Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dawson's opponents, not Dawson, had special concern about SBE patients in September 1940

Pity the poor historian ( like me !) trying to recover the substance of the visual glances,the brief shoulder shrugs,  the sotto voce verbal hints and half finished sentences, all very typical of conversation within small cliques in a small staff room, when the group is divided up into various opposing factions of colleagues, who must still at least pretend to get along at work.

I believe that in September 1940, upon his return to medical school and hospital, Dr Martin Henry Dawson half overheard some conversations between members of a group of his colleagues who not well disposed to social medicine, even in peacetime.

The Fall of France had happened and many Americans believed the Fall of Britain was soon to follow.

The American medical elite, made up mostly of  conservatives not in favour of medical intervention towards the weak at home or abroad, were now all claiming to be preparing for a possible war.

Maybe they were - in part.

But for many of them, talk of war preparation allowed them to reduce the alarming amount of social medicine (treating the poor dying like the rich dying) being practised.

They insisted they were only seeking to reduce medical intervention among the domestic weak and small because all existing resources (and more) were needed for possible future medical intervention in support of Europe's weak and small nations.

Reducing domestic comfort and aid because of possible foreign intervention ---- which they were still strongly opposed to !

I call that classic 'Bad Faith' and template Orwellian Double Talk.

I think it was these colleagues who mentioned the SBE patients as the classic sort of 'bed waster' that a war medicine hospital could no longer afford.

We know there was already some existing consensus on ignoring the SBEs under war conditions because there was almost no resistance from doctors in America in the Fall of 1942, when the disease was declared by the NAS 'death panels' to be of no military value and so denied penicillin - the only medicine that could save its patients' lives.

This censenus was also found among doctors in Canada, the Uk and Australia as the NAS ban on the use of wartime penicillin for dying SBE patients was extended by the medical establishment in those countries again without almost any controversy.

But Dawson himself had never before spoken or written or researched on SBE and its patients.

His sudden concern in September 1940 to make the 4F SBEs the focus of his wartime natural penicillin crusade, I believe, came from him half overhearing his conservative colleagues dismissing them as worthy of equal treatment to the war wounded 1As.

Dawson's empathy for the unjustly neglected simply kicked in ....

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