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Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

2048px-ebola_virus_virion

The nation has become gripped with fear, a healthy fear, of the Ebola virus and how easily it might spread out of control in our crowded urban centers. The fear has not yet turned to panic, and one can feel the struggle of our public health personnel as they try mightily to prevent panic and still do what must be done to prevent a full blown outbreak here at home. Naturally, people wonder if the government is telling us the truth about the minimal danger it claims Ebola poses.

So, are we being told the truth about Ebola? Is the government lying to us simply in order to prevent a panic?

It all depends on how one defines terms such as truth and lying. There is the unvarnished truth, therapeutic doses of truth (which contains lying by omission), etc. We do well to stop and consider the full dimensionality of the moment we are in, and consider the historical lessons from the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. Critiques offered here are not political, and indeed there is plenty of bipartisan criticism to go around. We are not in a political moment. We are in an American moment, facing an indiscriminate killer. Sound public policy will require rising above petty politics and sniping, while seriously evaluating current and historic national policies that will drive this crisis one way or the other. We must leave politics behind, as we are at the water’s edge.

Currently we have an administration in Washington that sees no need to restrict air travel from the endemic areas in Africa, has committed 3,000 troops to fight the epidemic in Africa (with no detailed articulation of what that mission might be), and has no articulated plan for how to bring them all back safely.

At this writing, we have in Dallas a Liberian who lied on his immigration papers regarding contact with an infected person at home. He reported to a hospital in Dallas when he felt ill, was misdiagnosed, and sent home with antibiotics. As his illness progressed he called an ambulance, vomited in the parking lot of his complex, and has exposed at least 100 people who are now under surveillance, and many under quarantine. Further, many parents are keeping their children home from school, as some of the exposed are children.

There are no quarantine stations to which people are being sent to wait out the 21 days it can take Ebola to manifest itself. Indeed, some of the people being monitored have attempted to leave their homes. These policies and lapses have the makings of an outbreak of unprecedented magnitude. They can also generate a panic which could cripple the national economy if people begin to lock themselves up at home. So, what to do?

First, we do well to remember some history from the AIDS pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, we were told that this virus could only be contracted through transmission of bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. All true, but incomplete. We were told that there was no evidence that HIV could be transmitted by oral sex, and that was an early, deadly error. Many lesser authorities would extrapolate from this that stomach acid would kill any virus swallowed during oral sex.

“No evidence,” in science does not translate into, “Impossible.” It simply means that there is not a study establishing the behavior as a risk factor. It turns out that the lining of the esophagus contains a great many cells that are a part of the mucosal immune system. They transport viruses and bacteria across to waiting immune system cells, the very cells HIV attacks. So in those early days, in the absence of definitive proscriptions on sexual behavior, and before condoms and dental dams were recommended for use during oral sex, many may well have contracted the virus through that transmission vector.

Then there was the disparity between what the CDC was saying and what the AIDS activist (read homosexual) community was advocating with condom use. This is a key piece of history that shows what happens when political and ideological issues run up hard against scientific truth, and the blind spots in the extant data that well-informed scientific and medical judgement can fill in. The following is from a series I wrote five years ago dealing with the condom issue as it related at the time to AIDS activists excoriating Cardinal O’Connor for not giving church approval for their use in combating HIV. What is striking is the very different posture assumed by the NIH and CDC. From the article:

Certainly Cardinal O’Connor and the Bishops knew all too well the rise in promiscuity following widespread access to the pill in 1968. They knew the CDC data linked here which show the steady rise in STD rates. (Click on “all slides”). Fast-forwarding to today for a moment, Research out of Harvard agrees with the Church that Condoms can make HIV worse in Africa, among other places.

In the mid-80’s, the New York Times, the self-styled ‘paper of record’ carried several articles which cast a long shadow over the absolutist claims of condom safety by AIDS activists.

On August 24, 1987 the Times reported “20% of Condom Batches Fail”.

On May 12, 1988 the Times reported that 33 million condoms had been recalled in 1987 with a failure rate of 4/1000. The paper failed to reconcile those numbers with the 20% failure rate reported in August of the previous year. The paper did report that the 4/1000 was an improvement over the 4.8/1000 rate in 1986. These rates for domestic condoms were better than the 6.5/1000 in 1987 and 7.3/1000 in 1986 for imported condoms.

On August 18, 1987 the Times ran a major article entitled “Condoms: Experts Fear False Sense Of Security”. From the Article:

“MANY health officials have begun to voice concern that the campaign to encourage condom use to curb the spread of AIDS may be misunderstood, creating a false sense of security in people whose behavior continues to put them in danger.

“Experts say condoms should minimize the spread of the AIDS virus among the heterosexual population, especially when used with spermicides containing nonoxynol-9, which has been found to kill the virus in test tubes. The experts say this justifies recent campaigns promoting the devices.

“But they stress that it is unknown just how much protection condoms offer. The officials note that condoms have been widely rejected as a method of birth control because they frequently fail, and say the devices may be no better – in fact, may be worse – at curtailing AIDS. They warn that sexually active men and women should not assume that they are protected simply because they use prophylactics.”

The article is filled with notable quotes from experts, all expressing doubts.

It was an interesting time. Because the spermicide nonoxynol-9 was found to have killed HIV at high concentrations in test tubes, it was added as a lubricant and fail-safe against condom tearing or slipping. In recent years we have learned two devastating truths.

1. Nonoxynol-9 in the low concentration on condoms is ineffective against HIV.

2. Nonoxynol-9 in the low concentration on condoms causes ulcerations in the vaginas of women who use them frequently, such as sex workers. This means that N-9 does not kill the virus when condoms tear, and facilitates infection by compromising the vaginal and rectal epithelia.

Finally, a week after the desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by ACT-UP (reported in Part I), the Times reported that The National Women’s Health Network requested the FDA to remove approval for two new condoms:

“A public-interest health group said today that it had petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw marketing clearance for two new types of condoms because neither had been tested for effectiveness in preventing pregnancy or protecting against disease.

“The National Women’s Health Network, a nonprofit group based in Washington, charged that the Federal agency had erred in approving the devices under a legal provision that waives testing requirements if a new device is substantially like one already approved.”

It was an interesting time. Anti-retroviral medications were being hastened to market. New condoms were being hastened to market all in a desperate attempt to throw the entire arsenal at this virus. But desperate measures can have unintended consequences.

In time, what will be most remembered is the stubborn insistence of so many to having sex outside of a life’s commitment to mutual monogamy with ONE individual in the face of a disease that is so devastating.

Where were the AIDS activists when these reports were being published by the Times?

A candid and sober reflection on those early missteps in assessing HIV and its spread, what we thought was safe, and how wrong many of those assurances were should temper and guide our steps with an overabundance of caution with a far deadlier virus that threatens to erupt into a full-blown pandemic.

In part II we’ll consider the missteps being made with Ebola, and how to correct them while there is still time.

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My article in today’s HeadlineBistro.

The recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has triggered alarm among various quarters for his self-professed admiration of health care rationing as seen in other countries such as Britain’s National Health Service. The issue here moves well past the politics and begs the question: How have we as a society become so deadened to the value of human life, that in our abundance of wealth and blessing from God we could seriously entertain the word “rationing” as applied to health care for our elders, for the poorest among us?

This move is a game-changer on so very many levels. Juxtaposed with the almost weekly reports of breakthroughs in cancer therapy, treatment of chronic conditions and adult stem cell therapies, this is not only an odd moment for considering rationing health care, but a dire threat to the advancement of science. A society that commits itself to death as a solution to its self-inflicted financial wounds cannot long endure as a pioneer of extending and improving the quality of life through research in the biomedical sciences; not when the government that funds such research is busy eliminating the need for it.

So how did we get here?

Twenty years ago when I was studying and working as a psychiatric research assistant at Columbia University, I was invited by one of the faculty to attend a talk being given by a medical economist. The topic was the new system of managed care and HMOs. In this talk, the economist made a very prescient observation that I took as a harbinger. He said that increased access to high quality health care does not make for a healthier population. It creates a larger, more chronically ill population of people who will exceed the lifespan dictated by their illness by twenty to thirty years.

Consider those who undergo coronary bypass surgery, who have pacemakers, treatments for cardiac dysrhythmias, diabetes, HIV, hypertension, vascular disease, COPD, cancer, etc. Advances in medical treatments and access to those treatments produces a population who live decades longer, mostly by taking medications daily. The longer we live, the greater the likelihood of new conditions arising needing surgical and medical interventions. All of this costs money.

The economist went further. Are we prepared to extend social security benefits to an ever-burgeoning population of retirees? Can the civil servant pension systems cope with people who retire after twenty years in their early forties and collect pensions well into their eighties and nineties? What do we expect from managed care?

Two decades later we are now being forced to address these questions. It seems that death is being proffered as the solution. Ridding ourselves of the elderly not only saves Medicare dollars, but also saves social security dollars as well as civil servant pension payouts. Cutting Medicaid services also saves on welfare and related money. Such solutions to vexing financial difficulties requires little intellect and even less heart and soul.

Death is cheap and easy.

The coarsening that has led us down this path began with the sexual revolution and legalization of abortion. Mother Teresa of Calcutta cut straight to the heart of the issue when she stated that it is a poverty that a child must die so that we may live as we wish. That has been the great selling point of abortion, that babies are an economic encumbrance that will hold us back from being and doing all that we wish to be and do.

The coarsening continued to unfold with the “Death with Dignity” movement, which really appeals to the same obsessive need for radical control and moral autonomy that has gripped us ever tighter during the past five decades of the sexual revolution. Now we have a political appointee whose duties could foreseeably include saving the nation money by institutionalizing a system of treatment refusals that make the worst of the HMOs pale in comparison.

In Immunology, the process of opsonization – the marking of a pathogen for destruction – has its etymology in the Greek word meaning “to mark for death.”

We opsonize the unborn, the poor, the elderly. With the steady rise in autism diagnoses, which are breaking the backs of school districts across the country (one out of every 110 children), will we return to eugenic sterilization that is still Constitutional Law, enshrined in the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision?

We cannot absolve ourselves of culpability in this trajectory toward the Culture of Death. Pope Paul VI warned us of this in Humanae Vitae back in 1968. Pope John Paul II warned us repeatedly for over twenty-five years in all of his writings, in which he gave us the roadmap, philosophically and theologically, back to a Culture of Life.

We should not deceive ourselves: The raised issue of health care rationing represents significant momentum for the Culture of Death that will require a muscular response to slow, halt and reverse. We need to become very vocal in our affirmation of life in all of its stages. We are in dire straits, but we have all the answers before us, and all of the graces of Heaven for the asking.

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Black Bart writes in the Washington Post his rationale.

Let’s focus on Black Bart’s statement here:

“Throughout history, executive orders have carried the full force and effect of law and have served as an important means of implementing public policy. Perhaps the most famous executive order was the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. More recently, in 2007, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13435, restricting embryonic stem-cell research. This executive order protected the sanctity of life and was “applauded” and “welcomed” by pro-life advocates. That these same people would now claim that President Obama’s executive order maintaining the sanctity of life is not worth the paper it is written on is disingenuous at best.”

This is representative of the theme running through his article. Black Bart isn’t trying to deceive us so much as he is trying to deceive himself. The two executive orders quoted differ from the one he sought, and gained, in that they did not attempt to nullify existing law-a process Constitutionally reserved to the legislature and the courts.

In the case of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln recognized that an executive order could NOT override the Constitution by freeing slaves in states of the Union, such as Maryland and Kentucky, as these were Constitutionally guaranteed rights. However, in his Constitutional capacity of Commander-in-Chief he reasoned that the Confederate States, having seceded, had no claim upon the U.S. Constitution, and therefore no rights. The EP only freed slaves of the Confederacy as a means of depriving the CSA of their labor base.

Therefore, Stupak gets it badly wrong on the EP as an executive order.

In the stem cell ban, President Bush was blazing new territory, and was ahead of the Congress on this issue. There was no Congressional law being abrogated, no Constitutional right being abrogated. Bush wasn’t addressing the legality of ESC research, but only what the Federal Government was willing to pay for.

Again, Stupak gets it badly wrong.

Black Bart voted in favor of Hillary Clinton’s initiative to broaden American-sponsored abortion in third world nations. He voted twice to block bills that would defund Planned Parenthood.

He came to this issue with blood all over his hands. He announced last November that he would vote for Obama’s bill with or without anti-abortion language. In so doing, he signaled Obama that there was no real principled opposition to the final vote. In our hearts, we were desperate for someone, ANYONE, to block this legislation, in part because of its sponsorship of abortion. We hoped and prayed that even one with blood on his hands would possibly come to his senses.

We were wrong.

We were wrong to vest so much faith in such a man (though not wrong to hope).

What did we learn? We learned that there is no such thing as a pro-life block in the Democrat Party worth courting or cultivating. They simply used our time and dissipated our energies. Raw power is all they know, or respect. They need to experience the raw power of the electorate come November.

The Republicans are only marginally better. However, they will in all likelihood be given another chance at power. If they blow it this time, they’ll be in the wilderness for a very long time.

Black Bart has betrayed us all, especially his Catholic roots. Worst of all, he betrayed himself.

I pray that this man lives a VERY long life, well into his nineties, to see and loathe the evil that he has helped to unleash, and which was his to stop. When he finally meets Jesus, I pray for him the mercy that he has denied for countless babies who will be slaughtered because of this man’s votes.

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In a town hall meeting in his home district, Stupak announced that even if his amendment failed, he would vote for the health care bill.

So, if he could leverage anti-abortion language, he would. If he couldn’t, rather than force a failure on Obama and a return to the bargaining table, Stupak announced that he was not very serious about abortion all along.

Here is Stupak in his own words:

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This photo of Obama from this past Sunday’s New York Times.

The Cross.

The Halo.

The finger pointing Heavenward.

The Temple (White House).

The Sermon on the Mount.

This isn’t photojournalism. This is Marxist-style propagandizing. The Times has dropped all pretense at journalistic objectivity. They have been waging war on Christianity for decades, with Evangelicals and Catholics being their biggest targets-the so-called religious right.

Marxism has always made the state the replacement of religion, that opiate of the masses. There is no God. The state is god. It is from the state that all blessings flow, including one’s sustenance. Statist totalitarianism mandating atheism. It’s happening right before our eyes as the final push is on to grab the healthcare system. Then the government will BE god, determining who lives and who dies, and how soon.

The co-opting of the saint’s halo, the Cross, and the Messiah Himself in this photo may well be our last warning. The Times has proclaimed the New Messiah. The White House is the New Jerusalem. The picture tells all. They believe that they have won. This past Sunday was Obama’s grotesque Palm Sunday, the Messiah’s welcome parade.

The question is whose Easter will prevail? Obama’s or Christ’s?

This is our rallying point.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Senator Ben Nelson will air a defense of his traitorous vote during tonight’s University of Nebraska Holiday Bowl game.

The good Senator will reportedly say:

“I listened to you and took a common-sense approach to improve the bill. Now it lowers costs for families and small business, protects Medicare, finally guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions and reduces the deficit. And it’s not run by the government. I’m convinced this is right for Nebraska.”

No mention of government funding for abortion in exchange for all of that in a bill that 65% of Americans dislike anyway. What Nelson doesn’t get is that people have a principled opposition to abortion. This Christmas wish list of goodies will only serve to enrage people further, as their integrity is held in contempt.

Not everyone’s conscience can be bought, Senator Nelson.

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Obama-Reid-Pelosi

A picture tells a thousand words. Honest Leadership. Open Government. Words emblazoned in the background and foreground. Politicians do this when their actions are deceitful and dishonest. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

This is the Party that literally changed the locks and would not permit Republican participation in the process, who hold votes in the middle of the night, who bribe, and now according to LifeNews.com are attempting to make Medicare death panels a permanent fixture by using language that would prohibit future sessions of the House and Senate from overturning the legislation.

Now will Americans get it? This is a political party literally drunk with blood. Death is their answer to everything. November can’t come soon enough.

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