One of the main victims of the pandemic may be the damage to the medical profession. Health care is used as a defense and justification for policies that we should vilify. Rather than instilling faith in public health and medicine, government policies have undermined the foundations of medical ethics and caused enormous damage to confidence in public health measures.
The fundamental principle of science is not only that we could be wrong is that we are wrong.
Anything that we discover will be overtaken by further knowledge, which in turn is false, but by ever smaller amounts. It was Popper’s simplified axiom of falsifiability – which science seeks to prove wrong – while pseudoscience seeks to prove it is right.
Once we stop practicing medicine in a way that is respectful of the fact that we can be wrong, several consequences follow.
By forgetting that we might be wrong, we make ourselves unable to admit when we are wrong. Once we begin to treat dissenting opinions as heretical, we in turn stop questioning the effectiveness or consequences of our own policies. This applies at the personal level, as well as at the national level.
As a society, we need to ask ourselves how we will assess the effectiveness of a policy, whether it is vaccines, masks or lockdowns. By making these things mandatory, it becomes very difficult for us to criticize them impartially. If we’ve destroyed the lives of millions of people with lockdowns, how can politicians be honest if they find out they’re not working? For us as health professionals, if we approve immunization mandates, how can we impartially discuss the risks of such interventions?
What’s more, having lowered and silenced minority voices means that we are setting up a scientific paradigm in which we stop questioning ourselves. Likewise, we stop responding to patient concerns and our studies run the risk of confirming their own biases. Indeed, if we cannot argue for voluntary intervention, that should be an indication that we are doing something wrong. Such changes undermine the moral foundation of the medical profession.
This happens directly, as we come under external pressure from government agencies to get us vaccinated on our own, as well as indirectly when our sense of moral self-righteousness is given free rein to belittle people who are not. agree with our advice. In this we forget the fact that because someone may have a medical degree that does not give him a higher morality in the weighting of public policies.
It should worry us that big companies like Telstra are advocating for vaccines. Anyone receiving health advice from a telecommunications company clearly needs help. However, it is worrying that companies like this feel the need to try to influence health policy. In so doing, they help erode the credibility of a healthcare professional who should advocate vaccines in their personal capacity with those where the benefits outweigh the risks. This should be a personal decision, made between a patient and their treating clinician.
More broadly, the whole notion of “the right thing to do” is wrong because it first claims to know the future. Second, it removes the individual from the equation. The risk of vaccines may well be small compared to the benefit. However, if you are the rare individual in your twenties who dies of myocarditis, that is little consolation.
We are on the verge of creating a society where small bureaucrats control access to daily activities; where we have to show some material to go shopping, or see our friends. There is always a justification for draconian policies – usually it’s the common good, public safety or health. This time, the medical profession is at the forefront of these policies. We must be aware of this fact.
The sad conclusion to this saga is that this pandemic could have been the time when we made a fantastic vaccination record. We could have seen how innovation in the private sector combined with government support to create a vaccine that saved lives.
Instead, the government initially overestimated the risks of vaccines, and now is minimizing them – forcing people to have a vaccine that appears to be as much for political purposes as it is for public health, while also benefiting big pharmaceutical companies. . No wonder people are skeptical.
With such policies, there is no defined end point. There is a real danger that this attitude towards health care and government could turn into a spiral of positive feedback, where “the common good” trumps all other precedents.
As health professionals, we must not allow medicine to be co-opted by politics, and we must not allow a short-term expedient to undermine the moral basis of our profession.
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