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“The study of the evolution of disease patterns provides evidence that during the last century doctors have affected epidemics no more profoundly than did priests during earlier times. Epidemics came and went, imprecated by both but touched by neither. They are not modified any more decisively by the rituals performed in medical clinics than by those customary at religious shrines. Discussion of the future of health care might usefully begin with the recognition of this fact.”

                  – Ivan Illich, Limits to Medicine, Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health, 1974

The epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic in China is Wuhan, a city of eleven million people. All that needs to be done has already been done by the Chinese authorities – at the level of medical, political, military establishments. The measures adopted are so simple that you don’t need facilities ordinarily available in the best of the hospital anywhere in the world. This is a moment of reckoning for all the allopathic medical doctors, their associations and the government medical structure all over the world to stand up and take a stance that no evacuations are needed from Wuhan. This simple principle is taught in third year MBBS studies in medical colleges all over the world. Why is the medical establishment participating in a panic reaction?

The politicians have a reason to be seen to be doing something for the respective citizens of their countries in a show of aggressive nationalism. This stance of politicians does not have an iota of scientificity. Why is this not being opposed by WHO? True the WHO will say that it is not a super national government. But it could at least hourly issue the advice that evacuation from Wuhan should not be undertaken. As of now only the Chinese authorities are seen to be working with a scientific temper. Even within the area of epicentre what people need to be doing is wearing a mask and washing hands with soap as and when necessary. The suspected source of the virus viz flesh of exotic animals and birds has already been taken care of by municipalities in Wuhan province.

I worked during the cholera epidemic in 1971 at the Indo-Bangla border as volunteer medico for three months; as also during the national smallpox eradication program in Bihar in 1974 for three months under a WHO program. Also as part of a team I worked in Delhi during the cholera epidemic of 1988 and brought out a document titled “Crime Goes Unpunished”; around 1500 people had died in that epidemic.

I was member of ABVA, the first voluntary group in India which worked on the AIDS epidemic head on in 1988. I have the basic principles of managing epidemics very clear in my mind. In fact the best time to show how unscientific the medical establishment behaves is when it deals with a fresh epidemic and that time is now when the unprecedented panic reaction is being witnessed wherein the most developed nations are evacuating their citizens from Wuhan.

For instance why is the CDC, Atlanta not telling the Trump administration not to indulge in this buffoonery. Were it not the tragedy accompanying the epidemic one would have said that the white coated medical professionals outside China are colluding in the comical opera staged by third rate politicians whose sole aim – with an eye on the next election – is to create an illusion amongst the masses that they are bringing their citizens back to their homeland rescuing them from the from the jaws of death. This is absolute bullshit.

Going by the track record the political establishment will have its way world wide and medical establishment will keep its mouth shut just as it did during the Nazi regime! The evacuation process would continue unabated. The irony is that Indian government wants to evacuate large number of Indian medical students studying there; in fact their services should be utilised in Wuhan during the ongoing epidemic.

[Dr. P.S. Sahni is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and a member of PIL Watch Group & AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan. Email: pilwatchgroup@gmail.com]


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