“In critical moments,” said Star Trek’s master of logic, Mr. Spock, “men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see.”
Apparently so. The truth of this statement hit me like a bolt of lightning recently when a friend relayed his experience at a medical clinic. It seems the ignorance and lack of rational thinking in our medical system is even worse than I imagined.
It all started when my friend John, a man in his mid-60s, went to the doctor to fill out forms and answer questions before undergoing an in-house surgery. After about 30 minutes of taking his history, the nurse asked him if he had taken the COVID vaccine. John replied that he had not—a fact he had already told the office secretary when he made his appointment—but that he was prepared to take tests to see if he was positive for the virus.
The nurse gasped, shot back in her chair, opened the door to the room, apparently to clear the air of potential infection, and went in search of the doctor. In a few minutes, the physician entered the room to tell John that they wouldn’t do the procedure unless he was vaccinated. As he questioned her about this policy, she explained that they had just completed a procedure on a fully vaccinated and boosted female patient who had tested COVID-free on the day of her operation. The following day, she had called them to say that she had now tested positive for the virus.
That, the doctor said, was the reason John needed to have the vaccine if he wanted his treatment to go forward.
Her stance, of course, made absolutely no sense—I’m still trying to wrap my mind around her reasoning— and when John mentioned some statistics he’d seen about the vaccines, she brushed his input aside, saying she didn’t believe anything in the media anymore.
They talked a few more minutes, but the doctor refused to budge, so John left after being assured he would get his deposit back.
Three takeaways from this encounter disturbed me.
First, are we really going to deny medical care to those who don’t want to take the COVID vaccine? I’ve heard of cases where this has occurred, but until now, I never personally knew anyone who was refused medical treatment. How is that refusal ethical? And how is it logical?
Second, the doctor’s use of the female-patient example to defend her vaccine policy is baffling. The vaccine hadn’t prevented that patient from getting COVID. Why would the doctor then demand that John receive the vaccine when it clearly hadn’t worked in another patient? There’s no logic in this argument.
Finally, there are my own health concerns. My apologies for getting personal here, but since the age of 55, I’ve had two colonoscopies, one of which revealed polyps. The polyps were removed, but as my family doctor told me, “You’d have been dead in two years if they hadn’t taken those out.”
I’m about a year past due for another such check-up, and I’m planning to call a local clinic to schedule the procedure, but after John’s experience, I wonder: Will they also deny me treatment because I haven’t taken the needle? If that’s the case, what’s my next step? Perhaps look for a different clinic? Or should I break down and get the vaccine? Maybe I’ll just skip the whole thing and take my chances with colon cancer.
Please take a moment and reread the doctor’s explanation for denying John his surgery. This is a professional who studied four years in college, four years in medical school, and at least three years in a residency. In other words, here’s a highly educated individual who somehow lacks the ability to reason.
Perhaps the doctor never acquired that tool, though I doubt that’s the case. Instead, I suspect that fear—no, let’s call it hysteria—has displaced her ability to work logically through a problem.
She’s certainly in good company. Back in 2014, Samuel Greengard published an article on Baseline titled “Are We Losing Our Ability to Think?” He writes, “In an era in which there’s unsurpassed information at our fingertips … there’s more ignorance than ever.” And as he points out, there’s even evidence that IQ levels are declining in the West.
After the last two years, we can safely surmise that this ignorance has grown only more endemic. In many people, even smart people, fear has conquered reason.
And that should terrify all of us.