Swine Flu

Apr 302009

Admittedly, I tend to be a bit of a worrier. While I can always articulate my reasons for worrying about something, I can be lead astray by my worries. Consequently, to counteract that tendency, I’m always very interested in to arguments that something isn’t really much cause for concern. However, I do need facts and reasons, not merely claims like “don’t worry about that” or “nothing bad happened last time” or “this other thing is even more worrisome.” I want to understand the issue, not to be placated.

Hence, I was very interested to read this LA Times op-ed on why the swine flu isn’t likely to cause a pandemic. Much to my delight, the reasons not to worry integrate quite nicely with my basic knowledge of evolutionary theory, including the relative success of the common cold relative to the failure of ebola. I won’t quote any portion, as the whole op-ed should be read.

If only someone could do the same for my worries about the prospect of hyperinflation.

Objectivist Roundup

Apr 302009

The latest Objectivist Roundup has been posted at One Reality. Go check it out!

PDF version of "Health Care is Not a Right"

Apr 292009

In anticipation of the nationwide April 15 Tea Parties, FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine) offered free copies of Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s “Health Care is Not a Right” brochures to Objectivists to distribute at their local Tea Parties. Based on feedback from around the country, these were popular items.

I’ve since received multiple requests for more brochures, but unfortunately I’ve given them all away.

However, Tod (the original designer of the brochure) has created a nicely-formatted PDF version of Dr. Peikoff’s essay. Now anyone can download and print out copies to give out at future Tea Parties, community events, etc.

The link to this version, as well as to other OpEds and essays can be found at the main FIRM webpage.

BTW, Tod is also the creator of the Objectivist greeting cards, including the popular alternative Dec 25 “Newton Cards“.

Thanks again to everyone who helped spread Dr. Peikoff’s essay last week!

Head Trauma CT Scan

Apr 292009

While working a recent evening shift, the following dramatic case came through the ER. The patient was a 61 year old man in a bad car accident who arrived in the ER unconscious with obvious head trauma.

Here are two sample images from the CT scan of his head.

The arrows on the first image point to extensive internal bleeding and air within the skull, with gross distortion of the normally symmetric brain structures:

A second image shows more detail of the depressed skull fractures. (This is the same location as the first image but with the brightness/contrast settings altered to show bone detail as opposed to brain and soft tissue detail):

Immediately after his CT scan, he was taken to the OR for emergency neurosurgery. The last I heard, he was still alive but his future was still very uncertain.

Wednesday Open Thread #55

Apr 282009

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

Harry Potter Trailer

Apr 282009

The latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince promises to be excellent. The books’ themes have become darker and more adult as the series progresses.

The trailer also reflects this progression:

Just Say No Fast Tracking

Apr 272009

In response to this article on how the Democrats in Congress are seeking to “fast-track” some kind of health care “reform” — likely universal, mandatory insurance — Hannah Krening wrote the following letter to Colorado’s two senators:

Dear Senators Bennet and Udall,

I have read the recent Reuters article and want to register my vehement objection to this underhanded approach to the debate on health care. I do not want government involvement in my health care decisions. I want a free-market approach to medicine.

Creating new government tentacles to surround my physical well-being and doing so in a way that “rams” it through (Reuters words, not mine) betrays the unprecedented power-lust present in Washington these days. Your participation in this “deal” would be a gross betrayal of your constituents and the Constitution. I hope you will find the conscience and backbone to resist participation.


Hannah Krening
Larkspur, Colorado

Inspired by her good example, I wrote the following:

Dear Senators,

I am writing to express my dismay over the prospect that some kind of socialized medicine (like mandatory, universal coverage insurance) will be imposed on America by “fast-tracking” health care reform. It is grossly irresponsible for the legislature to take such drastic action without proper debate and discussion. We’ve already seen too many frantic attempts to do something quick — anything, no matter how irresponsible — over the past few months. It’s time for the legislature to slow down — preferably before you grind the economy to a halt.

You might have won an election, but you have no right to dispose of anyone else’s life, health, and wealth. For you to attempt to ram socialized medicine down our throats — without so much as offering Americans the chance to form and express their opinions on the matter — is morally wrong. It’s also a sign that your position is weak — that you cannot persuade Americans of the merits of your views by any rational appeal to facts. Indeed, you have reason to worry: socialized medicine in any form is always disaster.

I do not want any government involvement in my health care. I do not wish my life and health to be subject to the whims of government bureaucrats. I support the elimination of the whole horrid web of entitlements and controls that are strangling medicine while driving up costs. The free market has not failed: your government controls have failed. Repeal them — and restore the doctor-patient relationship to its properly private sphere.

Diana Hsieh
Sedalia, CO

I encourage you to write your senators about this issue. Even just a sentence or two is adequate, so long as you express yourself clearly. If you live outside of Colorado, you’re certainly welcome to adapt the text of my letter for your own purposes.

Mel Blanc’s Vocal Cords

Apr 272009

Today’s medical video is a fiber optic direct laryngoscope view of Mel Blanc’s vocal cords as he does various cartoon character voices.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Alarming Flu Reports From Mexico

Apr 262009

BBC News has posted a number of “in the trenches” readers’ reports on the swine flu epidemic in Mexico. Here are two disturbing excerpts from Mexican physicians:

I’m a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the Mexican National Institute of Health. There is a severe emergency over the swine flu here. More and more patients are being admitted to the intensive care unit. Despite the heroic efforts of all staff (doctors, nurses, specialists, etc) patients continue to inevitably die. The truth is that anti-viral treatments and vaccines are not expected to have any effect, even at high doses. It is a great fear among the staff. The infection risk is very high among the doctors and health staff.

There is a sense of chaos in the other hospitals and we do not know what to do. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for holidays. The truth is that mortality is even higher than what is being reported by the authorities, at least in the hospital where I work it. It is killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than three weeks. It is a shame and there is great fear here. Increasingly younger patients aged 20 to 30 years are dying before our helpless eyes and there is great sadness among health professionals here.

Antonio Chavez, Mexico City

…I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from “under control”. As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.

Yeny Gregorio Dávila, Mexico City

A few natural questions:

1) How will this affect border control policy?

Mexico has arguably been teetering on the edge of being a “failed state” for a few years now. If a flu pandemic causes the central government to lose effective control over the country, will we see a flood of desperate illegal immigrants seeking to cross into the US to escape the problems in Mexico? And given that some of those people may be infected, how will the US respond?

Although I support open immigration in the sense that Craig Biddle discusses in his article “Immigration and Individual Rights” from the Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard, I also completely agree with him that it is a legitimate function of government to prevent people with deadly communicable diseases from entering this country. In an emergency, this may require fairly drastic steps (such as deploying the US military along the border).

Hence, border security may become a big issue in the near future.

2) If the pandemic strikes the US, will this lead to a permanent increase in government control over our lives?

Again, in a mass casualty medical emergency, I think the government can legitimately impose controls that would not normally be justified. For instance, it might restrict normal commerce, assume temporary control of hospitals and health care facilities, impose quarantines/curfews on neighborhoods and cities, etc. One can argue over whether any specific proposed measures are justified for a given emergency, but the basic principle is valid.

But we also know that once government assumes “emergency” control over a sector of the economy, it rarely gives up that control after the emergency has passed.

Hence, a flu pandemic could lead to permanent new government controls over health care and/or other major sectors of the rest of the American economy, even after the immediate crisis has passed.

3) What would be the long-term economic effects of a flu pandemic on the US?

If there is significant loss of life, the individual tragedies will be bad enough.

But I expect this would be compounded by significant disruption of normal economic activity. In the present political climate, this could deepen our current recession, thus creating more pseudo-justification for further government controls over the economy, which would further worsen the recession, etc. How far could this downward economic spiral go?

We’ll soon know the answers to these questions.

I also wish to emphasize that I am not taking an alarmist position. For instance, I think it’s a huge positive that medical technology has advanced immensely since the flu pandemic of 1918.

If you want to read some good practical advice, take a look at this page from epidemiologist Dr. Tara Smith (not the Objectivist philosophy professor) written during the bird flu scare of two years ago. In short, she recommends:

Don’t panic
Wash your hands
If you’re sick, stay home
Don’t touch your eyes/nose/mouth
Stock up on food, water, and other household necessities (i.e., standard prep for blizzard, earthquakes, or other natural disasters)

There is also recent research suggesting that Vitamin D may help strengthen your ability to fight off the flu. (The article doesn’t specifically address swine flu, but my guess is that correcting any Vitamin D deficiency wouldn’t hurt and would likely help against this new virus.)

[Note from DMH: As I've mentioned before -- here and here and here -- most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. For example, a recent study showed that 72% of men over 65 are deficient using 30 ng/ml as the cutoff. From what I've read, levels should be over 60 ng/ml. For some people, that can require thousands of IU supplementation per day.]

So don’t panic, keep informed, and stay tuned for updates!

(BBC link via Instapundit.)

Recap #41

Apr 262009

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM: Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine:

This week on FA/RM, the blog of Free Agriculture – Restore Markets:

(Nothing was posted this week on Politics without God, the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government.)

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