Wednesday, January 13, 2010

False prophets and H1N1

Frankly, I am sick of people taking credit for chance events. One such chance event is the less-than-expected severity of the H1N1 pandemic. Several organizations, and even nations, have invoked a broad conspiracy by the WHO, among other agencies, to pad the pockets of Pharma companies with a large stake in this disease. Some are feeling proud and vindicated for their assertions as early as last summer that the threat of the pandemic is overblown. Politically, however, it does not seem enough just to gloat; these clairvoyants want further recognition by spreading stories of malfeasance by people they love to hate.

These conspiratorial concoctions are in line with our national psychology, in my opinion. The Republicans' refrain of the last 30 years that government is not to be trusted has taken root. (Parenthetically, it seems that it is through the very GOP members' efforts that this assertion has been fulfilled famously!) Lumping the WHO and the HHS in this equation is but a small stretch.

But what is the reality? The reality is much less news-worthy. In reality, all of the estimates of havoc that H1N1 was expected to reek were just that, estimates. Those estimates were based on the best data available at the time that decisions had to be made. Those data, by necessity, were limited, and the urgency to prepare precluded further waiting to accumulate more information. So, everyone did the best they could. To assign a malicious motive to these decisions is sophomoric. This self-congratulatory stance has blinded its backers to an obvious flaw in their logic: since pharmaceutical industry is a for-profit business, it is child's play to assign profit as the sole motive to these decisions retrospectively. The logic goes that, since Pharma is interested in the potential profit, there can be no other legitimate motive for declaring this pandemic. Well, it makes about as much sense as saying that the only motivation to treat a heart attack is to make money for the manufacturer. To be sure, there are several motives, one of which, from the perspective of the manufacturer, is profit. Still, I hope that a concern for immediate survival and better health of the patient are the prevailing reasons for treatment.

So, let's not distract from other important issues of our day by creating false controversies. Although for the moment it looks like many of our predictions were much graver than what is coming to pass, it is counter-productive to spread rumors of a conspiracy, when the evidence used to generate the projections is there for examination. On the other hand, I am glad that we can continue to engage in this pointless blame game, rather than having to clean up from what could have been.           

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