I’m petrified. As a woman, as a physician, as a public health professional, as a proponent of reproductive justice, as a scientist, as someone with pre-existing conditions, as believer in equality, as a humanitarian, and as an inhabitant of this planet, I fear that all that I value and all that I am is in danger of rapid and complete extinction.
I am not claiming to be without fault myself. I am a perfectionist with unreasonable, frequently unattainable standards for myself and those around me. I am often tardy, despite an ancient alarm clock, a wrist watch, and a cell phone with a constant time display. Sometimes, I talk rather than listen. However, I also rigidly ascribe to a policy of truth and honesty. I am allergic to deceit. I dedicated my career to helping others, and I scorn those whose primary mantra is self-service above all else. Not only have I not, as the president proclaimed, profited from Covid-19 deaths, I resent the assertion.
Yet, here we are, following a presidential election where one of the principal candidates, the incumbent himself, boasted about cheating the government, has used his position for self-aggrandizement and financial gain, continues to actively try to deprive tens of millions of Americans of necessary health care, and brags about reversing regulations designed to improve the quality of the air that we breathe and the water we drink. This (now defeated) candidate has not only blithely minimized the suffering and disregarded the deaths of those infected by Covid-19, he intentionally held rallies and fundraisers which became hot spots for Covid spread. This is the same virus that has swept across the US, infecting over 10 million people, with over 239,000 deaths, because of his administration’s refusal to implement a national infection control policy.
I am mystified, as someone trained in scientific thought, where evidence-based medicine is the gold standard, by the significant absence of critical thinking and the widespread adoption and promotion of falsehoods and conspiracy theories permeating our society. Where’s the proof? If someone has cancer, or hypertension, or an ulcer, do they want treatment that has been shown to be effective, better than placebo and current standard options, or would they actually accept any random alternative instead, just because I claim it works?
What does this approach look like when applied to illness? OK, I can give you a medication that has been shown to work 90% of the time, or you can have a plant that I grew in my backyard. I tell you it is effective, without any studies to verify my assertion. You will have to pay whatever I decide to charge, full fee, because the government does not regulate drug prices. Oh, you are at risk of pregnancy? No, I have no idea if it causes birth defects, because it hasn’t been tested. Yes, the plant could be contaminated with toxins from the stream that flows behind my house, downhill from the waste disposal plant. My botanical also hasn’t been growing very well, because we had an extra-hot summer, global warming, and all, so we might not have an adequate supply for your entire course of treatment. But hey, you believe it will work, right? That’s all that matters. So, you take the medicine, fortunately without any obvious severe side effects. 2 months into treatment, you discover that you are pregnant. Your employer opted out of contraceptive coverage, thanks to the president’s 2017 executive order which allowed them to do so, and you couldn’t afford your birth control pills, because you had to use your money for my plant. You also have no maternity coverage on your insurance policy. When the Affordable Care Act was overturned by the US Supreme Court, guaranteed maternity care went with it, and you opted against purchasing the pregnancy rider. Oops. Yes, I know that you’ve been promised an even better healthcare plan for the last 4 years, and you believed it was coming, despite the absence of details. Fortunately, you were able to get an ultrasound at a free clinic. The bad news-your baby has lethal anomalies, possibly from that plant you’ve been ingesting. Guess what? You must continue your pregnancy, whether or not it’s in your best interests, because Roe v. Wade was overturned by SCOTUS 6-3. Also, you’re really sick, because that darn plant didn’t cure your disease. You believed them. Now what?