Guy Adams: Commercial forces born in the USA

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The Independent Online

In the doctor's surgery, they've leaflets advertising something called the BabyPlus. Each one costs $150 (£100), but apparently they're the latest big thing among the Hollywood celebrity crowd – and not buying one is tantamount to child abuse. So naturally, I'm tempted.

The device is basically a loud speaker which pregnant women strap to their bellies. It makes funny noises a couple of hours a day, and by "enriching the auditory environment" claims to provide a "prenatal education system" that makes your future infant more precocious.

BabyPlus children will have an "intellectual, social, creative and emotional advantage" over their peers. Allegedly. And former gymnast and Olympic gold-medallist Shannon Miller has one. In my eyes, that makes them pretty indispensable.

You never realise, until you're about to become a parent, just how brilliantly the forces of commercialism have colonised American healthcare. Since our very decision, in this realm, now affects the welfare of an unborn foetus, they can pretty much sell you anything.

I've just been invited, for example, to pay $2,000 to have blood from my future son's umbilical cord stored at a Los Angeles laboratory. It'll supposedly come in handy if he ever has an illness that could be cured with stem cell technology.

What are the chances of that? Slim, at best. But it's the only chance we'll ever get to "protect a child's future source of stem cells," said the quack. And who are we to argue?

Then there's the process of choosing a hospital for baby to be born in. It's like the process of choosing a car in the UK: you get lobbied by salesmen and sent thick glossy brochures. One from UCLA Medical Centre touted "large VIP suites," "souvenir birth certificates" and an "in-house baby photographer".

The cost is akin to buying a new car. We'll pay thousands of dollars, and an insurer will cover thousands more. Meanwhile, out on LA's streets, poor people are dying because they can't afford health cover. It's a topsy-turvy place to be born, that's for sure.

Rupert plays the fame game

A velvet rope cut the red carpet in two outside Sunday's Oscars. One lane was for "civilians" and film-stars wanting to avoid interviewers. The other was for famous people keen to enhance their profile by exchanging pleasantries with journalists.

It was instructive to see, from my seat in the press enclosure, that Oscar nominee Christopher Plummer (age: 80, film roles: circa 180) chose to take the low-profile route into the show. Meanwhile, aspiring celeb Rupert Murdoch (age: 78, film roles: nil) was led down the "fame lane" by his young wife, Wendi Deng.

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