Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WWII was all about who we include , who we exclude ...

When we say that Henry Dawson's vision of wartime penicillin was 'inclusive', while that of Howard Florey was 'exclusive' , we are really getting at the key issue that divided all the world during, before and after WWII.

 " Just who do we include in ;  just who do we exclude out of our civil society's blessings ?"

Florey never called his vision for wartime penicillin 'exclusive' , but he did much use another term that means the same thing and in any case , his definite actions spoke much louder than his unspoken assumptions.

The word he always used to describe his goals for penicillin was 'pure' , chemically pure.

A dose of penicillin that excludes everything else in the original penicillin juice, whether that be helpful, neutral or harmful.

A 100 gram Vitamin C rich orange not merely concentrated into Vitamin C rich orange juice but further purified until it is a mere 100 mg of 100% chemically pure Vitamin C powder ... with all that impure orange taste and texture safely removed.

If Calvinists ever become our leading chefs, this is what our food will look like : pure carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in enormous pill form and worked down with many cups of sterile water.

Hitler wanted to exclude Jews, Romas, Queers, the chronically ill and the handicapped , socialists, Blacks - you name it - to make Germany one big pure homogeneous Aryan nation and race.

Left-leaning Social Medicine, of which Dawson was a proponent , wanted to see that Medicine helped all those sick : it was inclusive.

 And not just by helping those American blacks, aboriginals and immigrants usually neglected under 'for-profit' medicine either.

Its proponents also wanted to intervene (medically and otherwise), overseas ,to help those under attack by Hitler, Stalin and Tojo.

By contrast, the conservatives behind the idea of "War Medicine"  wanted to use the defence of America as an excuse to roll back the New Deal emphasis on Social Medicine by claiming that in a Total War lead-up, all precious resources had to shift away from the (generally poorer) 4Fs to the (generally better off) 1A citizens.

Just because they talked war did not mean they were pro intervention overseas, just the opposite.

Their vision not just excluded helping sick 4F Americans at home, it also excluded helping sick 4Fs overseas as well.

Florey and Fleming both wanted penicillin to be chemically 100% pure and synthetic before it was produced in big volumes.

They were also both in intimate lockstep with the War Medicine proponents at Britain's Ministry of Supply and America's OSRD who wanted to restrict civilian access to (and knowledge of) the miracle cure , all the better to make penicillin a weapon of war.

If it could be kept exclusively as a secret weapon of war, the Allies could return wounded troops to combat quicker than the Germans or Japanese could.

By contrast, Dawson felt that doctors should help the sick and wounded soldiers of both sides (including Allied POWS !) and help the civilians of all sides : Neutral , Axis and Allied.

And  he wanted penicillin - whether synthetically pure or naturally impure* he didn't care - produced in mass levels now , not after the war was over.

(* His team never let the impurity of their self-proclaimed "crude penicillin" stop them from being the first in history to give it systemically, via needle, to save a life.

 They later even published a journal article speculating crude penicillin had additional beneficial substances that made it a better medication than just pure penicillin itself...)

Dawson definitely did not want to see the medicine produced in tiny levels so as to render acceptable the rationing of it, to justify   giving it only to those civilians who were useful because of their involvement in the war effort.

He felt even a person incapable of almost any work still deserved penicillin, a warm meal, a warm bed and a warm smile.

Dawson felt this sort of American medical establishment thinking was far too close to that of Hitler's Aktion T4 projects - where people judged non-useful were starved, denied warm shelter and medicine or killed outright.

He believed if the Allies were seen saving the lives of people most of the educated world saw as 'useless' - even during an all-out Total War - this would help defeat Hitler morally in the many many Neutral countries and also strengthen the resolve of those Allied frontline troops facing death to defeat him militarily.

If the OSRD and Florey used penicillin as a weapon, we need ask did Dawson use it as a weapon, as well ?

Yes he certainly did.

As a weapon in a moral battle.

Dawson's touting of the inclusive use of wartime medicine definitely did have a moral cum political/diplomatic impact, in addition to the extra patients it medically admitted to be saved.......

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