Criticize the FDA? <i>Moi</i>?

We at Catallarchy have been a little harsh on the FDA and over-regulation/prohibition of medicines and medical devices lately (here, here, and here), so what's a little more? An FDA advisory panel is hearing debate on whether to lift the moratorium on silicone breast implants. My prediction? Just like the last time: the advisory panel will be in favor, and the FDA will ignore that advice.

This debate has its similarities to the debate about making birth control approved for sale over-the-counter. It touches on many of the same culture war issues, and many of the same players are involved. One would think that one's opinion on the first issue would reliably predict that person's opinion on the second; but such is not always the case, which is what makes this interesting. I'd say the moralizing birth-control-restrictors often oppose silicone implants, but many of the birth control liberals are split on the silicone issue. (Hell, even certain faux-libertarian females won't go to bat for breast implants). Indeed, the debate is more complex in several ways, along several axes.

Back in 1992, a whole 13 years ago, and just when I was starting to truly appreciate breasts, Virginia Postrel outlined these axes, and the article stands up well over time:

But the breast-implant debate reveals at least three other fundamental divisions -- about the interests of consumers, of women and of science -- that reflect very different sets of values and ways of understanding the world: How much justification must consumers give the government for their choices? Are women liberated by rediscovering their natural femininity or by seizing control over their biological destinies? And, at least for the sake of public policy, how do we sort evidence from anecdote?

The last one usually gets the short shrift in media debates (emotional arguments about rights often take center stage against dry arguments about statistical truths), but I actually think in the long run it is more important.

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