Tag: medicine

Nearing a Sunset on Monsters

 

shutterstock_200494427Some months back, I wrote about how the Guinea worm — a vile and disgusting parasite that used to infect millions in Sub-Saharan Africa — is now on the brink of extinction. There is more good news on the war against two similar parasites. First, and amazingly when you consider just how recently we were powerless against it, polio appears to also be on the verge of eradication. Second, and though we’ve a very long way to go yet, we’re making significant headway against malaria. It’s entirely possible that both of these scourges could follow smallpox into the history books within our lifetimes; with polio, perhaps within the next decade or so.

It’s difficult to overstate how significant the progress has been, especially in Africa, or how heavy the human cost these diseases have wrought. As recently as the year 2000, malaria killed about 850,000 annually; it’s about half that number now. Polio infected about 350,000 in 1988; it was down to a few hundred cases earlier this decade and it’s in the low dozens now, restricted to three countries (Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan). When you consider the human costs endured by so many people for so long, it’s little wonder why some places have struggled to develop.

Getting over the finish lines with these diseases will be an extraordinarily difficult, expensive, and unspectacular affair. For polio — for which the vectors are relatively easy to control — this likely means keeping up what we’ve been doing, albeit under awful circumstances with regard to Pakistan and Afghanistan (bear in mind that polio vaccination programs there were, quite literally, subject to a CIA-sponsored conspiracy). For malaria, it’ll take an ever-changing combination of strategies, including vaccination (a weak one has already been approved and stronger ones appear to be in the pipeline), new products, better deployment of existing ones, mucking around with mosquito genomes, and lots of monitoring. So, so much monitoring.

Denying The Last Gamble

 

IMG_0660Public policy, like life, is always a matter of trade-offs. The difficulty often arises not so much in determining what is good and what is bad, but in comparing goods’ value to each other, especially when they come into conflict. Further complicating matters, this weighing of risk varies for any given individual depending on his situation: under some circumstances, risks that would be otherwise unthinkable may well be prudent and wise. And the only thing more difficult than anticipating changed circumstances is accurately forecasting people’s reaction to them.

This complexity — or, more specifically, the inherent difficulties in understanding this complexity — is one of the best arguments against Progressivism: no one is smart enough to be a philosopher king and attempts to approximate one through law and regulation are doubly doomed to failure. Leaving people to make their own choices and evaluate their own risks not only wins on its philosophical appeal to liberty (no small thing that), but also on terms of pure pragmatism.

It’s hard to imagine an issue that better illustrates the absurdity — and immorality — of Progressive’s we-know-what’s-best-for-you attitude than when it comes to access to experimental drugs for the terminally ill. Whatever benefits the FDA provides in terms of public safety and accountability (I’ve mixed feelings on the matter), they’re non-existent when it comes to dealing with the terminally ill. In what may well be a first, both National Review’s Wesley Smith and Reason’s Nick Gillespie both applaud the California Legislature (yes, you read that right) for passing a bill that would lax regulations for the dying which, unfortunately, met a sad end under Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto pen. As Smith notes in what can only be described as one of the most perfect ironies of all time, Brown also recently signed legislation — and with much fanfare — allowing assisted suicide.

Member Post

 

Question for the migraine sufferers: For those who get histamine / allergen migraines (be they from cheese, red wine, etc.) do any antihistamines work to stave off or mitigate the effects? Was at my in laws this evening, was given a slice of gluten free cheesecake, only upon leaving an hour later did I enquire […]

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How Can You Not Know This?

 

shutterstock_172810082I have a peculiar area of expertise: I know a lot about death. Well, more precisely, I know more than the average person about bereavement, especially sudden, violent bereavement. I have come by this through my own losses, dedicated study, and, especially, through nearly 15 years of  experience as a law enforcement chaplain. Law enforcement officers often have the sad duty of performing what is known as “death notification,” and it is one they gladly hand off to the chaplain whenever possible. It is one of the subjects I teach at our academy.

A few years ago, I began to receive invitations from members of the medical profession who wished to learn more about death notification. The first time the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Surgeons asked me to address their meeting, I was puzzled. After all, these were doctors: highly educated professionals that must regularly (if reluctantly) come face-to-face with death. “Don’t you know more about this than I do?” I asked.

Apparently not. So I went and spoke about the very early stages of bereavement: the first seconds, minutes, hours after news of a loved one’s decease has been transmitted. And as the assembled surgeons nodded, took notes, and intelligently asked what seemed to me pretty basic questions, I kept thinking how can you not know this? 

Member Post

 

I visited my doctor a couple of weeks ago.  I’m one of those lucky persons who has weight issues because I’m pre-diabetic, not the usual issue of weight gain leading to diabetes (heredity can be a curse).  Anyway I mostly control it through keeping carbs low (most of the time), and trying to get exercise […]

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I don’t want to distract from Tom Meyers’ contraception thread by asking this question there, as it’s only peripherally related. It’s a simple question, but I suspect that the answer is not so simple. Even now, decades after “the pill” became a normal regimen for young women whether they are sexually active or not, do […]

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Member Post

 

  Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome is a congenital malformation that occurs in about one in every 4,500 girls.  The Müllerian duct fails to develop and they are born without a vagina or uterus (warning: graphic medical image).  They are, however, born with functioning ovaries and therefore develop typical secondary sex characteristics and can have children, although through […]

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