The idea that you can give someone a disease, or something worse than that disease, by giving them a medicine designed to cure that disease or prevent the patient from contracting it and spreading it to others is so counter-intuitive, so unethical, so downright insane that it is unthinkable, unconscionable, unbelievable. After all, isn’t the first principle of medicine to “first, do no harm”? And yet…
I think one of the greatest songs of all time is the one by Gary Jules (popularized by that great 80s group Tears For Fears) that starts off…
All around me are familiar faces / Worn out places, worn out faces / Bright and early for their daily races / Going nowhere, going nowhere / And their tears are filling up their glasses / No expression, no expression / Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow / No tomorrow, no tomorrow
It really is a Mad world, mad world. The song is now probably permanently stuck in my head. I hum it to myself constantly as I research the endless examples in which “modern” medicine or science has been responsible for accidentally, intentionally, or incompetently infecting, sickening, maiming, or killing millions of people (… mind you, I’m being conservative here).
Even if you just count the number of people who have been severely harmed by the pesticide DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), smoking cigarettes, the Salk inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), the Sabin oral polio vaccine (OPV), the drug DES (Diethylstilbestrol), and the drug Thalidomide, or the US syphilis experimentation victims in Tuskegee, Alabama and Guatemala and Nepal, and probably countless other places… the number of casualties is mind boggling. Then add to this odorous mix the millions of people who have died or been seriously injured from taking tainted prescription drugs or drugs that were simply poorly conceived of in the first place. You’re talking tens of millions, and likely hundreds of millions.
But you get my point.
I’ve read estimates that peg the number of deaths in the US caused by medical mistakes at about 400,000 annually. These sort of errors apparently now make up the third leading cause of death in our country, behind heart disease and cancer. Of course, given all those charming old cigarette ads endorsed by science and hundreds of thousands of doctors, and the cancer-causing SV40 (simian virus 40) which contaminated the early polio vaccines given to some 100 million Americans (and millions more around the world), you can even make a good case that modern medicine and science actually contributed to heart disease and cancer as well. Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) admit that up to 30 million Americans “could have received an SV40 contaminated dose of vaccine.”
Sure, you remember those Chesterfield ads… “Good — they’ve got to be good! Night and Day… 152,503 physicians (in the U.S.A.) guard 122 million American lives!” Or how about the ones for Camels… “More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” Oh, and Lucky Strikes… “20,679 Physicians say Luckies are less irritating. ‘It’s toasted’ Your Throat Protection against irritation against cough” … That’s definitely one of my favorite Mad Men scenes.
Then there was that prophetic warning by Dr. Bernice Eddy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) before Congress in 1972… “If you continue to allow these contaminated [polio] vaccines to go out, I guarantee you that over the next 20 years you will have epidemics of cancer unlike the world has ever seen.”
Somehow, the idea that medicines, including vaccines, can actually make you physically, mentally, and emotionally worse off (sometimes much worse off) hasn’t quite sunk into the American psyche. That’s why it is unfathomable to the average American that, for example, the live attenuated virus MMR vaccine that we’re injecting into 90-95% of our children may actually be causing some of them to get measles and spread the disease that nearly everyone is blaming on those horrible, socially irresponsible parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. The phenomenon is called “shedding.” (Note I’m referring to the phenomenon of kids getting the measles vaccine and contracting and spreading the disease. The phenomenon of blaming the parents of unvaccinated kids, that’s, well… stupidity.)
The same for the nasal spray version of that wonderfully “effective” flu vaccine.
All you had to do was listen to the words of the man himself, Jonas Salk — the inventor of the first polio vaccine back in the 1950s… “Live virus vaccines against influenza and paralytic polio, for example, may in each instance cause the disease it is intended to prevent… ”
There, see… I told you so.
It truly is a Mad world, mad world. I just love that song. My favorite cover of it is by Julia Westlin. Beautiful.