We all like fairy tales especially the ones where an individual triumphs against great odds. Here are three fairy tales for your enjoyment.
Once upon a time, women died in great pain from infections caught during childbirth. Our hero noticed these deaths occurred much more often when doctors delivered the babies than when midwives did. He made the brilliant observation that the doctors went from doing autopsies to deliveries without washing their hands. Sanitizing their hands before delivering babies brought the death rate down significantly. He had some success in the wards where he had some control.
Elsewhere he was ridiculed. One alleged response — doctors were gentlemen and gentlemen’s hands were clean. Other doctors explained the death rate as a problem in the women themselves.
After he published his book in 1861, based on his experiences since he started working in 1846, he was attacked by the medical establishment. The good doctor was viciously attacked and the stress of defending his efforts to save women eventually led to a drinking problem. His family forced him into a mental institution. There in 1865, Ignaz Semmelweis, the man who tried to save lives, died from a sepsis infection.
The happy ending did not come for him, but eventually his work was accepted. Millions of women’s lives were saved by a very simple thing.
Closer to our time, people suffered from chronic ulcers. Pharmaceutical companies developed an extremely lucrative anti-acid industry selling medications to those chronic sufferers. People continued to suffer because they were told there was no cure.
Then, two Australian doctors, Dr. Barry Marshall and Dr. Robin Warren, made the observations that caused them to suspect bacteria, not excess acid, caused the ulcers. The paper outlining his personal findings, where Dr. Marshall had purposely experimented on himself, was published in 1983. Ridicule and then vicious personal attacks followed from a medical establishment with vested interests in milking the acid theory for status and financial gain.
Then, in 1996, the FDA approved the first antibiotic for treating ulcers. Today, that is the standard for treatment. The two doctors were awarded the Noble Prize in 2005 for their work.
Gazing back on these two stories, a few common threads appear. One can discern four steps of reaction as their work progressed:
— It is generally ignored;
— When it can’t be ignored, it is then ridiculed;
— When ridicule doesn’t work, it is then aggressively resisted;
— It is accepted as obvious.
Now, let us look at the third fairy tale. Once upon a very recent time, a virus came out of an unnamed country and wreaked havoc. People died, economies were damaged, lives were upturned.
Around the world, small groups of doctors came to realize that a repurposed drug, which received the Nobel Prize in 2015 for saving countless human lives, was showing great promise. The more they worked with it — this drug, which cannot be named — the more value they found in it. At first, the findings were ignored by a medical establishment that had more important things on its plate. Then it was ridiculed — how could “that anti-parasitic drug” have any real impact on this novel virus? When it did not go quietly away, the combined forces of the medical establishment, political powers and the media, descended with an effort to crush it.
That is where we are now. As the earlier examples clearly show — when the medical establishment tries to destroy you, you are clearly onto something. Will the establishment have their way and destroy it? Will we give it an honest look and find an almost miraculous drug — one that helps the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike?
Gesualdo Schneider lives in Middlesex.