And the Wages of Sin is ... (Daniel 3:17) Like a lot of laymen, I have a very simple view of the practice of medicine. The basic idea is, if you see a disease you cure it. Unless there's no known cure; then it's up to medical research to find either a cure or someway to prevent the disease. After reading this post at Larvatus Prodeo, I've realised that this view of medical practice and medical research is much too simplistic.
Some diseases, it seems, should not be treated, nor should they be prevented. Cervical cancer is one such disease:
DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.
The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.
In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.
[New Scientist, 18 April, 2005]
... Senator Joyce said the decision whether to approve the [HPV] vaccine should not be left to the TGA because "they will talk about the therapeutic aspects - they are not there to talk about the psychological implications or the social implications".
"There might be an overwhelming (public) backlash from people saying, 'don't you dare put something out there that gives my 12-year-old daughter a licence to be promiscuous'," he said.
Senator Joyce - who has four daughters - said he would be "personally very circumspect" about giving such a vaccine to girls who were too young to cope with the potential consequences of sexual activity.
[The Australian, January 27, 2006]
Senator Joyce's statement just oozes sanctimonious disingenuity; what he's really talking about under the euphemism "psychological implications and social implications" is a personal religious objection to the idea of providing vaccinations to protect young girls from a sexually transmitted disease. Of course he hasn't the gumption to come out and say so directly, so he invokes a phantom legion of outraged parents instead. A vast unseen army of religious nutters who would be outraged if the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved a medical treatment which reduced the risks of committing the sin of Lust.
Sloth: cholera, dysentry and typhoid are the biggies here. Back in the nineteenth century, some physician whose name I forget, became a medical legend when he stopped a local epidemic of cholera in one of the poorer districts of London by breaking the heads off all the local water pumps. The wells were all contaminated with sewage. If people are living in poor areas where they only have access to sewage contaminated water, they only have their own idleness to blame. If they got off their arses and did something to improve their situation they'd have the money to move to an area with clean drinking water. So away with all those development programs aimed at bringing clean drinking water to third world villages and away with the water supply and sewage disposal authorities in the developed countries. Public health problem be damned - these diseases are all work ethic problems and the solution lies with the individual.
Gluttony: All those diseases caused by diet or addiction - atheroschlerosis from cholesterol consumption, cirrhosis of the liver, dental caries (see also Vanity) most forms of hepatitis and diabetes - including insulin dependent diabetes. Let the buggers learn to live without sugar - it'll build up their fortitude.
Vanity: cosmetic surgery is obviously out (see also Envy). As are acne treatments, treatments for warts, moles or winestain birthmarks, hair replacement for chemotherapy induced hair loss and all forms of cranio-facial and recosntructive surgery. If people are born hideously deformed, tough - surgical reconstruction might just encourage them to become vain in later life. Oh and all that root canalling and crowning and dental reconstruction that goes on to deal with the results of dental caries. And orthodonty (by the time I get through all the major sins, I suspect we'll have built a good case for banning dentistry altogether).
Avarice: obviously most of the depression that is epidemic in Australia is the consequence of living in a materialistic, consumer society where everyone more or less believes that they will be happy once they have the latest iPod, the latest Nokia mobile phone, etc, etc. It's all down to avarice. So are the rest of the work related disorders.
Anger: Congestive heart disease, hypertension, angina pectoris.
Envy: Penis extensions, breast implants and reductions are all medical treatments that obviously cater to patients' envy of people who are better endowed than they. Less obviously, infertility treatments have to go. Remember:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
And that "any thing that is thy neighbours" includes the motility of his sperm and the fecundity of his wife, sport.