Blog # 40 MEDICINE NEEDS A GPS

Privacy is the personal right to limit the content of our communications to people of our own choosing, it is an invaluable feature of our American liberty.

Intrusion into private communications is illegal (exception, legally authorized wire- taps in the area of terrorism and criminal activities). The fact that this important protection on behalf of the individual citizen applies to government is laudable, especially when contrasted with many foreign countries. The difficult contest between the citizens’s right of privacy and the government’s responsibility to maintain security, often needs Court resolution and is dealt with on a case- by- case basis.

Our vital right of privacy also applies to other areas. For example, New York Civil Rights Law, section 50 et seq. forbids the use of a photo or other likeness of a person, in trade or advertising, unless the individual to be protected, executes a valid, written waiver

On the other hand, government, happily, does not have an analogous right to privacy. Unless the information sought has been legitimately classified as “Confidential,” any citizen may deliver a valid demand for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) to the government or other body or agency.  The purpose has to be proper, and the individual, a legitimate interest in the matter

Communications with lawyers, doctors and priests are also protected, as “privileged,” if the information was given in the context and as part of the professional relationship. This right, again, protects the individual, who alone may personally waive the right by a valid signed writing or by conduct unequivocally amounting to his waiver of privacy.

Important protection is granted by a Statute mandating privacy in hospital, clinic or doctor’s office settings, concerning the personal health data of the patient (HIPAA).

However, for many years, there has been a uniform “wrong way Corrigan” application and perhaps an insufficient understanding of the health privacy law (HIPAA) by the medical profession.

In order to be admitted to a hospital, clinic or seen by a doctor, we are all (illogically) obliged to sign an Agreement that we are aware of the privacy afforded (us) under the privacy Statute, and, usually, and equally useless, a statement that the Agreement was, indeed, signed by us. The Admitting Nurse then advises the new patient sternly, that these documents will be placed in his “Permanent File.” What errant nonsense!

The protection of privacy is the patient’s protection against disclosure by the hospital or doctor. It may be that the medical professional and its expensive legal counsel need a GPS to correct the direction of HIPAA rights. What legal purpose does it serve to have the party whose rights are to be protected, sign such an agreement? If a signed writing were necessary (and it is not), it is the Hospital or doctor who have the obligation to keep patient’s data confidential.

By illustration, If an unconscious patient, alone, and unable to sign such a document, was brought into the emergency room, is not the Hospital nevertheless restricted by HIPAA from disclosure?

A prospective patient surrenders his body and future life to a hospital or medical professional, necessarily, with supreme trust and reliance upon the assumption that he will be treated by competent, rational and trustworthy stewards; the cockeyed application of HIPAA, does nothing to increase his confidence.

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Blog #39     ALONE TOGETHER

While both birth and death are, by their nature, solitary occurrences, between these two astounding events we live through a wide variety of experience. These take place either in isolation or with others; in the greater number of instances we are, happily, afforded the luxury of choice.

There are many instances which by their very nature are solitary; these include brushing teeth, sleeping, itching, bathing (most of the time) and having the flu.

Other experiences require the participation of others, including, dancing, love- making, haircuts, chess, checkers and tugs-of-war.

In the third category of experience, the choice to jointly participate with another, uniformly results in a more satisfying and better experience. In the special area of love-making, it is observed that a shared (dual) experience is to be preferred; we call this” love.” There are those who seek sex solely for personal release and gratification and view the partner as an object; this we term “lust.”

A meal or a cocktail may be enjoyed alone, but in most instances is more enjoyable, sometimes, memorable, in the company of friends.  Personal conversations (trust me) are more satisfying than electronic messaging (see: blog#4). Why socialize alone?

We, among a great many other evolved inhabitants of the planet, birds, horses, buffaloes and wolves, are essentially social beings, developing and shaping our lives in a communal and societal fashion. One’s identity, thought patterns and expectations are learned and edited early by our community. (See blog #3).

With reference to the crucially important subject of education, particularly early education, public schools are preferable to home schooling, if objective   education is the goal. The attendance at public school is especially important in early years for a great many reasons, including the benefit of a trained, college educated teacher,  as well as experience in socialization. In the case of home schooling, the quality of education will be limited by the extent of the instructor’s own  education and affected by his/her personal perceptions; add to this the absence of necessary developmental  experience derived from interacting with other students.

In higher education, the experience of students personally interacting with the instructor, is beneficial to both; this personal,” two-way” exchange is an essential part of real education (as is the interaction between students).  This is significantly to be preferred to the somewhat new method of learning at home by computer; the latter development is a” one-way” delivery of information without the real personal presence of an instructor and student interface. While sometimes students can respond the benefits fall far short of the spontaneous face-to-face interaction so necessary in the acquisition of a good education. Computer college may be more useful in training students who are job oriented, but not for an education capable of producing wisdom in addition to factual information. Unlike texting in which the communicant socializes alone, students need real classrooms.

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Blog # 38 DIM ENLIGHTENMENT

Religious proselytizing has been practiced, it seems, as long as the existence of its first cousins, ethnocentrism and egocentricism.

As noted in blog#3, it is only by the accident of birth that we all acquire our particular culture and belief system; despite this, differences in belief or religious affiliation (inculcated by unfortunate childhood lessons in “we” “ and they”) have  led to mythmaking, evangelism and even war.

There are those who volunteer or are recruited to be self-appointed messengers of “god’s word.” Usually of limited formal education, these do-gooders function with “horse-blinders” in lieu of rational perspective. Sad to say, these mono-focused, “dedicated” folks are themselves, victims of their own deluded message.

In response to any question, these loyal propagators of the” truth,” with the efficiency of  programmed robots, will  recite, accurately and faithfully, chapter and verse of the King James Bible, their sole and exclusive source of information  and guidance.  What will it take for such believers to at long last, realize that the bible was written by men who in their time believed that the Sun rotated (orbited) around the Earth? (See: blog#36 “Lichens on Stone.”).

The mission of these peddlers of “the faith” is to bring such enlightenment to non-believers so that they, themselves, incidentally, will also be saved. {Saved from what?} Their vista is a reductive, insular and erroneous take on human life and character, its aspirations and spirit.

Our nation was founded by great statesmen and thinkers who, conscious of the long previous history of religious tyranny and oppression in Europe, purposefully omitted any reference to the Deity in our founding documents. Their writings clearly explain that this was done to avoid religious zealotry from tainting our democracy.

The world does need saving.  Poverty, disease, homelessness, conflict, illiteracy and countless other causes which are relevant and immediate; world problems which require rational enlightenment and real world solutions to humanity’s suffering.

Yet, surely and predictably, these self- anointed missionaries will be seen well-dressed, hair brushed,  pamphlets in hand, standing mutely in subway stations and elsewhere and  ringing doorbells, smugly engaged in their naïve and  irrational “mission.”

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Blog # 37   EXTREME MODERATION   (“Generally Speaking” redux)

It should not be judged immoderate to again proclaim the statement that there is no generalized formula for successful life and living; no stated guide suitable for every individual and every nuanced occasion. As stressed in blogs, ##11 and 34, some of these seemingly sage prescriptions for living have limited use and then, only in their selective and judicial application.

One such seemingly salutary and even-handed admonition may be among the most misleading. While it appears wise and certainly harmless, this apparently vanilla statement is therefore, insidious and harmful. The statement is “Moderation in all things.” All things?

The greatest of all the ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles, in all of his plays, uniformly stressed the instructive theme of “sophrosyne  (moderation ).The tragic heroes of his plays  were always  men, usually  kings, who suffer great and unspeakable loss occasioned by  hubris,  excess of passion. The ancient Greek audience was taught moderation through cathartic identification with the tragic hero.

Sophocles must have intended the goal of sophrosyne to apply, exclusively, to excess emotion and passion; even he, I trust,  would not prescribe moderation for all of life’s experiences.

Certainly, excesses in anything, even good things is harmful; a breakfast bowl of oatmeal is nourishing and good; five pounds of oatmeal per diem would have tragic results. Unfortunately, sometimes the judgment of “excessive” is subjective and personal; nevertheless, “moderation” as a (universal) rule is ipso facto erroneous.

There are, in fact, many aspects of life which would suffer under the banner of moderation; moderate love of spouse and family, moderate zeal in the pursuit of knowledge and science, moderate loyalty, moderate honesty and morality, moderate care and attention, moderate empathy.  These examples, among many others, would lead to inadequate, faulty or cruel results.

There are, of course, many instances where moderation is a good guide; in such instances as temper and reactive behavior, expectations, justice (moderated with mercy), ambition, driving speed and diet.

Formulas are for chemistry and physics, not for human behavior.

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Blog # 36 Lichens People

“My mind’s made up, don’t confuse confuse me (with facts) is a deadly statement; one that is a predictable recipe for stagnation and enduring ignorance. It is the inclination and utterance of those who, wittingly, or unwittingly, adhere to mythical and obsolete beliefs with the same unyielding and  persistent bond as lichens on stone or dead logs.

To be fair, there is always some discomfort adherent in the uprooting of long and traditionally held beliefs and assumptions; changes of every kind are predictably accompanied by some discomfort (see:blog#15) Lichens do not grow, perceptively, and thus many adhere comfortably unchanged in knowledge and in situ ; better undisturbed and comfortable than disturbed.

It remains a mystery to p. how the statement,”ignorance is bliss” was ever generated since the truly ignorant would seem to lack the awareness and objective detachment to make the necessary comparison and observation.

A sad, but demonstrable example of lichen attitude exists with regard to the important subject of climate change; a phenomenon so evident as to be virtually incontrovertible.

There are many lichens folk, notably, politicians and Congresspeople who, when asked for their position on climate change, predictably respond,” I am not a climate scientist.” Yet if it is conceded that only climate scientists are competent to comment on climate change, why do not the many climate change deniers heed the uniform finding of those scientists to the effect that climate change is real, imminent and dangerous to the planet? It is because lichen people cling to their familiar rock.

In like fashion, there are those who obstinately deny evolutionary theory.  Charles Darwin aside, reliable and verified  biological, chemical, geological and paleontology studies and verified findings  are unimpeachable in their demonstration of the evolutionary process from simple-cell organisms to man.

A rafting trip down the Colorado River from Hoover Dam (Grand Canyon), about half way down, reveals eye-catching evidence,  in the many exposed layers of strata, from the oldest and deepest to the more recent levels, of the progress from simple organisms and plant life to the later developed  species.

A typical lichen person said to p. one day, that “evolution is just a theory.” to which the response was “so is the theory of gravity, electricity and the speed of light.”

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Blog #35         SANGUINE SPORTS

Oh, how we love our pets; our dogs and cats with the soft fur and warm bellies. We are a nation of pet and animal lovers. Dogs and cats regularly appear in movies, for our added entertainment, and in commercials to seduce sales. They are nurtured by us as quasi-children, are protected, and given a household niche. By reason of our anthropomorphic inclinations, we project human traits and responses to them (See blog#31) and by identification, by nurturing them, receive (ourselves) the nurturance we have always sought.

It is a wide-spread belief that one’s character and worth may be gauged by the quality and manner in which that person treats his pets and other animals.

Cruelty to animals is universally condemned and detested by society and is not infrequently, prosecuted criminally.  Agencies such as the A.S.P.C.A. and many organizations exist for the purpose of preventing cruelty to animals. It is, indeed, society’s positive expectation that properly socialized citizens treat these children of Nature with kindness.

Yet, one recalls with horror, the media account of the wealthy dentist, who among many others, considers the killing of innocent wild animals admirable and who proudly exhibits severed parts of their victims (usually the head) as revered trophies.

The person reported in the media, proudly recounted his procedure in killing the lion viz., by shooting him with a high-powered bow and arrow in the morning, then tracking him and killing him at day’s end. He did not see it as relevant to give a moment’s thought to the day-long agony, bleeding and suffering of the innocent beast. Unlike him, the lion did not have a good day.

As it happens, this particular animal was well known and given a name by the local community. The brave hunter was roundly condemned and universally termed a psychopath. P. wonders the event achieved notoriety because the elderly lion was a well- known and beloved resident of the local area; how many numerous other innocent animals, who are not celebrities, are treated to such an end, by “sportsmen.”

We are fortunate to be born, live and share the planet contemporaneously with all of its creature inhabitants. Stated differently, we and our fellow animals, as co-tenants of the Earth, are born, mate, have offspring and, at the end of life (unless sooner terminated by sportsmen) die.

It is an unfortunate reality that  there are many unavoidable animal tragedies caused by the proximity of “civilization” to animal habitats, most commonly by way of auto accidents. P. is still unable to rid his mind’s eye of the sight of a young doe, two years ago, sitting awkwardly by the side of the highway, dazed, flicking her ears, having apparently just been hit by an automobile, wide-eyed and bleeding from her mouth. There are many accounts of bears looking for food too close to human habitation that are killed. These are, however, accidental occurrences, and, in most cases, unpreventable.

However, a special and unique category of villain is to be allocated to humans who derive pride and pleasure from the killing of innocent animals; one is obliged to inquire as to the character and moral compass of those who, indeed, exult in the killing and maiming of Nature’s offspring for pleasure.

Our forest denizens have soft fur and warm bellies just like our pets and are not targets in a woodland shooting gallery. They, and all animals, do not exist for the satisfaction of human beings with blood-thirsty and atavistic inclinations.

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Blog # 34 GENERALLY SPEAKING

Included within the detritus of useless and misleading aphoristic statements is one which richly deserves special notice; in addition to being patently false, literally and effectively, it negates itself. The time worn statement is “All generalizations are false.” Have you heard or read it? How many times?

The statement is demonstrably wrong. In fact there is an almost infinite number of generalizations which are true and useful. The statement’s reductive and misleading nature would certainly suffice to relegate it to the proverbial dust bin. But the evident and profound arrogance evidenced by this statement, resides in the fact that the declarer has not tested it in every (“all”) application.  Even more fatal, it would appear that the statement is self-contradictory since It, itself, is undeniably, a generalization and (by the operation of its own universal rule) necessarily false.

A suggested working definition of “generalization” is: the wide-spread, universal application of the result of limited experience, or the universal application of a particular principle; it is induction on steroids.

Yet when properly used, generalization is an essential tool in man’s development and existence.

Mankind’s development and progress has always been built upon prior achievements and cumulative knowledge. For example, the empirical lesson that metallic spear- heads are more effective in hunting for food than stone spear- heads was discovered and passed on. Whoever was resistant to learn from better developing experience could not thereafter compete and survive. These practical lessons, by their nature, were inherited and applied by means of the use of generalization. There would be no civilization as we know it, if each new generation had to start from scratch with a blank mind (“tabula rasa”).

From their earliest beginnings, scientific and medical research and knowledge have proceeded on the shoulders of past discovery and achievement. The general assumption of man’s social contract with society and his desire to live in peace with others was and is the basis for code and laws. The need for a   societal consensus and understanding of physical and mental health, behaviors, safety and recipes for survival, are all principles learned from empirical experience and passed on as general rules. In business, climate study, engineering, cooking, and virtually every category of experience, acquired experience and development proceeds from previously learned general principles.

Yet, while the utility of generalization is vast and ubiquitous, ethical precepts, morality, accuracy and decency, require that the concept be strongly discouraged in application to humanity. In regard to the valuation of religion, ethnos, nationality, culture and the like, generalizations are too often subjective, wrong and harmful. An examination of the history of Victorian England, as just one of a myriad of historical examples, recalls the credo of “White Man’s Burden” i.e., to allegedly improve the life of lesser industrialized (“civilized) peoples by the export of EuropeanCulture (read Rudyard Kipling for a literary example).This, of course, was arrogant, stupid ethnocentricity; we all know how that worked out. Such horrors, Tutsi v. Tutu, Shia v, Sunni, Indians v. Pakistanis, Gentile v. Jew are just a few examples of the evil misuse of generalization with regard to groups of people. However when appropriately used, generalization is a significantly valuable tool. {Or, do I generalize?}

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