News & Politics

Thoughts: Politicisation of Health

To cure or harm?

So just when you thought health couldn’t get politicised, it just did!

A prominent disabilities activist Alice Wong who previously served on the former presidents National Council on Disabilities has recently caused quite the stir with a pod cast for Flash Forward on the 19th of December 2018 likened curing Genetic Diseases to an act of genocide.

What is genocide?

The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.

Not exactly the sentiment you would expect coming from someone who use to work with President Barrack Obama. 

So what exactly do they mean?

Looking into it, the argument Alice Wong is making is in regards to the recognition that disable people are a sub group of people, and that any attempt to change or alter that is effectively a kin to eugenics (shudders) and leads to the eventual removal of said people.  To that extent, you could argue Alice Wong is correct, but surely it’s not that simple is it?  Of course it is not, what scientists, doctors and medical practitioners are always trying to do is ease and cure the aliments that hinder members of our society, to that extent they are trying to enable or re-enable people and not disable them.

Alice Wong sees it differently though, she and other in the disability activist community see people with illnesses, disabilities and suffering as not needing to be fixed as it is part of who they are, it is part of their collective identity and needs no correction or intervention.

That’s a fair comment to make I suppose, however, it doesn’t stand up very well in reality.  Let’s look at example that is very similar to this argument that has already proven how wrong this kind of logic or politicising of people’s health can be.

Shall we look at vaccinations?

The vaccination programme has been one of the biggest successes in modern medicine.  It has reduced and in some cases eliminated entirely the suffering of millions of people around the world.  This was only achieved due to big pushes from governments and from medical professionals around the global is the need to ensure global participation.  Had this buy in by the people of the world not been had, a lot of formerly common and fatal childhood diseases would still be killing and harming millions around the world.

At no point did anyone question the merit of trying to cure these diseases or ending the suffering of millions of innocent children, but apparently now people are…  Why you ask?  You tell me!  Apparently people who aren’t medical professionals decided that regardless of the thousands of doctors, scientists and medical professionals, the vaccination programme was <<insert reason here>> and had to stop.  Due to these people vaccination buy ins from the public have been declining for years, allowing previously eliminated or near extinct childhood diseases to resurface, and no not in the remotest parts of the world but in places like the UK and the US.

It is in these places where activists have taken it upon themselves to decry the advantages of the vaccination programme from some irresponsible and frankly selfish reason, but it isn’t just them and their children that suffer.  The thing is it’s about the knock on effect, you see the vaccination programme works because of the sheer amount of people that have been vaccinated diseases struggle to find a host that they can infect.  When people stop getting vaccinated the number of potential hosts increases directly and with that the number of potential people that can infect also increases.

This leads to is effectively back to what we had before the start of the vaccination programme… millions of suffering and dying children around world and all because someone disagreed with the <<insert reason here>> and wants to stop the programme.

Now lets us apply the same logic to the genocide argument by Alice Wong, first we aren’t killing anyone, nor are we doing it in large numbers against any single nation or ethnic group… So where’s the genocide?  There isn’t any… the argument being made is a nonsensical one.  It’s the same flawed argument that vaccination activists use to argue for the removal of the vaccination programme. It serves no greater possible other than to infect harm for the sake of it.

Think about this for a moment, you are walking down the street and you see a young boy in a wheelchair, you see him watching another bunch of boys playing football in the park next to the street.  The boy suffers from MS (multiple sclerosis) and you happen to be know of a cure, the cure involves genetic therapy, are you really, really going to tell me that you would want to help the young boy because of some misguided morality that says he was disabled and suffering before and so should continue doing so?

Along that line of logic why are we wasting our time donating money to charities to help the hungry or doing volunteering work at a homeless shelters?  Why try to help anyone?  Surely it is their right to be hungry and their right to be without a roof over their heads. I mean offering a homeless person a home is removing what make that person homeless and so is a kin to genocide… yeah, no… it’s not.

There is something somewhat perverse about these kind of arguments, it is almost like some people just want others to suffer unnecessarily even what they have the means to help.

Where do we go from here?

Well at the minute, it looks like people are seriously considering Alice Wong’s points, only time will tell if rational minds like those that dreamt up the vaccination programme with effectively win out, pushing for trying to help people rather than deciding it is socially unacceptable to change someone’s genetic code in order to end a disease and suffering.

Here is to hoping wiser people win the argument.

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