Tamper With Ecology?


Lapius, nightly, made entries into a book on his desk, then locked it in his drawer.  I always assumed it was some sort of a diary, but one night, he handed it to me, “Here, see if you can add to this.”


It was sort of a balance sheet of freedoms.  Small flashes of thought that bothered Lapius enough so that he would jot them down.  They filled several pages.  For example:


            “DDT saved millions of Africans from the scourge of malaria and simultaneously endangered some wild-life species.  Why was it banned?  To diminish the population of Africa, or to preserve wild-life?”


            “Small pox vaccination was discontinued because it caused the death of about 200 babies yearly, and because it is believed that the war against small pox is won.  The war against small pox is far from won.  If small pox strikes the United States in 20 years there will be millions of deaths.  Should vaccination be banned to save 130 babies yearly at the risk of killing these and more when they have become adults?”


            “Vaccination against measles is incomplete.  Thus epidemics strike adolescents who have neither been vaccinated and who have not had the more innocuous childhood form of the disease.  Have we the right to tamper with ecology by half measures?  Either vaccinate all or none.”


            “Doctors are pressured to release patients from the hospital at the earliest possible date.  This causes premature discharge of ill people in many instances.  This also enables sick people on waiting list to enter the hospital.  In other words, should an individual be made to suffer to protect the rights of the community?  If so, which person should suffer?  The one in the hospital, or the one waiting to get in?  Wouldn’t it be better to have enough hospital beds to go around, even if it costs more?  It would be cheaper than financing a revolution in Chile, or fighting a war in Asia.”


            “Ecologists have forced the banning of DDT to preserve endangered species, yet we kill hundreds of thousands of dogs and millions of mice yearly in experiments to improve the quality of health of our people.  Is this inconsistent?  Particularly since DDT is banned, will man become an endangered species?  If atomic war breaks out will man become endangered?  If there is no energy for heat, for farming, for fertilizer, will all species be endangered?”


            “To compete with a hospital that has a monopoly on certain services, one must get a certificate of need.  Does it benefit the community for the hospital to have this monopoly, or would hospital services improve if the institutes were faces with some competition?  Is it wasteful to waste money on the health of our people?  “


            “Senator Kennedy wants to correct the mal-distribution of doctors by forcing every young physician to upon graduation from medical school or residency to be subject to two years service in the National Health Service Corps, which will dispatch health care volunteers to areas of extreme need.  This would be tantamount to a domestic doctor draft.  Does this infringe on the freedom of the doctor?  Does lack of a physician in a community infringe on freedom of the ill citizen to have the benefit of medical care.  Can a balance of freedoms be achieved?”


            “Women take ‘the pill’ or have intrauterine devices inserted so that they can have freedom of sexual expression without fear of pregnancy.  These devices kill a certain number of women yearly.  Have these women become free, or are they imprisoned, in order to insure freedom of responsibility to their male partners.  What price is freedom now?”


            “Abortion is not legal.  Is the right to kill the last stage in permissiveness, and the best substitute for discipline?”


Lapius scrutinized me as I scanned his lines, waiting for a reaction.


“What do you think, Harry?  Will it float?”


“Possibly,” I told him, “if you put it in the proper water.”