Witnessing wilful self-destruction is never easy. Watching someone plumb the depths of alcoholism, or push the oxygen supply aside to light up with hands made uncontrollably trembly by the drugs needed to keep breathing because of the damage that same act has inflicted down decades is a living hell for those charged with care of loved ones so afflicted, and a kick in the teeth to those that try to treat them.
It’s often hard to take a step back and reserve judgement. But we are not them, we’ve not seen what they’ve seen, or done what they’ve done. We all have our vices, (Hob Nobs might spring to mind perchance) and we all sometimes take a road we know we ought not, just "to see what it’s like". Fortunately for many of us, we get turned around before a wrong turn gets us hopelessly lost, and that can give us some empathy for those less fortunate.
The thing I’m finding more difficult right now is finding that same empathy for those that opt to take a wrong turn on purpose. This winter Blighty has seen a Mumps outbreak. Most of the victims are young adults who were born a year or two too early to be caught in the initial MMR campaign of the late 80s. Some have been children held back from immunization because of a false fear placed in their parents minds by a tub thumping campaign based on widely discredited science about a supposed danger form the combined MMR vaccine.
The fall out from this was hopelessly bungled by the same politicians that told us BSE could never affect humans and by a scientific and medical establishment that failed to articulate clearly enough the counter argument. In the first flush of controversy it is easy to understand why some parents opted to hold back, but we are still finding MMR uptake rates lower than they need to be after all this time, and whilst I’m usually the first to champion the rights of the individual, I’m a little less keen on the right of the individual to remain wilfully and dangerously uninformed. Especially when it is not they, but their children who will bear the brunt of their decision.
In my time in Ambridge I’ve also witnessed patients cut off from family and community for an act so seemingly trivial as accepting a life saving blood transfusion, on the grounds of religious dogma, and others choosing to die, or being condemned by relatives to, for want of the same. I’ve also witnessed patients with curable, or at least remittable malignancies place their faith in crystals and carrot juice rather than hospitals and medicine, and have to endure unnecessary agonies and speedier exits as a result, all through some blinkered perspective that classed all allopathic medicine as bad because they had a bad experience once with Dr X or Hospital Y.
Mankind truly is everywhere born free, but some make pretty odd choices for their chains, and their blinkers.