On Bauer, on Covid-19
A friend asked for my opinion on a recent article by Ann Bauer drawing parallels between how medical professionals dealt with her autistic son, and how much of the world has responded to Covid-19 (and those in authority in particular, I think it’s fair to emphasise).
To open, this is a truly heartbreaking, and heartfelt, story. While I feel its structure is slightly flawed, I find its arguments compelling. There is certainly no doubting Bauer’s sincerity, nor her trauma.
Importantly, I think the parallels Bauer draws are valid: while the information available to all has exploded over the time-frame her story covers, problems have persisted in medicine, and arguably worsened. I say worsened because, not only are we all in danger of drowning in this sea of publications, opinions, data, etc., many, including our highest officials, seem increasingly convinced that the only course of action—across many walks of life, but including public health—is to speak first and speak loudly; i.e., seize the narrative, don't let go, and make sure it's internally consistent.
An utterly impossible task, the merits of which must be questioned.
And questioned very seriously, I think, if we are to hold together as a people in the trials and tribulations that many convincingly predict are nigh.
We, as a people, need to embrace uncertainty. Truly embrace it. Because it is there, whatever we tell ourselves, however we perceive things. Me, I see parallels to the United States in late 2001, and the Patriot Act, as I've written about before. That striving for safety, perfect safety, was detrimental; terribly so, I would argue. And another utterly impossible task.
I think what's really scary, for me, is how vulnerable we are, every one of us, when it comes to the health of those we care about. Clear perception and reason are simply out of reach for most of us in those terribly trying moments. And so, medical professionals wield enormous power over us, particularly in the case of medical emergencies, or situations that are framed as such.
Prompted by a recent interview, I read, once again, the horrific story of an old acquaintance who is now severely disabled, largely because of a botched medical procedure that, since, professional upon professional are aghast to hear recounted, unable to fathom that, not only did it happen, but that it happened in a Canadian facility; that even someone with rudimentary medical training would almost certainly flag such an attempt as something approaching malpractice.
And yet, after each medical professional tells her that they would never ever use a needle of that gauge when performing a spinal tap on someone with her frame, she is still only able to walk for minutes a day; was still bedridden for years afterwards.
And Bauer's son is still dead.
I do everything is my power to follow the advice of the NHS. Not all of it is within my power: the Covid-19 app doesn't work on my phone, for example. And, as I've written about before, their silence in a time of need has been palpable.[ref, ref] But, when it is issued, I do everything in my power to follow it.
But I don't do so without trepidation.
And that trepidation is growing. Slowly. But growing.