helping those who won’t help themselves, redux
Imagine someone stopping you on the street and asking you whether you would support health freedoms, or as the person in question would put it, being able to refuse to undergo any medical procedures that you don’t understand or of which you’re suspicious, as well as requiring doctors to disclose the details of your potential treatment. Sounds good, right? I mean how could you possibly object to that? But look at the message a little further and consider its advocates: anti-vaccination groups, homeopaths and alt med woo meisters who took a page from our political parties and composed a rallying cry to cover up their double standard in medicine. In their world, health freedoms means the ability to tell off modern doctors and the science-based medicine they practice in favor of anti-vaccine luddism and supplement makers and quacks who abuse legal loopholes to sell their wares without any regulation, calling cautionary measures a Big Pharma conspiracy against them.
The funny thing is that the supposed health freedoms in question already exist. If you undergo surgery or have to endure an invasive diagnostic procedure, you have to sign a consent form agreeing to the treatment, saying that you’re satisfied with the explanation provided by your doctor. If you don’t understand something the doctor said, you can keep asking questions until you’re satisfied. And even if refusing a treatment will kill you, you still have the right to say no. So considering that you could already refuse pretty much anything doctors can offer in even the most dire situations, why exactly do you need rallies demanding the rights you already have? Maybe we should refer to the mission statement of the organizers?
We believe in the rights to life, liberty, and personal security for ourselves and our children. We demand the universal human rights standard of informed consent for all medical interventions. Compulsory vaccination cannot be legally and morally justified. We affirm the sanctity of personal space, the right to be left alone, and the freedom to make personal health care decisions guided by the professionals of our choosing.
Note the compulsory vaccination part, they sponsors and their keynote speaker. This has nothing to do with a demand for patients’ rights. It’s just an excuse to get together to bash medical science, and blame doctors for just about every evil in the world under an appeal for a say in personal medical matters, an ability they already have by law. And sure, people should have the right to make informed choices in their medical care and using the long arm of the law to force them to get vaccinated would be a very unproductive tactic. Vaccines should be taken on merit rather than because a government official told you to do it, even if the official is right that having all your shots would help keep diseases like mumps, measles and polio under control. Besides, think about how loud and vocal conspiracy theorists get even when vaccinations are optional, and consider how much they’ll have to talk about of vaccinations become compulsory. But that said, there’s a limit to how informed of a consent you could have when it comes to medicine. There’s a reason why it takes about 8 years of education and years of practice to become a doctor. Medicine is complicated stuff.
Now, while I can tell you the mechanics of an ablation and tell you when it’s done, I wouldn’t be able to review the doctors’ notes on my case and make an educated decision. At the end of the day, I have to trust that I’m in the hands of a professional who knows what she’s doing and that I got a realistic rundown of the risks I would face with and without the procedure. Anti-vaccine and alt med activists, however, have no such limitations and they choose to trust doctors who say what they want to hear rather than medical professionals who follow the scientific literature. When they talk about their right to decline vaccines or treatments, they’re talking about their distaste for doctors who don’t find their talking points convincing and counter them with actual science. They’d much rather be conned by those who would pander to them and their conspiracy theories to make a buck than have to accept that they’re wrong about something. It’s little wonder they idolize Andy Wakefield and the Glenn Beck of the alt med world, Mike Adams. Those two would never tell passionate supporters of pseudoscience that they’re wrong and jeopardize their image as Galileos persecuted by the evil establishment…