Friday, January 15, 2016

Alexander Fleming's Death Panel : 1943-45

The advent of Obamacare has led conservative minds all over the Anglosphere to talk of its imaginary death panels, where elite male doctors would hold the power of medical life or death over the hapless female civilians before them.

But it was conservative (as in Republican & Conservative Party supporting) male elite doctors who first served on actual death panels during the later half of WWII, where they did indeed condemn hapless female civilians to life or death ----- based mostly on their imagined class or ethnicity.

Jealous males fearing female success with penicillin

These male elites' united determination had originally  been to not let the world know anything of the wartime clinical triumphs of impure natural penicillin, hand nurtured by Mother Nature together with legions of working class women.

Not to tell anyone, not until penicillin was wholly Man-made (and Mother Nature and all those other women safely back in their kitchens) ---penicillin synthesized in chemical plants by upper class WASP male engineers and scientists : 100% pure, 100% artificial, 100% patented, 100% profitable.

I do seriously believe that men (people a lot like me) - in the midst of Total War, with a world crying out for life-saving medicine - could literally be that petty.

Conservatives (as usual) fearing the uncontrollable forces of a truly FREE market...

In throttling widespread public demand for penicillin, they also successfully throttled any serious efforts by outsider firms in profit-seeking drug industry to mass produce natural penicillin for the public.

Many of these medical elite had formal - and profitable - consultancies with the few firms inside Big Pharma permitted to have the inside track on penicillin research , others merely developed profitable but informal relationships with firms inside the penicillin cartel.

 So for these varied reasons and others, wartime penicillin was extremely scarce : but always remember : this was entirely a self-inflicted wound for the medical elite .

So, until late in 1943, lots and lots of people around the world died prematurely and needlessly, because none of these gladly-paying potential customers knew that penicillin could cure their infections - naturally there wasn't much of it around to satisfy a non-existence demand.

But at least no panels to pick and choose whose life was Life worthy of life-saving penicillin and who was Life unworthy of life-saving penicillin.

Social Medicine takes revenge over heartless war medicine

But then in August 1943, Social Medicine advocate (US Public Health's Thomas Parran) took belated revenge on his War Medicine opponent (US NAS-NRC's Lewis Weed).

He did so by doing an end run around one of Weed's NAS's committees (the COC) that was then successfully denying penicillin to most patients needing it, merely by successfully repressing all attempts to publicize its clinical successes.

Parran and the Hearst media empire changed all that with Parran's dramatic decision to give some of his department's penicillin to little dying Patty Malone, only hours before her expected death.

The Hearst report started out as a local NYC only news story - albeit a blockbuster story - but it is a given that any big NY story always breaks wide --- as it did, first stateside then all over the world.

Soon the COC and its penicillin czar, Dr Chester Keefer, were in the news daily via reports on whether he granted or denied penicillin to this or that dying civilian.

In Britain the situation was almost exactly the same.

Alexander Fleming :  capricious life & death penicillin czar

Active news suppression about the clinical successes in the popular media , led by Alexander Fleming & Howard Florey and others on the Churchill  government's General Penicillin Committee, has worked (fitfully) in the UK.

Had, until Patty Malone made penicillin a household word among the world's newspaper-reading public  literally overnight.

Soon the General Penicillin Committee had created its own subcommittee, much like the COC, tasked with deciding where penicillin was to be sent in Britain and who was to receive it.

Fleming was a member and as the person most associated with penicillin in the public eye, effectively became Britain's unofficial penicillin czar, leading a penicillin death panel.

If you are reading about this for the very first time, this is because this awkward fact had been ignored in all the hagiography thrown up over Fleming , who was successfully recast in the Hollywood image of the Dionne Quints' Dr Dafoe.

Kevin Brown

But the far and away best facts-oriented Fleming biography (Kevin Brown's Penicillin Man), goes into a great deal of detail about this unsavoury part of Fleming's career - denying penicillin to dying baby girls but  granting it to male soccer stars.

I can say unsavoury with much confidence - because the earliest, longest, loudness advocate that impure natural penicillin should not be mass produced to save lives (now !) was that of Alexander Fleming, who tirelessly backed waiting for synthetic penicillin that never came.

(Has never come.)

As the undisputed discoverer of penicillin, his opinion lent moral weight to the arguments of others, like doctors Florey and Richards, to suppress public knowledge of penicillin's life-saving abilities until it was synthesized and patented.

The only reasons elite  doctors' penicillin death panels could arise in the first place in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa during WWII, was because these same elite doctors conspired to deliberately limit the supplies of this lifesaver.

Vincent Duhig

Contrast this behavior with that of the truly saintly Dr Vincent Duhig, an inside agitator among Australia's medical elite, who mass produced his own natural penicillin in a successful effort to save all those in wartime Brisbane dying for lack of penicillin.

Alexander Fleming , by contrast, was a reputed hero with both feet and hands firmly in the clay ....

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