Very Superstitious

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Very superstitious, writings on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

When you believe in things that you dont understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way
(Stevie Wonder, Superstition)

How do I know that the Government isn’t hyping up this measles scare to compensate for the fall in vaccination resulting from its cover-up of the autism link?”

This was the question put to me by a father this week at my surgery, still holding out on giving his daughter MMR (the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine).

In Hackney we know that the measles outbreak is real because we have seen 150 cases over the past three months and ten have been admitted to hospital with pneumonia – the greatest number of cases I’ve known in the 20 years I have been here. The high fever, the hacking cough, the sore eyes, the blotchy rash, the inconsolable misery – all these features of the infant with measles had become a distant memory.

The recent upsurge in measles cases in Britain is a sad tribute to the climate of irrationality. Despite all the paranoid conspiracy theories, there has never been a cover-up of the link between MMR and autism. In ten years those promoting this autism link have failed to produce convincing scientific evidence while numerous laboratory studies and epidemiological surveys have upheld the safety of MMR. Yet uptake of MMR has dropped and, though it is recovering, it has still not reached its level of a decade ago and is still well short of the level required to guarantee herd immunity…..

…….As doctors, we are grappling in our surgeries with fear and confusion, exacerbated by an apparently endless series of health scares and panics. A campaigner came to me convinced that a local mobile phone mast was causing her breathing difficulties; later she admitted that she smoked 30 cigarettes a day. A young man, committed to the “near-death” experiences offered by inhaling the veterinary tranquilliser ketamine in the course of weekend clubbing binges, inquired whether I would check his serum cholesterol level to assess his long-term risk of coronary heart disease. Patients who consume vitamins, antioxidants and herbs by the bucketful commonly refuse to take medication recommended for high blood pressure or some other condition because they “don’t want to get hooked on tablets”. Some patients even refuse chemotherapy for cancer in favour of homoeopathy, acupuncture or aromatherapy.

Fitzpatrick closes with the chorus of the Stevie Wonder song I opened this post with. He's exactly right. The mega-hyped scares about many different things are nothing more than superstition masquerading as science. It has become a common technique – hype up a panic about some health scare (or virtually anything else *cough* AGW *cough*), assert that you alone know the truth and allege a conspiracy to cover up the truth from the public. This in turn leads to bad public policy, bad personal choices and still more scares and hypes. ("What the hell, that one worked, let's try another.") There have been outbreaks of the mumps across the Midwestern United States and now a measles outbreak in Britain.

Superstition aint the way.

Fitzpatrick closes with the chorus of the Stevie Wonder song I opened this post with. He's exactly right. The mega-hyped scares about many different things are nothing more than superstition masquerading as science. It has become a common technique – hype up a panic about some health scare (or virtually anything else *cough* AGW *cough*), assert that you alone know the truth and allege a conspiracy to cover up the truth from the public. This in turn leads to bad public policy, bad personal choices and still more scares and hypes. ("What the hell, that one worked, let's try another.") There have been outbreaks of the mumps across the Midwestern United States and now a measles outbreak in Britain.

Superstition aint the way.

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