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ACS' Heartburn Over Editorial Lingers

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, April 21, 2011

When I was a little boy, my Italian-American grandmother would say, "Joseph, Joseph you are giving me agita," a slang for heartburn in Italian, usually after my friends and I broke some window playing baseball on the street.

The windows are cracking at the American College of Surgeons and the organization has a huge case of agita over a Valentine’s Day debacle involving its editor-in-chief's ill-chosen words in an opinion piece published in Surgery News, the official newspaper of the ACS.

No medicine is going to cure this heartburn anytime soon. The controversy and its fallout have put the spotlight on ACS’s virtually do-nothing board.

The debacle has to do with incendiary comments made by editor Lazar Greenfield, MD, who suggested in a Valentine’s Day piece entitled, "Gut Feeling" that unprotected sex enhances women’s moods.

Greenfield’s opinion piece attempted to highlight certain scientific findings about mating and reproduction. "As far as humans are concerned, you may think you know all about sexual signals, but you’d be surprised by new findings," he wrote in the Valentine’s Day piece.  I'll spare you the details, but you can read his editorial here.

Greenfield, 78, resigned Sunday in the wake of the controversy. He also withdrew as president-elect of the ACS. Greenfield is a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Greenfield’s comments make a mockery of unprotected sex, are demeaning to women, the board, and to Greenfield himself.  Not everyone agrees. Can’t you take a joke, some ask. Others say, Greenfield is a distinguished surgeon, be respectful.

But seriously, didn’t the board ever hear of a red pen? Allowing Greenfield’s comments into print to begin with makes one wonder about the ACS’s editorial review process, if there was any. Did Greenfield have carte blanche to say what he pleased?

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