Being made ill

The daily count of deaths from the Red Chinese Batflu is among the prized, scare-mongering features of our mass media. I am among those who consider these numbers to be significantly overstated, for a reason that Nikolai Gogol would understand. Each corpse is worth cash to some public authority, usually from a higher authority; and as always, finally from the taxpayers. Each also saves money for government programmes, that can be reallocated to the purchase of new votes. As the corpse providers from this virus are very old, and suffering from other life-threatening conditions, in almost every case, this statistical inflation is easy to perform. Death certificates are issued for any who died with “Covid-19,” whether or not they died from it, and more are then added of those who were never tested. Anything respiratory will do. It’s all judgement calls — on which side of the bread is buttered.

Compare if you will the Hong Kong Flu of 1968 and 1969. I was just reading a memoir, from down that memory hole. The death toll was actually higher then, than ours is now, and from within a smaller population; the victims included children and the young. Yet there were no interruptions in economic life; no public emergency theatricals; and at the height of the second wave of that scourge, we had events like Woodstock. (Those were the days, my friend.)

A neat way to correct for all our “judgement calls” might be to look at overall death rates, and see if they have risen or fallen. It is too early to get a clear view, but soon it may be too late, for vested interests will have tampered with them. All my life I have been learning to trust statistics, less — especially from those who dress in labcoats and affect that earnest look. Sometimes an exception must be considered, however. An unpredictable minority may be honest; some others might get numbers right by mistake.

But in judging the “impact” of our pandemic, my standard of comparison is the iatrogenic toll. That is, the aggregate dead from medical errors (which are of many different kinds). The number per year in USA is estimated by their respected National Academy of Medicine (who have no motive for overestimating) at well over 200,000. Their definitions are narrow; the truth could be that the doctors (and their assistants) kill off twice that. One may add another four times for abortions, which takes us to a million at least. These are all people who might have lived, had they been spared medical attention. Except the abortions, few are intentionally murdered, of course. And balancing this, I admit, lives are also saved, even in the ICUs.

So currently we are at about one-twentieth of the iatrogenic toll.

My own suspicion is that the ratio, of those killed to those saved by medical intervention, has remained fairly constant over the years, since distant antiquity. I would include witch-doctoring and the like, were I researching figures. As a general rule, I think pseudo-scientific arrogance cancels gains from technical innovations, unless we count soap and water as high-tech.

The numbers are confused by the medicalization of modern life, with its many layers of unintended consequences. People do get sick, and even die, in the state of nature; but the pre-modern means of coping with this were better. They were not made sick by constant suggestion; they had nothing like the modern states of depression, with their terrible fallout in suicide, hypochondria, and addictions.

I was not surprised to learn, years ago, that during the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike of 1962 (against the imposition of “socialized” medicine), the death rate actually fell. I will not be surprised when I learn that it did so during this pandemic, too — wherever medical treatment was denied for any other illness than the Batflu.

“Listen to the science,” the unctuous have said. I think we might live longer if we didn’t.