Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When (and why) Toronto's famed Hospital for Sick Children DIDN'T report a miracle

Miracles and Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children are mostly associated with Nobel winner Fred Banting, eleven year old Elsie Needham and insulin back in the 1920s.

Unfortunately ,they are NOT associated with July 1942, penicillin and a dying nine year old boy (possibly still alive today) known only as R. V.

Much against the will of the anglo-american medical establishment, both insulin and sulfa had their very public miracles (as in "worldwide newspaper headlines") involving saving the lives of dying children.

Banting himself pushed insulin baby miracle cures into the popular media - it seems ordinary hospital doctors in Britain did the same in the case of sulfa.

The medical research establishment didn't really fear the effect of such news headlines upon the patients and their families.

Instead, they feared its affect upon their colleagues who were not as 'measured' , 'level headed','rational' and 'scientific' as themselves.

In their minds anyway.

Because , in fact , when it comes to trying new treatments for dying patients, GPs can be faulted for being too slow off the mark, not too fast.

First the average GP trys all the conventional treatments, in a descending order of unconventionality.

Then when the patient is visibly 'decomposed' as they say in medical articles - hours from the grave  - they try sulfa or insulin or penicillin and when the patient - despite all this delay - survives and quickly goes home fully healed, it truly does seem a miracle.

Now imagine a penicillin that - by and large - doesn't work , despite the bold initial claims made for it.

The GP seeing a nearly dead patient before them , despite all the current conventional and even unconventional treatments tried upon them.

Desperate they even try this here 'pen-i-cill-in' - and it fails.

The patient dies - as seemingly they were about to anyway.

Morally,who has been harmed by all this ?

The patient and their family knows that the doctors did everything - even went the extra four miles - to try and save someone with a limited likelihood of survival.

So they failed - but at least they tried and tried hard.

No, what the medical research community chiefs fear is not failure but success.

Because then there would be big headlines celebrating drug X when drug X is still in low supply , because the drug companies are patiently waiting for the researchers' results from long term, large scale, double blind studies, before deciding whether to invest large sums in scaling up production.

Forgotten in all this long term 'research leisureliness' is that there are many real people dying needlessly and families hurting needlessly.

Because nothing speeds up mass production like the spur of real competition - and competition can come out of the woodwork whenever front page headlines scream "medical miracle -new drug - short supply".

Not every investor reads medical journals but all can translate that bit of headlinese into plain old business English : dollars, lots and lots of potential dollars, to the firm that supplies Doctor Mom first.

WWII's penicillin almost never became a miracle drug.

The first few years of penicillin miracle cures in North America deliberately went unreported in the medical media --- let alone the popular media.

In Britain, one series was published in a medical journal but the popular press was successfully avoided by its lead author, Howard Florey.

Somehow, all the British daily newspapers' science cum medical journalists normally assigned to read medical journals for potential stories were charmed into staying mum on this big headline story.

Even in wartime, Fleet Street is highly competitive - it must have been a hell of a scientific "D" notice to silence the lot of them.

The reason was that the anglo american medical research leadership was hoping to turn penicillin-the-universal-lifesaver into penicillin-the-Allies-secret-weapon-of-war.

 And - to their eternal shame - anglo american science slash medical specialist reporters matched them into forgetting their sacred professional vows.

That these medical researchers - all men - were smart there can be no doubt.

Perhaps the smartest thing they ever did was to successfully evade the front line trenches in WWI , despite being fit enough.

Now that they were all fat and all over forty, they had become positively warrior fierce.

They would help win the war by denying lifesaving penicillin to dying Allied , Neutral, Occupied and Enemy civilians - despite that oath thingy they all swore when they first became doctors .

That same ancient oath was incorporated into the requirement to give equal treatment too all the sick and wounded, under the Geneva Convention on warfare.

They would even deny giving penicillin to Allied POWs in enemy hands - and to Allied wounded judged too damaged to ever likely see combat again.

Just for a few years ,you understand - just a few years of keeping news of penicillin miracles out of the Allied popular media read by neutral officials friendly to Nazi Germany.

So it could give a big medical advantage to the Allies when casualties got really heavy after D-Day.

Canadians went along too of course - there can't be many American or British asses we won't lick , if asked politely enough.

So back to the Hospital for Sick Children and poor little R.V.

He appeared deadly ill upon arrival at the hospital from blood poisoning brought on by a (botched ?) effort to remove a mildly diseased tooth.

Sixteen days of sulfa drugs had still left the boy in dire state - never conscious , high fever, high bacterial colony blood count , etc.

His health then took a turn from very very bad to 'death is near'.

The American doctor charged with controlling the limited supplies of penicillin being made (for clinical testing), Chester Keefer in Boston, was contacted.

Perhaps a personal contact between this very well known research doctor and someone big in research in Toronto, who knows for sure ?

Keefer gets Squibb Drugs in New Jersey to send up some of the badly filtered penicillin that Squibb was famous for turning out.

After some more filtering in the Toronto hospital, the penicillin is injected into R.V. and quickly claws him back from the grave and soon sends him on his way home.

This miracle was not reported in the medical or popular media despite July 1942 being perhaps the lowest point of the war for British Commonwealth morale (the fall of the Tobruk fortress) - such a severe morale crisis that even Churchill himself thought he might be forced to resign).

A Commonwealth lad saved by British medicine might seem to be the very morale tonic needed to pick up everyone's spirits - but it was not to be.

It was finally reported in December 1943 by Dr Nelles Silverthorne in the Canadian Medical Journal, CMJ.

Or should I say Silverthorne was allowed (or encouraged) to publish a crucial four months after Dr Dante Colitti took revenge on New York's medical elite and spilled all about penicillin, babies and miracle cures to Citizen Hearst's vast media empire ---- and ultimately to the whole world.

Dante's miracle baby ultimately died but not before his apparent early success with Baby Patty Malone touched so many mothers' hearts that the mass production of penicillin-for-all was assured from that point on.

But Canada, Toronto, The Hospital for Sick Children ?

They all just blew it ....

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