Monday, January 11, 2010

Polio


Last week I mentioned that I finished reading Better by Dr. Gawande.  I keep thinking about that book, even though I have finished another book since then (Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton).  I guess that's a sign of a good book.

I've been thinking about some medical ethics.  There is one chapter in his book that is devoted to the elimination of the polio virus. I believe that the extinction of polio and other diseases, like smallpox, from most countries in the world is a tribute to the tenacity and dedication of mankind. The fight against polio is still going on in less developed countries, such as India. Once a case of polio pops up, a massive immunization of 4 million children surrounding that village takes place within three days. It is hard to imagine how one goes about planning the logistics of that kind of operation.  It takes millions of dollars to pull an operation like this off, and it is hard not to wonder if the money could be better used somewhere else.  It's a tough decision.  I mean, why was polio chosen as the disease that has to be eliminated, no matter the cost?  Granted, it can be lethal, affects mostly children, and leaves many survivors paralyzed for life in its wake.  But many other diseases and conditions exist that kill more people than polio, such as malaria and malnutrition. The money used for polio could be used to change things that would have a greater affect on the death toll, such as building wells for clean water, better nutrition for children, an irrigation system so that crops wont fail as often, improving local hospitals, or developing a better system for disposing waste. A person who is paralyzed from polio will die of hunger just like a person who isn't paralyzed.

I guess you can make that claim for anything for that matter.  Decisions have to be made. What should we focus on?  Eliminating polio from the planet can be a definite success for humanity, a gift for future generations.  Our grandchildren will die of something, but it wont be polio.

4 comments:

Patricia said...

I really liked that book, too. He is a great writer. I wonder if he'll keep up both of his professions?

Speaking of keeping things going, is the new title to your blog and your past performance this week an indicator of, perhaps, a new goal in your life?

Katie said...

That was a real picker-upper of an ending you had there. Way to put it all into perspective.

Bryan Lewis said...

Yeah, I'm going to try to write something everyday. Most of the time I write the post the day before and then have Blogger post it for me the next morning. Sometimes I write it a couple of days in advance so that I can have a day where I don't have to write something.

Kathy Haynie said...

I remember when the small pox vaccine came out. It was a big deal. I was in about 3rd grade. We all went to the local elementary school--the whole town, kids, adults, everybody--to get the vaccine. It was a couple drops of purple liquid on a sugar cube. We had to go back 2 or 3 times, a few weeks apart. I can still picture those sugar cubes with the purple drops on them. My parents told me it was very, very important. I knew it was a big deal.