Monday, January 11, 2010

Curb Your Victimhood

Did anyone catch the "Husbands' Secret Lives" episode on Oprah last week? It was totally juicy, with three women revealing how they had been completely duped by their spouses who were carrying on extramarital affairs, etc. -- one even had five girlfriends. The story that really stuck with me, however, was that of Barbra, who not only came to realize her husband, Michael Mastromarino, was a drug addict and a cheat, but also that his multimillion-dollar business -- selling body tissue for transplants and bone grafts -- was being supplied by stolen skin, bones and other body parts from deceased men and women.

It was a gruesome story, but I couldn't help but feel a little Larry David-ish when one of the victims' daughters (Karen) came on to rip Barbra -- who knew nothing about her husband's devious acts -- a new asshole, and then got Oprah (and Barbra) to turn around and comfort her, saying there was no comparison between what Barbra was going through and the "nightmare" she (Karen) was living:

Karen's 74-year-old father James -- who had requested no autopsy and to be quickly cremated -- was one of Michael's victims. "What was done to our father cannot be undone," she said. "This wasn't like a stranger broke in my home and stole a ring. They stole parts of my father, my family, my memories. All of it."

Your family? Your memories? All of it? Well, not really. Sure, it certainly would have been preferable for this to have not had happened (no one would wish this horrible thing on anyone). But on the spectrum of bad things that could have happened to my indigent father in the last years of his life, I would MUCH RATHER have something like this happen while he's DEAD than have him abused in his nursing home or neglected by his caretakers. (I might even find some solace in the fact that Dad likely helped someone in need.) Barbra, on the other hand, now has to pick up the pieces and support her young children as a single mother, and live with the fact that her entire marriage was a sham. To me, that's far worse.

The real outrage should have been on the barely mentioned fact that Barbra's husband and his associates knowingly sold tissue and bones infected with hepatitis, HIV and cancer to transplant patients, putting thousands of people at risk. (Mastromarino is now serving 25 to 75 years in prison for his crimes.) If I were Karen, I might have a little more compassion for the people -- and the loved ones of those -- living in constant fear that they may have received contaminated body parts rather than trying to convince the world that all of her memories had been "stolen."

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