ethics, healthcare, law, modern problems, poor judgment

Medical freedom… or medical freedumb?

Today I reposted a 2017 era article from my original Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife blog. That post was written in a time of blissful ignorance of what awaited the world just three years later. In 2017, I was inspired by reading about young people who were critically ill and forced to accept medical care decisions thrust upon them by older people. Most of the cases of the youngsters in that post suffered from cancers of some kind, but a couple of them had other medical problems.

In several cases, the young patients’ parents were religious or wanted to try a more “natural” approach to healthcare. The parents were taken to task by medical professionals who wanted to override their decisions. In one case, the patient was a 17 year old young man who was deemed mature. He didn’t like the chemotherapy that was prescribed to treat his Hodgkin’s Disease, so he tried to refuse it. Doctors sought to force submission by legal means. In the end, the young man’s case was the inspiration for “Abraham’s Law” in Virginia, which allows older teenagers and their parents to refuse medical care or choose alternative therapies.

It amazes me now to read about these controversial cases involving young people, especially given that COVID-19 wasn’t on the radar at the time. Nowadays, the term “medical freedom” is a hot topic, as people fight over whether or not vaccinations against the coronavirus should be mandatory for all who can safely take it. On one hand, there’s a group of people who want to be able to make all medical and healthcare choices for themselves, although a lot of the people in the anti-vaccine group curiously draw the line at abortions for other people. On the other hand, there’s a large group of people who fear the rapidly spreading COVID virus that has, so far, killed over 650,000 Americans and well over four million people worldwide. That group believes that people should be required to get vaccinated.

Although I am all for vaccination and I do believe that the vaccines are saving lives, there is a part of me that empathizes with those who don’t want to be forced to take it. I don’t think it’s smart to skip the vaccines. Many of the arguments I’ve heard against the vaccines seem to be mostly based on misinformation and conspiracy theories. A lot of people worry that there will be terrible side effects to the vaccines. Or they know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy whose balls shriveled up and fell off after the first shot. Personally, I think those arguments are pretty lame. But I also genuinely don’t like the idea of forcing people to do things. I wish those kinds of rules weren’t necessary, and more people would cooperate simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve read many stories of people who took a “wait and see” approach to COVID-19 and are now dead. Some of the saddest stories involve people who had young children or newborn babies. I’ve read at least three tragic stories about parents who have left large broods orphaned because of COVID. I’ve also read a lot of sad stories about people who are sorry they didn’t get vaccinated.

And I’ve also read about many conservative radio talk show hosts who have either gotten very sick from COVID or have actually died. There was a news story just this morning about a conservative talk show host named Bob Enyart, who had spread false information about COVID-19. He got sick and died. Enyart was vehemently against vaccine and mask mandates, and last year, he successfully sued the state of Colorado over mask mandates and capacity limits in churches. Enyart was all about making choices for his own health, but as a very vocal opponent of abortion, he apparently didn’t mind making healthcare choices for other people.

Curiously enough, Enyart was a Christian pastor, and he once gleefully read the names and obituaries of people who had died of AIDS while he played “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. What a charming man… huh? As Mr. Enyart was the 5th conservative radio talk show host to die of COVID in the past six weeks, perhaps the Queen song is appropriate theme for him and his ilk.

This morning, I ran across an interesting thread in the Duggar Family News Group. Someone, yet again, compared the COVID vaccine and mask mandates to seatbelt laws.

I disagree with this comparison. I also am old enough to remember when the seatbelt laws went into effect. At the time, I was pissed off about them. Don’t be too hard on me, though. I was a teenager.

I have mentioned before that I don’t think the COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates are the same as seatbelt laws. I mean, yes, I can see how people would make the comparison, but I don’t think it’s a very accurate one. When I was a child, I hated seatbelts and would only wear them if I was forced to… and generally that only happened when my dad was feeling controlling. In those days, a lot of people didn’t wear seatbelts. They weren’t as comfortable as they are today. Thankfully, as time has passed, the technology behind them has improved. I doubt we will ever be rid of the damned things. In any case, seatbelts are kind of different from masks and vaccines, as they don’t involve being injected into someone’s body, nor do they impact normal living and communicating as much as face masks do. You only wear them in the car. They don’t interfere with speaking, hearing, seeing, eating, or breathing.

And before anyone tries to tell me that masks don’t impede breathing, let me just stop you right there. I know they don’t. But some people do find wearing them oppressive, and the anxiety that comes from that might impede breathing. There are some people who can’t wear them for whatever reason… not too many, I will admit, but there are some. Likewise, some people can’t wear seatbelts for whatever reason. A lot of times, the reason has to do with being very obese, but sometimes it’s because of an injury or an occupation.

The point is, I don’t think seatbelts will ever go away. However, many of us hope the masks will go away, if and when the pandemic ends. Personally, I don’t see the pandemic ending happening unless a lot more people get vaccinated. But even though I think vaccines are an excellent idea and I would strongly encourage people to get the shot(s), I also feel uncomfortable with government mandates on things like medical care. Because, there are people who can’t or shouldn’t get vaccinations, for whatever reason. I also understand that some people are genuinely concerned about government overreach. Their concern isn’t entirely unfounded, although some of the arguments I’ve read are pretty ridiculous.

One thing I don’t think is helpful, though, is being rude and insulting to those who disagree. I don’t like the dogpile approach to trying to change minds, either. The above photo was shared in the Duggar Family News group, and it did invite contention. One woman posted this:

I remember when this page was about snarking on fundamentalist Christian families on television rather than promoting the divide of human kind based on personal choices they make for what they put in their own bodies.

That comment led to this response…

Even though I understand the frustration behind this response, I don’t think it was helpful.

The original poster was offended by the image. She expressed her dismay that a total stranger would wish death on her. Then, a big, long thread of comments ensued, with the vast majority of people name-calling, hurling insults, being sarcastic, and typing “all knowing” responses at the original poster. Her response, rather than being convinced, was to dig in her heels and respond in kind. Then, she either got booted from the group, or left on her own accord.

The last comment ends with the person telling the OP not to go to the hospital because she doesn’t believe in science. I disagree with that attitude, too. If someone gets sick with COVID, I don’t want them out on the street, infecting others. I’d rather see them getting treatment.

So… what exactly was accomplished by this contentious exchange? Not much, that I can see. I think a more respectful and friendly dialogue might have done more to foster group harmony. Maybe no one’s mind would have changed, but at least there would be listening and constructive communication going on, rather than flaming and hair flip rage exits. No matter what, I don’t think it’s appropriate to wish death on people simply because they disagree with you. On the other hand, I do understand the sentiment and the frustration behind such responses. I will also admit to occasionally being a hypocrite when I get pushed too far. I’m human, after all. I do try not to start out with abuse and insults, though.

I have never liked “nannyism”, especially in laws. However, I understand why “nanny” laws are often necessary. Many people, when left to their own devices, will not do things that are in their own or the public’s best interests. I have always hated wearing seatbelts myself, but I do understand why they’re necessary. I also have a husband who will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t wear one. So I do comply with that rule.

Even though I fucking hate face masks, I comply with that rule, too. However, I hope someday it will no longer be necessary. And I had no issues whatsoever with getting vaccinated against COVID, because as a student of public health, I know the theories behind vaccines and have seen concrete evidence that most of them work. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to learning new information, nor does it mean I’m not aware of potential risks from certain vaccines.

Below is advice given to people during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I agree with most of it, although I don’t think it matters whether or not someone “obeys cheerfully”, as long as they are compliant.

From 2018, when the Spanish Flu was killing people. They used masks then, and the masks eventually went away. I hope the same for COVID-19.

My late beagle, Zane, was a prime example of a dog who didn’t do well with vaccines. He had mast cell cancer (immune system cancer) that eventually progressed to lymphoma. He was allergic to at least one vaccination, and would get tumors when he had others. I actually think some people over-vaccinate their pets, and some of the encouragement to vaccinate is due to the revenue vaccines generate. Dogs with mast cell tumors should not get any unnecessary vaccines. I’m a little concerned about Arran, because he is due for a rabies shot next month, and the rabies shots can stimulate mast cell tumors. Arran has also had mast cell tumors, though not to the same severity Zane had. Because of Zane, I have some sympathy for people who are against vaccines, even though I think their reasoning is wrong in most instances. We don’t vaccinate people like we do pets, anyway. We certainly don’t get as many shots as they do.

Although I do believe in vaccine efficacy, I am not one to run out and demand the latest and greatest shots, nor do I get every vaccine available. For instance, I’ve never in my life had a flu shot. I would get them if I spent more time around other people, though. COVID-19 is different, at least right now. There’s hope that the virus will eventually weaken and become less dangerous, as flu mostly did. But at this point, it’s not getting better. Many people are getting sick and dying, and from what I’ve read, COVID-19 is a pretty nasty way to go.

I do think sometimes we need laws to protect ourselves and each other from those who lack insight, perspective, and wisdom. On the other hand, I agree that people should be free to make choices, whenever possible. Either way, medical freedom doesn’t do a damned bit of good to anyone who is dead. So I do hope that those who are against vaccines will wise up and get with the program. I understand wanting to wait and see how other people do with the shots, but time is running out… I have read too many sad stories about people who waited too long and got sick. There are too many stories about orphaned children, and bereaved spouses, siblings, and parents. And too many people are becoming downright mean and NASTY toward total strangers. I wish we’d all remember that when it comes down to it, we’re in a community. And being in a healthy community requires compassion, responsibility, and solidarity.

That being said… sometimes people DO need protection from crazy beliefs. Case in point, an old Mr. Atheist video I came across yesterday. Religion and politics make people do stupid things, even to their children. So while I am mindful of the so-called slippery slope when it comes to government overreach, I also think some people need to be saved from “freedumb” ideas.

JWs are just one group that have beliefs that can harm others… especially their own followers.
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4 thoughts on “Medical freedom… or medical freedumb?

  1. One of the saddest stories I reference in my blog is the one about a Texas mother who was anti-vaccines, caught COVID-19, and passed it on to other family members even though she tried to self-isolate in the home. As it turned out, her 4-year-old daughter, Kari, died from COVID. (And pretty darn fast. Per the news article I referenced, Kari went to bed one night, developed a fever, and died in her sleep five hours later.) Now the grieving woman says she wishes she had never been anti-vax.

    That’s sad. Now that woman, who is still young, is going to live with her decision to not get vaccinated. Kari was too young to have gotten her shot, but her mother was eligible, and she still refused.

    • I hesitate to blame people who get sick. I really do think most people are trying to do what they think is best. And, as you point out, those who survive have to live with that. I don’t think I’ve read Kari’s story yet. That sounds really awful.

      I do wish that people would stop spreading bullshit, though. And I also wish people would be less contentious and nasty. Arguing with strangers online isn’t productive… even though I totally get the temptation and the frustration behind it.

      • Forgive me….I’m running on one cup of coffee; I’ll go have a proper breakfast in a bit. The girl’s name is Kali, K-A-L-I, not K-A-R-I. My mistake.

        I feel sorry for the mother in that case for the same reason you do, even though I don’t agree with the whole anti-vax “philosophy.” I am less forgiving about folks like Phil Valentine, who could have used his radio talk show for good, yet chose to cheer on the anti-vax movement. Maybe it’s because I think folks in media should use their platforms to serve the public, not just themselves.

        Anyway, Kali Wood’s story really broke my heart when I came across it the other day. Such an avoidable tragedy….

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