Stay on Course; Believe the Science

We have lived through worse times.Through times when death counts were in the tens of thousands and the medical profession and advanced community of scientists of the day dismissed as fable a lone medical doctor’s claim that contaminated drinking water was the killer.

All a long time ago, you will hasten to say. We have long left behind bizarre challenges to medical treatments with proven track records against diseases which once contracted were fatal.

We have advanced beyond those primitive times haven’t we? I mean if our leading minds in science and medical research assure us that after extensive research and testing a new drug can halt and end fatal invasions of human bodies, we believe and welcome them.

Don’t we? Surely we have progressed from the day in 1848 when a British obstetrician named John Snow advanced his belief that that cholera, the deadliest disease in the world he lived in, had its origin in drinking water.

The medical world in general scoffed at Snow’s published theory holding fast to its long held belief that cholera was airborne and inhaled from the “miasma in the atmosphere.” All major cities functioned without running water and modern sewage disposal. “Miasma” was an ever present presence; just something “nasty” in the air people learned to live – or die with.

It was 1854 before Dr.Snow began to win converts and the medical profession and science world listened. Readers can follow his trail from first stirring of belief to full discovery and vindication with a search for  – John Snow and the Broad Street Pump the story of a dedicated medic on whose foundations our public health system is built on.

In quick order a few days ago Dr.John Snow’s 2021 public health replacements issued two major statements.One was an updated report on the death toll “of the thousands of people who have lost their lives in B.C. due to a toxic illicit drug supply….”

While patiently waiting for Dr.Bonnie Henry’s disciplined attempts to first halt the COVID 19 invasion then send it packing – as I believe she and her team will before summer ends – we  must look again at the last four words in the preceeding paragraph.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, a familiar Island Health officer for Island Health, used the best read page in Victoria’s Times-Colonist (letters to the editor) to carefully detail what he and his team were fighting: “Despite significant advances and ground breaking efforts ….there is still more work to be done to address the illicit drug poisoning crisis. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition often rooted from childhood trauma…….”

Dr.Stanwick’s appeal was to the government to move solution of the “death by poisoned drugs” problem a few rungs up the “priority ladder’. He asked reader’s of the editor’s mail – and anyone who should perchance stumble across my thoughts while wandering the Internet to: “As members of your community, as local leaders, as neighbours, as family and friends, to create space for respectful dialogue around substance abuse….We all need connection, compassion and dignity.”

I add a little Shakespeare :  “The quality of mercy is not strain’d/ It droppeth as the gentle  rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath/It is twice bless’d: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes….”

2 comments

  1. Your story of Dr. Snow brings to mind that of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis who worked in a Vienna hospital at around the same time. In those days doctors would go straight from conducting an autopsy to deliver a baby, without washing their hands.

    Mothers frequently contracted puerperal fever and many of them died. Semmelweis discovered the illness could be drastically reduced by disinfecting hands. As with Snow his ideas were rejected by the medical profession. Some doctors were incensed that they should wash their hands.

    Some years later the frustrated Semmelweis suffered a nervous breakdown and was put in an asylum by his colleagues. Beaten by guards, he died two weeks later.

    Semmelweis’s findings earned widespread acceptance only years after his death.

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