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. 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 and industry sponsored science and medical doctors relying on it have been responsible for accidentally, intentionally, or incompetently infecting, sickening, maiming, or killing millions of people.
Even if you just count the number of people who have been severely harmed by the pesticide DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), 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 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 are talking tens of millions, and likely hundreds of millions of people.
But you get my point.
I’ve read estimates that peg the number of deaths in the United States caused by medical mistakes at more than 400,000 annually.1 2 3 These sort of errors apparently now make up the third leading cause of death in our country, behind heart disease and cancer.2 3
Of course, given all those charming old cigarette ads sponsored by industry and 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 during 1955-19634 (and millions more around the world), you can even make a good case that modern medicine and industry science and clueless doctors have 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.”5
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.”6 7
Somehow, the idea that so-called 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. It may be one of the main reasons why Americans are getting sicker and sicker,8 9 while of course the pharmaceutical industry is getting richer,10 11 more powerful and dangerously more influential.
At some point in the future, the proverbial light switch will switch on, the light will begin to flicker, and the American mainstream will exclaim, “Oh my God, what the hell have we done.”
1 James JT. A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care. Journal of Patient Safety September 2013; 9(3): 122-128.
2 Hospital Errors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S., and New Hospital Safety Scores Show Improvements Are Too Slow. Hospital Safety Score Oct. 23, 2013.
3 Allen M. How Many Die From Medical Mistakes In U.S. Hospitals?. NPR Sept. 20, 2013.
4 Fisher BL. The SV40 Virus: Has Tainted Polio Vaccine Caused An Increase in Cancer?. NVIC Sept. 10, 2003.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Safety: Cancer, Simian Virus 40 (SV40), and Polio Vaccine Fact Sheet. CDC Page last modified Oct. 22, 2007.
6 Roberts J. Polio: the virus and the vaccine. The Ecologist May 1, 2004.
7 Pugh M. Roman Rule: The Eternal Empire.
8 Sottile L. Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America. The Atlantic Dec. 19, 2013.
9 Krisberg K. Report: Americans dying earlier, getting sicker than those in other high-income nations. Science Blogs Jan. 25, 2013.
10 Anderson R. Pharmaceutical industry gets high on fat profits. BBC News Nov. 6, 2014.
11 Global Pharmaceutical Industry—Statistics & Facts. Statista N.d.