and Chinese. When I was in middle school, American Indians were added as a fourth race. Nowadays, it is commonplace to see questions about race and ethnicity on many questionnaires, typically including American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White, although additional categories can be included.


When you read the last sentence above, you may have asked yourself wait – they’re asking about race and ethnicity lumped together. Is race the same as ethnicity?


According to Merriam-Webster, race is “any one of the groups that humans are often divided into based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.” Another definition is “a group of people sharing a common cultural, geographical linguistic, or religious origin or background.” In short, race is not biologically defined, but is a social construct set down by society. Physical characteristics commonly used to determine race include skin pigmentation, hair color and texture, and facial features.


A secretary once asked me if the organs of White people are different from those of Black. As a pathologist, I could comment with authority that other than increased skin pigmentation in Blacks (and other dark-skinned people), there is absolutely no difference. Grossly and under the microscope, the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, thyroid, etc., are indistinguishable by race.


According to dictionary.com, ethnicity is defined as “a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or. . . background, allegiance, or association.” This overlaps descriptions of race. I believe ethnicity brings out people’s ingrained prejudices as much as race, and the distinction between ethnicity and race is blurred.


What about people of mixed race or ethnicity? Why is Barack Obama considered Black, while he is 50% White? Can you ascertain the race of everyone by looking at him/her? In my case, I believe I can often be pretty sure someone is Black, White, or Asian, but there are many instances when I’m not sure.


This subject was brought to the forefront recently by Whoopi Goldberg, of all people. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, the comedienne Whoopi Goldberg was recently furloughed from The View because she claimed that The Holocaust had nothing to do with racism, just man’s inhumanity to man. Being Black, I suppose she saw racism as only a problem for Black people. When you get down to it, though, couldn’t one consider slavery just another example of man’s inhumanity to man? Since most Jews are White and can’t be identified on the basis of skin tone, in her self-centered world, racism didn’t apply in the case of White on White. I don’t know what she thought of Hutus vs. Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide. Or the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, an area that was centered around modern-day Turkey. Currently, the genocide of Rohingyas is being perpetrated by Myanmar, and China is carrying out genocide of Uyghurs.


Nowadays, people can get their DNA analyzed to determine where they originated from, as defined by where their ancestors lived before people moved around much. Many are surprised and find that the group they identified with is not in their lineage. As an aside, a while back I looked into the analyses being done to determine ancestry and found the testing is pretty robust, getting more and more specific with time as more data is collected.


Like my protagonist Eric Rosen, I am Jewish. I know that had I been living in Germany at the wrong time, I would have been sent to a concentration camp and probably killed. Even had I renounced my religion and my “Jewishness,” I would not have escaped being classified as Jewish. Jewishness was considered something people were born with, and there was no exception made for people who chose not to be part of the Jewish community (other groups, including Roma and gay people, were also murdered, but the numbers were not nearly as large, and exceptions were made). I know if I had been forced to wear a yellow star in Germany before being sent off in a cattle car, I would have been treated with disgust and suffered countless indignities every time I walked amongst the general population. The yellow star was necessary for people to distinguish Jewish people from other citizens, so they could be appropriately ostracized.


It is because Jewish people usually cannot be identified by their looks that they are often privy to the thoughts of others in regard to Jews (I know, there are particular “looks” ascribed to Jews such as large noses and dark, kinky hair, but these features are seen in other groups, and are not seen in all Jews). One particularly revealing conversation occurred years ago when I was in graduate school. I was talking to a lab technician I was quite friendly with. He was from China, having been sent out of the country by relatives just as Mao took over. He asked me about my last name (it’s not Greene – that’s my pen name) and wondered if I was German. I told him I was Jewish. He laughed and said, “No, really, are you German?” He asked me the same question several more times, and I repeatedly gave the same answer. After several back-and-forth volleys, his expression suddenly changed when it dawned on him that I really was Jewish. He was totally flabbergasted and told me he couldn’t believe it! He said he’d been told that all Jews were ugly, had big noses, and were terrible people who only cared about money. I informed him that he was uninformed and took it upon myself to enlighten him. Even though he was middle-aged at the time, he had been fed lies about Jewish people and gone through life believing the stereotype. Rather than treating me with disdain after that, we continued to get along quite well, and I always felt he treated me with the utmost respect. I believe I truly changed his opinion of Jews (one down, millions to go).


That brings me to the news show segment I saw on TV this morning. Tina Knowles (Beyonce’s mother) was interviewed about a four-part docuseries she produced for Discovery+ titled Profiled: The Black Man. In it, she examines the stereotypes our society has assigned to Black Men and aims to dispel them with interviews of Black men who are upstanding citizens (and there are many to choose from). I haven’t seen it, but I think it will be a good start in promoting a change in attitude.


A change in attitude is exactly what I think this country needs to overcome prejudice against Black people, as I stated in my blog Time to Say Goodbye to Robert E Lee (published June 18, 2020). I continue to believe the stereotypes of Black people make it difficult for them to be treated the same as generic White people, and it is the fear of Black men, in particular, that results in excessive police shootings when decisions often have to be made in a split second. I doubt that Tina Knowles’s series will solve the problem, but it will hopefully make a dent.


In addition, I still believe we must address poverty, which afflicts Black people disproportionately and drives their youth towards gangs and crime. As long as statistics reflect the high incarceration rate of Black men (the result of increased prosecution because of race, as well as increased criminality of poor people), it is unlikely attitudes will change much.


Many people probably have some deep-seated prejudices against people with different backgrounds because the seeds were planted by parents or others. But with effort, everyone can work to avoid reflecting that outwardly in their daily lives even if they can’t change the way their brain has been programmed. And let’s refrain from passing our prejudices onto our kids.



First, a word from the sponsor — me:


My second novel, titled Unwitting, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 2, will be released on Oct. 21, 2021. It is available for preorder on the usual sites. If ordered from the publisher, Black Rose Writing, you can receive a 15% discount by using the code PREORDER 2021. You can learn more about the book on another area of my website.


And now for my blog:


The wheels of justice turn slowly, but the trial of Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is finally about to start. I wrote about Theranos on my first substantive blog in May 2019. By then, the company had fallen apart, the founder disgraced, a best-selling book about it had been published, and the debacle had attracted a whole lot of attention.


Charges were brought up against Holmes, but the story was then quickly relegated to the back pages of most newspapers. After a multitude of delays, the trial is dragging her back into the news. Reasons for postponement of her day of reckoning included (but were not limited to) COVID-19 concerns and Holmes’s pregnancy. Her deferral tactics ran their course, and as I write this, the jury for her trial is being selected.


The defendant has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, related to her misleading of both patients and investors. It doesn’t appear she will be held accountable for the physical or psychological harm done to people who suffered because of bogus lab results from her company. A handful of affected patients will probably be allowed to share their stories only minimally, as harm to them will not be considered in this trial. Only the financial losses of investors appear to be important in this case.


Some justice for the victims of erroneous lab results may be obtained sometime in the future, as a class action lawsuit has been filed. With the company bankrupt, however, it does not appear likely the plaintiffs will receive significant monetary awards, so the patients harmed by the Theranos con will remain the real losers.


Opening statements in the current legal proceedings are expected soon, and the trial is anticipated to last around three months. If convicted, Holmes could face twenty years in prison and a fine. Strangely, it appears her defense will rely mainly on a claim that she was in an abusive relationship with her onetime partner and boyfriend, Sunny Balwani. Balwani will be separately tried for his part in the fraud, probably early next year.


Holmes is claiming Balwani misled her and somehow forced her to lie about the company, bilking investors and endangering patients who relied on the results. If that is her defense, she will essentially admit to all the lies but claim her participation wasn’t her fault. I can’t help but wonder if she had a baby to garner sympathy from the jurors and intends to perform a sad song on a violin during closing arguments.


I don’t believe in our jury system (that’s a whole other topic for discussion), but I would want to be on this jury if I did. I would likely be disqualified because I’ve already made up my mind regarding her guilt. This trial isn’t likely to gain the attention of the O.J. trial, but it will be interesting. News organizations will be drawn to it like moths to a flame, with a host of well-known people, including Henry Kissinger and General James Mattis, expected to testify.


To me, one of the most interesting aspects of this whole fiasco is why a bunch of supposedly intelligent people invested so heavily in a company without consulting credible clinical scientists or pathologists, the experts in the field (being a pathologist myself, the overt lameness of the whole idea of the company is striking to me). I have little compassion for them, but I do have sympathy for all the patients that were tested using this faulty technology and suffered because of it.


My prediction? She will enter into a plea agreement, possibly one where she avoids any jail time at all. I hope I’m wrong.

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