DES was not appropriately tested before being widely administered. This is true of many practices and interventions used in the hospital: not enough research has been done for safety to be certain. We think that doctors have only our best interests at heart, and at the core, they do; however, they are also motivated by other factors, from greed to politics. I don’t claim to know why DES was prescribed before being researched, but we do know that it happened.
This is proof that doctors are not perfect, nor are they always careful. Certain voices against homebirth claim that the herbs and treatments midwives used were either copied from obstetricians or administered before proper research has been done. The truth is that much of what midwives do is knowledge passed down from midwife to midwife throughout the centuries. Their treatments are backed by centuries of experience, and it is the test of time that has proven their methods effective. That is the truest test of all, in my opinion.
For any drug to be tested, it must be used on someone or something. Someone has to be the first to try it for the effects of the drug or treatment to be known, so truly there is no drug that has ever been research before being used. You have to use the drug to test it. Midwives used treatments that have been known for centuries to be safe and effective, which were probably administered before proper research was done. You have to try something to know if it works; someone has to be the research subject. Doctors are just as guilty of the “crime” they accuse midwives of committing, if not more. They sometimes use drugs, such as DES, without testing them, and even drugs that were researched before widely prescribed were at some point given to a patient prior to being studied as someone had to take the drug for the study to occur.
For the record, DES didn’t lower the number of miscarriages. Even if it had, a great price was paid by the mother, her fetus and her future children. We all know how dangerous that trial turned out to be, and it didn’t even accomplish its goal. It had many unwanted and severe side effects, just like many technologies used today by doctors who only want to help. How many drugs have been FDA approved and prescribed before being properly tested? DES is not the only one. You can turn on the TV and see commercials about law firms looking for clients to join a class action law suit against drug companies for distributing certain drugs that turned out to be harmful, such as Ortho Evra or Vioxx.
Before you fill a prescription for a drug, read the information about the side effects. Especially if it is a new drug, research the studies done to prove its safety and effectiveness. Evaluate for yourself whether or not you feel the risks are worth the benefits. As is abundantly clear from DES and other harmful medications that have been recalled, you can’t trust others to do the guess work for you.