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Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height

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A fascinating story of medical experimentation, parental love, and the extreme measures taken to make children fit within ?the norm.? Most people rarely think about their height beyond a little wishing and hoping. But for the parents of children who are ridiculed by their peers for being extraordinarily tall or extraordinarily short, height can cause great anguish. For dec A fascinating story of medical experimentation, parental love, and the extreme measures taken to make children fit within ?the norm.? Most people rarely think about their height beyond a little wishing and hoping. But for the parents of children who are ridiculed by their peers for being extraordinarily tall or extraordinarily short, height can cause great anguish. For decades, the medical establishment has responded to these worries by prescribing controversial treatments and therapies for children who fall outside of the ?normal? height range. While some have benefited, many have suffered from devastating side effects. In this riveting book, Susan Cohen and Christine Cosgrove provide a voice for the parents, doctors, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies involved in these experimental treatments. They also tell the story of the boys and girls themselves, many of them now grown, who were subjected to a wide range of non-FDA-approved medical procedures. These treatments? which consisted of extreme doses of estrogen, pituitary glands taken from both animals and human cadavers, and testosterone injections?often had disastrous side effects. Who is to say how tall is too tall, and how short is too short? For many of the individuals represented in this book, the answers have been clear?and they are grateful to the medical industry for improving upon nature. For others, left in the wake of this same science, the answers are fueled by tragic regret. The authors explore the dueling motives behind these procedures? with parents desperate to help their children ?fit in? and doctors and scientists hungry for scientific breakthroughs. Combining extensive research and in-depth interviews, Normal at Any Cost is the first book to place a human face on this complex and ethically charged medical history.


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A fascinating story of medical experimentation, parental love, and the extreme measures taken to make children fit within ?the norm.? Most people rarely think about their height beyond a little wishing and hoping. But for the parents of children who are ridiculed by their peers for being extraordinarily tall or extraordinarily short, height can cause great anguish. For dec A fascinating story of medical experimentation, parental love, and the extreme measures taken to make children fit within ?the norm.? Most people rarely think about their height beyond a little wishing and hoping. But for the parents of children who are ridiculed by their peers for being extraordinarily tall or extraordinarily short, height can cause great anguish. For decades, the medical establishment has responded to these worries by prescribing controversial treatments and therapies for children who fall outside of the ?normal? height range. While some have benefited, many have suffered from devastating side effects. In this riveting book, Susan Cohen and Christine Cosgrove provide a voice for the parents, doctors, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies involved in these experimental treatments. They also tell the story of the boys and girls themselves, many of them now grown, who were subjected to a wide range of non-FDA-approved medical procedures. These treatments? which consisted of extreme doses of estrogen, pituitary glands taken from both animals and human cadavers, and testosterone injections?often had disastrous side effects. Who is to say how tall is too tall, and how short is too short? For many of the individuals represented in this book, the answers have been clear?and they are grateful to the medical industry for improving upon nature. For others, left in the wake of this same science, the answers are fueled by tragic regret. The authors explore the dueling motives behind these procedures? with parents desperate to help their children ?fit in? and doctors and scientists hungry for scientific breakthroughs. Combining extensive research and in-depth interviews, Normal at Any Cost is the first book to place a human face on this complex and ethically charged medical history.

30 review for Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height

  1. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Super well done and also mega relevant to other off label prescriptions handed out by pediatric endocrinologists in the hopes of preventing a visually distinctive adulthood 👀👀👀👀 One of the authors was given untested treatment to prevent her from growing taller as a teen and the personal involvement totally shines through in the attention to detail and empathy for child subjects of experimentation related to changing their projected height. Truly the paranoia nonfiction pick of the month

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alejandro

    This was an infuriating read. I stand at 5'1" and according to Eli Lilly and similar pharm companies, I am diseased because of this and therefore should be subjected to drugs to make me a "normal" man. While reading this book, I found out from my dad that the subject of hGH came up with my pediatrician when I was going through the trauma of realizing I would not be tall or even average. My doctor (wisely) advised against hormonal therapy. Sad to see that had my doctor been less principled, I woul This was an infuriating read. I stand at 5'1" and according to Eli Lilly and similar pharm companies, I am diseased because of this and therefore should be subjected to drugs to make me a "normal" man. While reading this book, I found out from my dad that the subject of hGH came up with my pediatrician when I was going through the trauma of realizing I would not be tall or even average. My doctor (wisely) advised against hormonal therapy. Sad to see that had my doctor been less principled, I would have been shot up full of drugs with zero guarantee that I would grow past 5'3". It was great to read the science that short folks are not diseased or defective. Our issues are environmental and social (as in people are biased against us). As a queer person, I have come to believe that difference and variation are essential to the human experience and I resent that there are major forces in the world that are looking to stamp out such variance. Not to mention, all this will do is force the bell curve to the right if more and more people take hGH and why the hell do we want to push the human species to be super tall? Hello, global warming, carbon footprint, etc. Shouldn't we try to become able to live with less resources? Happy to read that there are voices of reason out there, including David Sandberg a pediatric psychaiatrist who was flatly against using hormones to treat something that could be better addressed via psychology. I finished this book grateful that my parents didn't opt for shots. I grew up to be an attractive man and I like the way I look . . . and my journey towards accepting my body has actually brought me such spiritual and emotional treasure that I would hate to think of what else I would have been robbed had I been made to endure daily shots of this crap.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caryn Demaree

    This book is about how the medical industry tried to manipulate tall girls and short boys by hormones . I never knew about this until I read this book. It was Interesting to me as a 6 foot tall woman born in the 50’s. Very thankful that my parents accepted my height because I likely wouldn’t have had 4 children.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Felicia Yan

    A cautionary tale of big pharma’s influence on eager physicians and worrisome parents. In medically treating tall girls and short boys, the line is blurred between perceived disadvantage and disease, treatment and enhancement - all at the expense of physical, psychological, and societal trauma. A little lengthy, but nonetheless historically enlightening and ethically thought-provoking.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I put this book on my to-read list because when my son was a child, we'd put him through a bunch of test to determine why he was so small for his age. The concern was coming from the medical community, not from our family, but given their concern we felt we should make sure there wasn't something wrong. The diagnosis finally was constitutional short stature and growth hormones were offered as a possible way to make him grow taller. We declined to even consider that route. After reading this book I put this book on my to-read list because when my son was a child, we'd put him through a bunch of test to determine why he was so small for his age. The concern was coming from the medical community, not from our family, but given their concern we felt we should make sure there wasn't something wrong. The diagnosis finally was constitutional short stature and growth hormones were offered as a possible way to make him grow taller. We declined to even consider that route. After reading this book, I felt even more strongly that we'd made the right choice and I understand much better the context for what we went through. Even for someone without the background experience I have, I think the book is a good eye-opener for how the medical care system works in this country and the world. It is a good companion piece to Shannon Brownlee's Overtreated. It provides a very concrete example of how treatment innovations lead to more care (and higher costs)without much,if any,improvement in health or quality of life. It raises very important questions of bio-medical ethics that need to be addressed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonah

    It took me a little while to get into it, but I liked this book. I felt that it was a major weakness of this book that it didn't do a good job of looking at what factors are actually involved in height- the things named are fairly clearly not well researched, and plenty of more common causes of short stature- such as celiac- are completely unmentioned. But the book does a great job of telling the saga of human growth hormone production and distribution, and a reasonably good job with human impact It took me a little while to get into it, but I liked this book. I felt that it was a major weakness of this book that it didn't do a good job of looking at what factors are actually involved in height- the things named are fairly clearly not well researched, and plenty of more common causes of short stature- such as celiac- are completely unmentioned. But the book does a great job of telling the saga of human growth hormone production and distribution, and a reasonably good job with human impact, and showing how it gets sold. This book makes for a warning about normalization, the FDA, and trusting the medical industry.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    Repetitive,and at least 100 pages too long, but overall a good, well-researched book on the history of efforts to intervene medically to make girls shorter (DES being the main method) or boys taller (growth hormone injections). Addresses the arbitrariness of defining what is too short/tall, the cultural and historical relativism of the concern, the massive costs and unforeseen iatrogenic effects of the interventions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    When this book was at its best, it was chilling...but it was also (as noted by other reviewers) repetitive and a bit rambly. Better --and more-- use of the personal narratives would have vastly improved the book for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    Since I have two close relatives who were dwarves, this book was of special interest. They both lived too early to receive any hormonal intervention, although surgeyr was tried to make their bowed legs straight.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    This was too long and was repetitive. I skimmed through most of it. Great info on the subject... I had no idea about the extremes that doctors went to in order to stunt the growth of girls. Neat to read and look at though, even if you don't finish it! This was too long and was repetitive. I skimmed through most of it. Great info on the subject... I had no idea about the extremes that doctors went to in order to stunt the growth of girls. Neat to read and look at though, even if you don't finish it!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Repetitive, especially regarding concerns about adult height, CJD, and the lack of medical evidence from which physicians were working, but overall an interesting history and perspective on medicalization of height.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Check out my review at http://bookaweekwithjen.blogspot.com/... Check out my review at http://bookaweekwithjen.blogspot.com/...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This was a very interesting, well-researched book on a subject that I knew nothing about. It was frightening to discover the lengths that people will go to for normalcy. I highly recommend this book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Very readable history of the mistakes made in the rush to find a "cure" for a non-illness. Very readable history of the mistakes made in the rush to find a "cure" for a non-illness.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Probably too long a book but still a fascinating study of medicine in the service of human vanity and the longing for any little advantage.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height by Susan Cohen (2009) Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height by Susan Cohen (2009)

  17. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    95% about short boys and maybe 5% about tall girls. Mostly about hGH. It got kind of boring after awhile.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Wonderful book about the history of treating tall girls with estrogen and short children with growth hormone and the role of industry, physicians and parents.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lucille Day

  20. 4 out of 5

    Beckie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lucas W Wright

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kat Lynch

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kit

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sungeeta

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