As you may or may not know, May 14th is a sacred day in the roman calendar due to a litany of very valid and totally understandable reasons. Perhaps the most compelling is that it is the day of birth for so many influential people. Namely: Me and the homie, George Lucas.
However in the midst of what should be a coveted national holiday, we begrudgingly share the spotlight of a very particular presence in the world of politics, and indeed, public health. She has been the target of many verbal lashings on both social media and national media alike, and with good reason. From calling Hilary a bad mom, claiming Brexit was a win for the anti-corporate movement, to now being hailed as the new Bernie following his loss to Clinton; she has found a unique niche of being the hard-line progressive fall back when they stopped feeling the Bern. She may be all these things, and she may be not. That’s a subject of a debate better left for two naive political science freshmen who do all the assigned readings ahead of time.
What isn’t up for debate is the credo she carries behind her words as a Harvard Med grad and a internal medical practitioner for 25 years prior to her involvement with the political arena. This becomes important considering, in this author’s opinion, her incredibly left leaning outlook on some of the more controversial parts of American medicine.
How so? Let’s observe the platform her campaign site (*cough* volunteer intern) has so neatly drafted. She believes in universal healthcare, against cancer insurance, as well as a huge believer in preventative medicine. When you take a step back, these actually seem like pretty ethical, yet impossible demands in modern day politics. Add to the fact, her newly surfaced fiasco regarding her being against mandatory vaccination alongside her belief in homeopathic medicine and sure enough, she reeks of Grade A political loony.
But is she really all that wrong in this regard?
Today I’ve selected Jill of house “No Chill” as a vehicle in exploring the merits behind what seems to be ludicrous health policy arguments, and answer some of the hard hitting questions she has raised. Is corporate America truly a decisive powerhouse that rules all of healthcare policy? Are we throwing alternative medicine underneath the carpet of disbelief unjustly? Is the fight against GMO foods really worth it?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Reel Big Pharma & The Vaccinations
First off, let me level with you here my dear reader: Big Pharma does indeed wield a lot of clout when it comes to the subject of lobbying. If you read the previous link there would be a quote saying something along the lines of :
“With the help of staggering profits and 1,100-plus paid lobbyists, the industry has gained powerful leverage on Capitol Hill. From 1998 to 2014, Big Pharma spent nearly $2.9 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry. The industry also doled out more than $15 million in campaign contributions from 2013-14.”
This matters as it is a huge part of Jill’s distrust of vaccination. Her argument being that due to the corruption of regulatory agencies, we as citizens cannot comply with mandatory vaccination as there exists no system to provide quality control to these vaccines. Furthermore, the price of vaccines are so far removed from the control of the people, that it can be exploited as a ploy to make more money for big pharma, and those in control of policy at the FDA and CDC.
As much as I’d like to say this is pandering to tin foil hat wearing conspirators, there is a large body of merit behind her rhetoric.
You can’t really vote in a state senator to solve this issue as it is between that of the federal government and a private entity. It makes sense from a business standpoint for pharmaceutical companies to ensure that vaccines hit market shelves and are sold in droves to make up the billions of dollars invested in its development. It also makes sense that we should be worried about the current state of pharmaceuticals and how little power consumers have. Thus, the suspicion the Jill exudes is the organic reaction to something that you cannot control but must deal with consistently in our private lives.
BUT FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY JILL WHY’D YOU GO AGAINST VACCINES
There’s been an effective analogy that preventative health professionals enjoy utilizing when it comes to explaining the ethics behind vaccination, and mandatory vaccination at that. People complained about mandatory seat belts, until the evidence was irrefutable that wearing one drastically improves an individual’s chance of surviving a car crash. It is a small price to pay for dividends that aren’t immediately apparent: You get to freakin live. What should’ve been your head flying through tempered glass is now just you taking zealous advantage of 7/11’s free slurpie day and accidentally bumping into another car.
But there’s funny thing about the vaccines we’re required to take before we go about mucking this world up with our opinions, and that they’re typically vaccines for diseases that once caused epidemics. Influenza, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Pox, Hep B, Hep A, heck even malaria now gets a spot on the list. Being infected by anyone of those as an individual sounds like a complete nightmare, we can agree on that yeah?
Now imagine that on a much larger scale. The whole point of how vaccination works is if as many people as possible in a population buy into it. It’s similar to how if you want to weed out a garden, you don’t just comb almost all of the garden then leave that little spot in the corner on its own. You go through the entire garden and make sure the weeds are gone, as even a single one could reproduce and reverse all that hard effort you put into it.
Imagine if a selective few people simply refused to take the smallpox vaccine and were allowed to have their way for the next 100 years. I’d bet my bottom dollar that the span is enough time for a virus, something that makes genetic adaptation its entire business (looking at you HIV), to once more become virulent and infectious to a general population.
Should there be more price control on pharmaceutical products? Yes, Jill, the science is with you on that one. Do we lack the power to do much of anything on this? Team “No Chill” is right again on this mark. But you just Patrick Ewing’d what was supposedly a very good argument Jill.
There’s No Place like Homeopathy
Alright, Jill. Sure you’ve bungled what could’ve been a great point on Pharma policy making, but surely you’re not going to let that bleed into your opinion on homeopathy right?
Spoiler: She does, but does bring up an interesting point. Let’s hear it from the woman herself in a recent interview she had on Reddit:
‘For homeopathy, just because something is untested doesn’t mean it’s safe. By the same token, being “tested” and “reviewed” by agencies tied to big pharma and the chemical industry is also problematic. There’s a lot of snake-oil in this system. We need research and licensing boards that are protected from conflicts of interest. They should not be limited by arbitrary definitions of what is “natural” or not’
Jill here adopts a common approach on the affirmation of homeopathy, being that the scientific community should adopt a more sympathetic view of the field of study, given that there could be some good hidden within the dust of what some call “insufficient evidence“. The lack of solid evidence could be the result of lack of interest due to so many well endowed researchers throwing away pro-homeopath studies before giving it a second look. Lack of federal grant funding doesn’t help the field in establishing a semblance of legitimacy either. We could very well be plugging the fountain head of innovation. Heck you know what, it even makes sense for Big Pharma to throw their weight around in the regulatory marketplace and try to block potential competitors from making it into the limelight. After all, that’s business.
The problem, however, burns at both ends of the stick. Producers aren’t exactly known for validating their research, and consumers are buying into really bad products. Jill again almost strikes gold but is tied down by her allying with homeopathy and not towards alternative medicine that have made progress in the scientific arena, such as documented traditional herbal medicines. A vivacious appeal towards one the extreme ends of hypothetical medicine effectively dulled her legitimate contention that we should not blind ourselves to things not ‘tested and reviewed’.
Once again I’m left sitting at the edge of my seat, watching what could’ve been a home run melt into giving the opposing team’s pitcher a no hitter. I’m not even going to bother to explain that sports analogy, I figure you know what I meant.
Gee Erm, Ooooooh.
I was going to write about a lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of GMO labeling and whether or not we should throw our weight behind it. But Obama just signed a bill mandating GMO labeling.
Suffice it to say, GMOs in the long run aren’t the best for the environment given their potential to pollute the natural gene pool of crops and render them unable to respond to environmental stressors. But that’s a topic that’s an article and a half in itself, and I could very well be completely wrong. So I’ll let you off the hook this time Jill.
Jill Stein has been ridiculed as anti-science and essentially not with the times and theme of the current election. However, a closer examination shows that her stance isn’t necessarily anti-science, but rather anti-established science. As we as a community progress forward and try to make sense of the crazy natural world around us, it is important that people like No Chill Jill stops us and forces us to ask whether or not we’ve looked back at what we’ve done and see that we could be wrong. While her anti-pharma rhetoric may be toxic to her political career, it certainly should give us younger scientists some food for thought as we begin to build ground on our careers and enter an industry.
Just make sure that food is labeled, its the law now.