Sound and Fury in Texas


"Ultrasound machines are not toys," says Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. To underscore his point, he's harassing four Texas businesses that use ultrasound to provide parents with keepsake images of their babies-to-be. Three companies are under investigation, while a fourth had its equipment confiscated for so long it went out of business. The businesses were told that they need a physician on hand to oversee the procedure. But under Texas law, a physician can't condone any non-medical use of ultrasound.

In thirty years of use, there have been no known harmful effects associated with ultrasound, which relies on sound waves, not radiation, to map images. It's cheap, innocuous, and apparently has both non-medical and medical applications. But the fact that the risks are imaginary won't stop the Texas Attorney General's Office from earnestly protecting women from them:

The bottom line is that the sonogram must be done for a medical reason because the health and safety of the mother must be considered, Kelley said.

Props to Catallarchy.

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  1. Up next! Lightbulb makers sue the sun for unfair competition!

    (OK, not all that original, but I think it works in this case.)

  2. Maybe some right-to-lifers will go to bat on behalf of these businesses. After all, they’re providing keepsake images of unborn babies/fetuses/insert-other-politically-preferred-term-here.

    And, for the record, I think it’s wrong to go after these businesses.

  3. I’ve been reading about this quite a bit lately as my wife is about 10 weeks pregnant and we just had the first u/s done.

    There have NOT been any studies that have shown a risk posed by u/s when done *properly*. However, the doctors i’ve talked to, and who i’ve read discussing this, also say that there should not be more u/s done than are medically necessary, and should only be done for medical purposes. This is because the basic principle of u/s is projecting energy into cells; at sufficient levels for example, u/s can be used to overheat cancer cells and kill them. So… the pols are actually right for once, to the extent they pointed out that u/s ain’t nuthin’ to fuck with, anyway.

    Isolated incidents, folk tales, small scale samples, whatever you want to call them, have in some cases reported overheating of fetal cells leading to aberrant growth, from u/s done with poor or improper equipment or done in excess or for too long a time. But these haven’t been substantiated enough or replicated in larger scale studies to demonstrate a true cause and effect. After all, there are unfortunately lots of mutations, and since everybody pretty much has u/s done, its probably hard to pin the cause to one test.

    Not sure what i think about this particular case here. Hating paternalism like i do, this strikes me as a draconian overreaction to what is almost certainly a non-problem. But i can understand where they are coming from — as i mentioned, proper u/s done correctly is a non-problem.

    So it seem to me that what would have prevented these companies’ current predicament would have been partnering with actual medical people, or employing them to provide whatever oversight is needed to bring them into compliance with the law. Cheap bastards.

    For the price of a neogitiable slice of profits, you’d have somebody on hand you could hang out to dry if the shit hit the fan. IMO, anybody who runs a medical-“type” business like that without a sacrificial MD on hand to take the fall, is such a dumbass I wouldn’t trust their judgment enough to use their services.

    Fuck ’em. They had an easy solution on hand and opted to go cheap; they ran the risk that goes with knowing non-compliance, and they fucked up.

  4. Akira:

    Haha….Anytime’s a good time for Bastiat. I definately think it works in this case. Check out this choice quote:

    “They can’t just leave the physician out of the loop and make money doing it,” said Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

    Oh, of course not….that would be terrible.

  5. If no one else is going to say it, I will.. those fetal pictures are gross, okay? Having it in a cute frame doesn’t help. When I’m in the mood to look at blurry images of gestating crotchling swimming in mucus, I’LL come to YOU. Thanks.

  6. The Texas AG is right- doing too many ultrasounds could cause the child to be deaf to ultrasonic frequencies.

  7. Maybe when a person purchases bullets they should be required to sign a statement declaring intent to kill a person in need of killin. Hunting animals or paper targets is a flagrant abuse of the 2nd amendment.

    No listening to someone’s insides with a stethoscope either, unless you are making a medical diagnosis, that is.

    And don’t let em catch you screwing around with that digital ear thermometer either.

  8. “Isolated incidents, folk tales, small scale samples, whatever you want to call them…”

    I call them “not data”.

  9. There is no proof that ultrasound causes harmful effects to the fetus. From the FDA:

    From a medical standpoint, ultrasonic fetal scanning is generally considered safe and is properly used when medical information on a pregnancy is needed. But ultrasound energy delivered to the fetus cannot be regarded as completely innocuous. Laboratory studies have shown that diagnostic levels of ultrasound can produce physical effects in tissue, such as mechanical vibrations and rise in temperature. Although there is no evidence that these physical effects can harm the fetus, public health experts, clinicians and industry agree that casual exposure to ultrasound, especially during pregnancy, should be avoided. Viewed in this light, exposing the fetus to ultrasound with no anticipation of medical benefit is not justified. For additional information about the “prudent use” of diagnostic ultrasound, see the statement from the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM)

    The FDA is basically saying, “We have never seen any bad effect of U/S, but it makes tissues vibrate, which makes them warm up, so better safe than sorry, use as little as possible.” Regular sound also makes things vibrate and heat up. Shining a light on something also causes it to heat up. But it would be ludicrous to suggest that parents refrain from talking to the fetus or keeping the mother out of the sun.

    U/S is the safest imaging modality there is.

  10. Oh, gad. I’m just happy not to have to look at anyone’s photos of their precious “preborn” babies.

  11. Oh, gad. I’m just happy not to have to look at anyone’s photos of their precious “preborn” babies.

    Actually, I think that would make a great and highly offensive gag at the office…if I ever get preggers, I’m gonna plaster detailed photos of my womb all over my cubicle…maybe….In reality, I’d probably be way too chicken to do something that risque at work.

  12. Mr. Nice Guy, I’ll say it with you. Not only that, but I couldn’t see anything identifiable in my kids’ ultrasounds, did not see how they could be useful in any way, and I did – gasp – throw them away.

  13. I think Greg’s absolutely on the right track. Wait until the kids are born, then expose them to a constant barrage of 800 watt camera flashbulbs and video recorder lights.

    I’m still trying to hunt down and destroy all the baby pictures my parents inflicted.

  14. The “Womb With A View” guys were stupid not to partner with local docs, but I’m not in favor of the FDA’s shutdown. I suppose the feds are worried that kids might suffer the fate of Ulysses Klaw.


  15. if I ever get preggers, I’m gonna plaster detailed photos of my womb all over my cubicle.

    Actually, at my office, the husbands already do that. (Ultrasounds, that is.) (And not of their own wombs — their wives’.) I can’t make out much detail in them.

    Cue old Robin Williams joke about ultrasounds:

    “My God, he’s hung like a bear!”

    “That’s the umbilical cord, Mr. Williams.”

  16. The Texas AG is right- doing too many ultrasounds could cause the child to be deaf to ultrasonic frequencies.

    That’s right. And some studies show that the amniotic fluid contains a significant amount of dihydrogen monoxide after an ultrasound.

  17. Bush says we should “err on the side of life.”

    Shut-um down, folks!….

    ugh. Im not liking this “culture of life”

  18. Not dihydrogen oxide!!!! I have heard of people falling to vast vats of it, and DIEING!!!!
    Culture of Life!
    Culture of Life!

  19. Not to mention it’s horribly addictive. I know one person who takes dihydrogen monoxide every day, but one day he couldn’t get any. And he started getting exhausted, and having delusions and stuff.

    And yet not only is it not on Schedule III, the Controlled Substances Act doesn’t even cover it at all! It must have one hell of a lobby.

  20. Independent worm says they were stupid to go the cheap route and not get an MD on hand, however:

    “The businesses were told that they need a physician on hand to oversee the procedure. But under Texas law, a physician can’t condone any non-medical use of ultrasound.”

    If they want to just take pictures for fun, they aren’t allowed to have a doctor there. Screwy Texas laws.

    The ultrasound picture I have is one of the pictures I have of the daughter I gave up for adoption when I was 19. I have plenty of other pictures, but I’m glad I have that one, too.

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