Henci Goer’s credentials : “I have books … I have papers …”


Who knew?

Evidently, the only thing you need in order to call yourself an expert is a few books. How do I know? Henci Goer says it’s so. In response to a someone questioning the basis for her self-described expertise, Goer offers this painfully stupid response:

… I have a B.A. in biology from Brandeis University; I have a library of books and a collection of several thousand papers, including books and papers on how to analyze and interpret medical research; and I have been writing and speaking about what the consensus of maternity care research establishes as best promoting safe, healthy birth for over 20 years. That being said, my preeminent credential is illustrated by this anecdote: Penny Simkin was once called on the carpet by an anesthesiologist, irate that she had written a handout listing the potential trade-offs of epidural anesthesia when she was not a doctor (although he did not dispute her accuracy). “What are your credentials?” he demanded. “I can read,” she mildly replied. So can I.

Yippee! I didn’t know that I was an expert in so many things. I love history and have lots of books and papers. I’m a historian! I have both fresh and saltwater fish and lots of books on how to care for them. I’m an ichthyologist! I love roses and peonies and own a variety of books on their cultivation. I’m a botanist! Ooooh, I am so impressed with myself.

Of course I do feel a bit foolish to find out that I all I needed was a bunch of books and papers on obstetrics to consider myself an expert on all aspects of childbirth. I wasted four years and tens of thousands of dollars on medical school. I did get a couple of cool letters to put after my name (MD), but was that really worth when all it takes to be an expert is owning books? And when I think of the thousands of hours I worked during internship and residency, the thousands of patients I cared for, the thousands of deliveries I attended, I could kick myself. The hands on experience was totally unnecessary.

And what was the point of actually providing obstetrical care for women when I was working as an obstetrician? Who knew that taking responsibility for the care of a myriad of obstetric complications, as well as hundreds of women who had uncomplicated deliveries was a total waste of my time. I could have read about it in a book. That’s just as good; Henci Goer says so herself.

Most of all, though, I am thrilled to learn that Henci Goer considers me the pre-eminent American expert on homebirth and its many dangers. There is simply no doubt that I own more books, more papers, more journal subscriptions relating to natural childbirth and homebirth than any other American, including her and no one has been writing as long or as extensively on the topic as me. Plus, I am a really, really good reader; I have the SAT scores to prove it.

It’s undeniable, folks, that I am the true expert in all aspects of pregnancy and birth, and everyone should be listening to me. Not because of my extensive background in science, statistics and medicine. Not because I have delivered thousands of babies and been involved in the care of thousands more. Not because I actually AM an expert in pregnancy and childbirth, but because I own lots and lots and lots of books and papers on the topic.

Thank you, Henci, for your endorsement of my expertise. Your reasoning is idiotic, but I’m willing to overlook that in this instance. How do I know that you have endorsed me as an expert?

Isn’t it obvious? … I can read.