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RLM affiliate president shares collection
of life stories from a medical perspective

May 28, 2015 - Dr. Augustine Perrotta has served for many years as the president of Birmingham-Bloomfield Right to Life in the metro Detroit area. Dr. Perrotta’s journey as a prolife leader almost never began, however.

He had been a member of Right to Life of Michigan for a long time, but when his Right to Life of Michigan field representative, Don Foster, was organizing a meeting to form an affiliate for his area, Dr. Perrotta did not plan to go to it. Intending to drive home and skip the meeting, for some reason he kept driving past his house and found himself at the meeting. He was the only one from the Birmingham/Bloomfield Hills area to show up so Don called Dr. Perrotta a gift from God. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Maybe I am supposed to be doing this,” Dr. Perrotta said.

Dr. Perrotta recently wrote a book, “A View From the Inside.” It chronicles some of his other chance encounters with people who have impacted his life, as well as other medical information and intriguing stories to please prolifers and anyone else curious about the human body and how we care for it.

The book has 15 chapters, each an interesting short story covering a diverse range of topics. He discusses Doc Holliday, Old West gunfighter and dentist. He remembers watching a Harvard hot-shot doctor humiliate a patient with leprosy during a presentation, only to be humbled in-turn by an unassuming elder physician in the audience who happened to be a prominent leprosy expert. He has fond memories of Ezzard Charles, whom he treated for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Charles once beat legendary boxer Joe Louis and was the only man to ever go the distance with Rocky Marciano.

Several of the chapters deal directly with issues that confront prolifers today. Dr. Perrotta once found himself being taken home by a date to meet her father, John J. Bonica, M.D. Professional wrestling fans may remember him as the Masked Marvel. Millions of mothers would thank him for being the pioneer of epidurals for pregnancy anesthesia. Serving as an anesthesiologist when not moonlighting between the turnbuckles, Dr. Bonica thought there had to be a better way after watching his wife almost die from complications of ether anesthesia during labor.

“Meeting him was very intimidating,” Dr. Perrotta said. “He was a man of great stature in the medical community.”

The final chapter of the book, “The Oldest Man in the World,” examines reasons some people are able to live a long life in good health. Another chapter is all about twins, detailing their growth from the earlier days in the womb. Both chapters deal with issues in the field of genetics and epigenetics. Today genetic testing has become available for the youngest members of the human family, including being able to test for diseases or defects in the womb.

“Technology has made more information available, but how that information is used really bothers me with abortion-on-demand being legal,” he said.

Conscience rights are a great concern to Dr. Perrotta as a prolife doctor. He has two chapters dealing with the issue, one on religious health care conscience for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the other about a medical school interview that turned sour when being grilled on his Catholic background and moral beliefs. Dr. Perrotta is no fan of Obamacare because of its affect on conscience rights.

“The national health care law infringes on conscience rights in several ways and medical rationing concerns in the law are very troubling,” he said.

He uses the example of the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommendation to stop prostate cancer screening after 75. Dr. Perrotta said actuaries have determined an older person with prostate cancer is more likely to die of something else than be affected by an aggressive and quickly lethal form of prostate cancer.

“Can you tell me how we distinguish between aggressive prostate cancer and the more slow moving form without a biopsy, which they discourage? That’s ageism,” he said. “That’s writing off the aged. That’s a prolife issue to me.”

The study of genetics is opening the door to highly-personalized medicine, yet the medical field seems to be moving in the other direction in some ways. One-size-fits-all screening rules don’t take into account that a 90-year-old man might be in excellent health and might live for another 20 years, as Dr. Perrotta points out in the final chapter.

Another interesting figure in the book is Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, a pioneer of bone marrow transplantation, which is a form of adult stem cell treatment. In 1970, Dr. Perrotta was privileged to be present at the first ever bone marrow transplantation from an unrelated donor, performed by Dr. Thomas. Having seen the field of stem cell research progress over decades, Dr. Perrotta thinks the hype and unrealized cures promised by human embryonic stem cell researchers is motivated more by self-interest than results.

“It is media hype motivated by technology companies,” he said. “The commercialization of cells derived from a human embryo resulting in its death is a stark contrast to the morally unobjectionable and effective use of adult stem cells.”

Besides hoping people take away some good prolife points from the book, Dr. Perrotta is donating 10 percent of his royalties to the Right to Life of Michigan Educational Fund to help prolife educational efforts. “A View from the Inside” can be found on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. For more information and preview of the book you can visit the book website. To order the Kindle eBook, paperback or hardcover versions you can click on the icon for Amazon or Barnes & Noble in the upper right corner of the book website page.

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