Thursday, December 26, 2013

Defeating the PENICILLIN death panels

 Part One : the backstory

President Obama in 2009 had absolutely no intention of emulating Hitler's use of Aktion T4 death  panels,  but this does not mean that death panels were not in force under an earlier Democratic administration.

These death panels - common to all Allied nations during WWII - did not directly echo the German efforts, instead they and the German death panels were all part and parcel of a world wide ground swell among the well educated and the well off in support of 'eugenic' triage.

Starting at the very outbreak of the war in 1939, Hitler had authorized doctor-run death panels to met to decide which of the weak and elderly in Germany should be actively killed off.

He had wanted to do much earlier,  but judged it would be politically risky internally.

Now he could use the excuse of urgent war need as the reason to roll back the Weimar Republic's expansion of Social Medicine , supposedly in an effort to divert the freed up money towards War Medicine instead.

Sharing similar eugenic motives, the mostly eugenically-minded medical elite in Allied and in Neutral nations also used the urgent need for expanded War Medicine for the 1As, as an excuse to roll back Social Medicine for their society's 4Fs.

This roll back could lead  to patients dying - death by indirection rather than direct acts of murder, of course ,because these people prided themselves on not being Nazis .

(Vichy France, for example, so reduced funds to institutions for the chronically ill, that tens of thousands were "CODE SLOWED" to death due to inadequate food, heat and medical staff attention. Just as Britain had done similarly during the last years of WWI).

Asking, "how do we ration life-saving medical resources like the 1960s' supply of kidney dialysis machines ?",  is the totally wrong question 

What we first need to ask is , "why did the 1960s feel the need to ration life machines in the first place, when it didn't ration death machines ?"

Clearly the totally absence of any money isn't the real issue  but rather " how do we divide the very big but still limited bag of money that we do have"?

So hospital auxiliary bake sales did raise money for some kidney dialysis machines back then - but no bombers or nuclear weapons were ever fund-raised that way.

All politics is about rationing : 'the authoritative allocation of scarce resources' as the textbooks describe it .

The decision to allocate most of the available money to H-bombs and so to supply only a small amount for the supply of baby incubators and the such like was a human-made decision, not an Act of God or a Law of Nature.

Just as the President who intoned "bombs were dropped on Cambodia" in an academically-correct passive, nay wimpy, voice really meant that "men dropped bombs on Cambodian civilians and killed them, because I ordered it so."

Stalin and Hitler forthrightly ordered millions to be murdered  - they did not artificially create a shortage by a human political decision and  then sit around piously in death panels trying to decide how to allocate patients to that shortage as 'fairly' as they could.

Bad Faith and Hypocrisy were not among their many sins of Hot and Cold.

But the sins of the lukewarm might well be dealt with even harsher on Judgement Day and it is the lukewarm sinners of wartime penicillin that we now turn to.

Britain's Conservative-dominated government said it would only make enough penicillin in wartime to handle the military cases it wanted penicillin to deal with.

And their Labour and Liberal partners went along with that.

So, no penicillin for penicillin for civilians in Britain or in her colonies, none to Allied POWS, none for British military casualties judged of no further military use.

Canada and Australia "me -too-ed" in agreement - one government liberal the other Labour.

America having a government of competing agencies, on the same Social Darwin model as Hitler's government , spoke with two main voices.

The scientific medical elite (OSRD and NAS) ,with some support from the military and industry , wanted only enough made to deal with priority military cases. Think of FDR as the "Doctor Win the War" of 1940 onwards.

But think also of an earlier FDR, "Doctor New Deal", and all his New Dealer supporters' high hopes.

Because what was now left of all these New Dealers were huddled in a stockade known as the WPB (War Production Board),  surrounded on all sides by the hostile Republicans that FDR had brought into his administration, as part of his willingness to lose the internal social war to win the external military war.

The WPB proposed that enough wartime penicillin be made in America to generously supply all the penicillin needs of  the military, the civilians and the overseas allies, neutrals and residents of enemy occupied lands.

The WPB won the argument -- when the new Army Surgeon General switched sides .

But until industry went along with the gag, America would still have not enough for anyone domestic , let alone everyone domestic and their foreign cousin.

The year long delay until one industrial firm really climbed on board with gusto allowed the OSRD-NAS to play God by convening penicillin death panels.

They might have operated unchallenged but for one man : Henry Dawson.

He fought them , won and so changed history ....

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