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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

Thanks to a means-tested health system and with my parents — seven children in tow — deemed too well off to receive government assistance, the idea of going to the doctor for the slightest — and not-so-slight — complaint was generally discouraged in the household of my youth.

Majestic medication.

Once you pop, you just can’t stop. This is what most pharmaceutical companies want to be the case anyway.

Popping pills

Fair enough, by the time I, the youngest, started going to secondary school, our lot had improved quite a bit and would continue to do so through the Celtic Tiger years (until it all went belly up).

Nonetheless, due to the austerity that had prevailed before then, I’d learned that a trip to the general practitioner (GP) was considered an “exclusive” event. And one would have to show very good cause to gain entry. In any case, by about the age of 15, I’d started to match — to an extent — my father’s trait where showing any momentary physical or mental infirmity was reprehensible.

I do, though, recall those childhood days when being deemed sick enough to receive the sweet Calpol over-the-counter pain reliever was a joyous occasion.

Looking back on it now, it’s as if the pharmaceutical company that produced that syrup did so with the idea of making it addictive in mind. Ludicrous thought, I know.

There were times, too, when I liked being on prescribed medication. I’m not sure why this was, but popping pills stored in a little plastic container with my name printed on it seemed kind of cool.

That’s all changed now. For better or for worse, I do my best to avoid visiting the doctor or seeking pharmaceutical help.

OK, at almost 37 years of age, leading what I believe to be a largely healthy lifestyle and with no underlying conditions that I know of, there’s nothing startling in the fact that I haven’t felt the need for regular medical check-ups or medication.

‘A vaccine’s modus operandi is to induce or increase an organism’s natural immunity mechanisms. Without them for certain potentially deadly diseases, the human body would simply be overwhelmed.’

Yes, it may not be the wisest move to be so reluctant to seek medical assistance should the need arise, but I’d like to think that my body would give me signs if there was something malignant at play that required outside help. Also — and many of us have plenty of anecdotes to back this up — just because a medical practitioner gives one the all-clear doesn’t mean that everything is fine.

What’s more, when there is something untoward, some doctors have a tendency to automatically reach for their old reliable, the prescription: ‘Pelt them with pills.’

A late aunt of mine used to uncontrollably, albeit mildly, shake. It was put down as just one symptom of various complications she had following a brain haemorrhage. It was subsequently discovered it was due to a chemical imbalance from the myriad of medications she was taking. Little wonder. I recall her handbag being like a portable pharmacy.

Body and mind over matter

This is not to say that I’m against all modern medicine and medical procedures. One risks severely reducing one’s life expectancy in taking such a stance.

On that point, the argument could be made that my late sister would still be with us had she opted for chemotherapy to deal with her breast cancer rather than go an alternative route. We’ll never know.

If you’re not fully in agreement with whatever treatment you receive, there is a possibility it won’t work. The mind is a powerful force after all. And we all do have to face death at some stage.

Then, of course, there are vaccines, perhaps the greatest medical discovery humankind has ever made.

A vaccine’s modus operandi — important to mention in these times — is to induce or increase an organism’s natural immunity mechanisms. Without vaccines for certain potentially deadly diseases, the human body would simply be overwhelmed.

One’s organism could, in theory, fend off the likes of polio or yellow fever without the aid of a vaccine. Based on case fatality rates for those diseases, however, one would be taking a huge gamble adopting such an approach.

With Sars-Cov-2, on the other hand, we’ve known from an early stage that many people have solid defences against the infection, an infection that kills quite discriminately i.e. the elderly and the obese have a far greater risk of severe illness and death.

Thus, the need for covid-19 vaccines for all has always been questionable, particularly when there are some not-insignificant, genuine doubts hanging over these jabs. This push for compulsory vaccines appears to have more to do with exerting control than being for the greater good of public health.

While the great advancements in medical science have significantly increased our life expectancy, we must be aware of our limitations. We must also remain cognisant of the fact that sometimes the natural process is better left alone.

One doesn’t need to be a scholar of history to know that human interference — even when done in good faith — doesn’t always produce positive outcomes.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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