Manila Standard Today - ‘SUE YOUR DOCTOR’ by Maricel Cruz

A major supporter of the reproductive health bill on Tuesday said Senator Vicente Sotto III should have sued his wife’s doctor for misinforming him that his first-born son died because his mother had taken contraceptives during her pregnancy.

A day after Sotto recalled the death of his son 37 years ago in a speech before the Senate, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said the doctor had kept the senator in the dark about his son’s real health condition.

“Hearing him say that he was told by his doctor that the cause of [his son’s] heart disease was the intake of pills, I would strongly suggest that he sue his doctor for all this mental anguish they have been suffering because it is definitely not true,” Garin, a doctor, said in a TV interview.

Garin said the senator’s wife, who got pregnant despite the use of contraceptives, might not have been taking the pills daily or in the correct dosage.

“This is where the problem is. We have respectable people like Senator Sotto misinforming the public…..With the misinformation, many lives are being sacrificed, many people are put in  danger because of this misinformation,” she said.

Garin spoke as the House of Representatives began its period of amendments on House Bill 4244.

The technical working group assigned to work on the amendments is expected to submit its report to the plenary soon, and the House is expected to approve the measure on second reading in the coming session days.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II confirmed that the House leadership instructed its members to attend the sessions beginning Tuesday for the RH amendments.

In fact, Gonzales said two panel will be formed to serve as technical working group (to discuss the amendments as well as avoid repetitious long debates on the floor.

Also on Tuesday, former Health secretary Esperanza Cabral questioned Sotto’s use of his son’s death 37 years ago to justify his opposition to the RH bill.

“When Senator Sotto asked God why this happened to him, he did not receive an answer immediately but after 37 years, he has realized that it was because he was given the mission to fight the Reproductive Health Bill,” Cabral said.

The former Health secretary said that contrary to Sotto’s claims, condoms, hormonal contraceptives, and intrauterine devices have not been shown by scientific methods to cause “weak hearts” in babies born following their mothers’ use of these contraceptives “any more than brushing or not brushing your teeth in the morning has been shown to cause ‘weak hearts’ in babies.”

She said Sotto had fallen into the fallacy of attributing cause and effect because one event followed another.

“My wife used contraceptives, then my son was born with a weak heart; therefore my son’s weak heart was caused by my wife’s use of contraceptives. Following that line of argument, if at the time of Vincent Paul’s conception, Senator Sotto failed to brush his teeth, it could be argued that his son was born with a weak heart because he failed to brush his teeth before having sex with Mrs. Sotto,” she added.

Cabral said the Sottos’ physician, Dr. Carmen Enverga Santos, has been dead for many years and could not confirm or deny Sotto’s story, but an inspection of the hospital records and the death certificate of his son might help show the real cause of his death.

“I hope the good senator will make these public,” she said.

The principal author of the Senate version of the bill, Senator Pia Cayetano, countered Sotto’s arguments in a statement Monday, noting that there were no credible scientific studies establishing a link between the use of contraceptives and birth defects.

She added that in the 1970s, it was possible that doctors were unable to diagnose the true condition of Sotto’s infant son.

Despite these arguments, Senator Antonio Trillianes IV spoke out against the RH bill, as did Nacionalista Party spokesman Robert Ace Barbers, who said he believed too, like Sotto, that the death of his son in 1992 was caused by his wife’s use of birth control pills.