Life Imitates Art

The 2002 film “John Q” begins with a scene in which a reckless driver dies, clearly at fault, in a horrific car wreck. Her organs, including her heart, are “harvested” or “recovered,” depending on your preferred choice of medical terminology, for purposes of organ donation. That organ recovery drives the plot of the rest of the film, which involves–somewhat heavy-handedly–the transplant of that very heart into a totally unrelated person dying of heart disease. In short, one person’s recklessness becomes her tragic demise; that tragedy becomes another person’s salvation.

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Fatal Vision: Boosters, Variants, and Equity

Getting a booster is no panacea, but not getting one may be a fatal mistake. That, at any rate, is the finding of a set of Israeli studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, one published in October, the other published just a few days ago. An excerpt from the abstract of the “Conclusions” section of the latter:

Across the age groups studied, rates of confirmed Covid-19 and severe illness were substantially lower among participants who received a booster dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine than among those who did not.

Read both articles all the way through for all of the relevant provisos and qualifications, but I think it’s fair to summarize both by saying that they jointly found that boosters reduced the incidence of both serious morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19, inclusive of all variants but Omicron (about which it’s too early to tell). Continue reading

The Invisible Casualties of CBT

This article just below reads like a companion piece to my earlier post on my late wife’s Alison’s struggles with chronic pain.

https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2021/11/11/how-cbt-harmed-me-the-interview-that-the-new-york-times-erased/

I agree almost entirely with Alana Saltz, the author of the article, and am saddened that Alison isn’t here to read it (in fact, I had to fight my initial impulse to send it to her). Saltz lays out many of the criticisms of CBT that Alison had made to me over the years, both as a therapist herself, and as someone with chronic pain. Before hearing those criticisms, I’d always had some vague unease about CBT that I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint. It wasn’t until Alison started expressing her criticisms of CBT in the direct, concrete, and vehement way characteristic of her that I was able to re-focus my own vague, nebbish doubts about it. I wrote some of those criticisms up for grad seminars in CBT back when I was a grad student in counseling, but never did anything with what I wrote. Saltz’s piece reinforces my confidence in my criticisms; maybe I ought to take the time to write them up. Here, in any case, is a quick summary.

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Desert and Merit (4)

In a previous post, I criticized George Sher’s view that merit-based desert is based on (the recognition of) existing conventions of merit. In these cases, the existing rules are already fashioned to reward merit in a justified way, so that justice (in the sense of rewarding desert) consists simply in acknowledging that a given person satisfies the criteria of merit, and acknowledging that in accepting the convention, we accept the further implication that the person deserves what the rules say they deserve. Continue reading

Desert and Merit (3)

The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power, and therefore is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and judgement of another.

–Hobbes, Leviathan, I.10.16

Sher’s account of desert and merit raises many questions, so let me double back to consider some of these, some addressed in his chapter, some not. I’d originally thought I’d leave the criticisms of Sher’s chapter at a single post, but it turns out that my criticisms have eaten up more space than I’ve thought they would. So this series on “Desert and Merit” is going to be longer than the promised or predicted two installments. Frankly, at this point, I couldn’t tell you how long it will be. As Michelangelo said (or is reported to me by Roderick Long to have said) about the Sistine Chapel, “It will be done when it is done.” I follow Michelangelo in such matters. Continue reading

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Well, it looks like the pro-booster side has essentially won the argument, at least in the US, over whether boosters ought to be given for recipients of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID vaccine, six+ months after the second dose. My brother Suleman and I have (very incompletely) argued the case in favor of boosters here, here, and here. As front-line health care workers (he’s a physician, I worked in OR EVS), we got our first doses of the shot back in December 2020, and our second ones in January 2021. He works with COVID patients in a hospital, and I work in an increasingly crowded office. Neither of us had any sense of how much protection we were getting from the vaccine at this point.

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Bishop John Shelby Spong, RIP

I was saddened to learn today of the death of John Shelby Spong, Bishop Emeritus of the Newark, New Jersey diocese of the Episcopalian Church. Though I can’t claim to have known Bishop Spong very well, he was a close friend of my parents’, and a constant presence in our family home. He was for decades Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Christ Hospital in Jersey City, where both of my parents worked–my father for forty, and my mother for thirty years. So we knew Bishop Spong less as a bishop than as a hospital trustee. The stories–or legends–I heard about him for decades were about health care, not theology.

Spong speaking in England; photo credit: David Gibson/RNS

Christ Hospital started its life as an Episcopalian institution. It later merged (or attempted to merge) with St Francis Hospital across the city, a Catholic institution. The merger initiated an apocalyptic sectarian battle for the mortal souls of both hospitals, a battle in which (I’m told) Bishop Spong did a fair bit of the fighting. Eventually, after a series of Jesuit-worthy legal complications I’ve never been able to grasp, Christ Hospital was consumed by the godless and soulless CarePoint Health System. By then, Bishop Spong had had the good sense to leave the hospital behind; Jesus Christ may or may not have been resurrected, depending on your theology, but Christ Hospital was not going to be resurrected, at least not in the form it originally took as an urban community hospital in the Episcopalian tradition.

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Who Made WHO: COVID-19, Global Class Warfare, and Booster Shots

Who pick up the bill when who made who? Ain’t nobody told you?

–AC/DC

On August 18th, The New York Times ran a story on the front of its feed titled “Booster Shots ‘Make a Mockery of Vaccine Equity,’ the WHO’s Africa director says.” In case that statement sounds needlessly inflammatory and emotionally manipulative, here’s the actual quote from Dr. Matshidiso Moeti:

Moves by some countries globally to introduce booster shots threaten the promise of a brighter tomorrow for Africa. As some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity.

To say that the introduction of a booster program in one nation poses a near-existential threat to a continent of 1.2 billion people is a stretch. But it’s not until you drill down to the factual details of the worldwide dynamic of COVID prevalence, vaccine production, and actual vaccination that you get a sense of how misleading and irresponsible that statement is, and how shaky is Moeti’s subsequent claim that as a consequence of boosters, more dangerous variants of COVID will arise.

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