Over my 45-year career as a doctor — the last 36 as a clinical cardiologist in rural East Texas — I’ve struggled to make my peace with death.
As a young doctor, I felt immersed in a dark sea of suffering and death. A beginner, unwarrantedly, assumes responsibility for these maladies, that for his failings, his patients would still be hugging their children.
Only with time did I learn to accept death as a natural process.
Your job as a doctor is to forestall it; only the young are immortal. I always regretted their end, but I slept well, knowing I had done my all.
Until the Covid pandemic, however, I never had to deal with unnecessary deaths, the hardest of all to accept.
Now, reading the obituaries of my former patients, knowing their deaths were almost certainly avoidable with vaccinations, has filled me with rage.
Covid just took one of my old patients, an unvaccinated, previously healthy spouse, sentencing the frail partner to a nursing home.
So sad and so preventable. Shaking my impotent fists, I think of Faulkner in “Go Down Moses” describing the doomed bear, “old Priam reft of his old wife and outlived all his sons ...”.
It was infuriating and common in my practice to hear a patient, who would not follow my advice, opine that when God was ready to take him, no one could alter it. I never found an answer to this faith-hardened illogic.
Of course, religion mixed with medicine can comfort, but adding politics creates a toxic brew, yielding a giant, morbid fiasco of unforced errors.
Early in his presidency, Trump said he belittled the media to undermine their credibility.
Subsequently, Trump felt — correctly, as it turned out — the virus posed the biggest threat to his reelection. He became a purveyor of quick fixes for the pandemic, no matter how unsupported and discredited they were.
It is astonishing how many of his supporters have become experts on drug trials, and the effectiveness of treatments for Covid, that scientifically are almost beyond wacko.
Among the snake oil cures: the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the dewormer ivermectin.
When I try to convince persons who buy into this stupidity that it is anti-scientific garbage, I am told big drug companies have conspired with the Biden administration to keep these cheap cures off the market.
My favorite response is that I am on the take: If only retirement were so lucrative!
The same junk science keeps people from getting vaccinated, despite clinical trials, including 30,000-plus patients that rated the Pfizer vaccine more than 90% effective. Side effects were rare and almost always transient. The risk of a major complication from a vaccine is about one in 100,000.
Despite U.S. Supreme Court precedents, the anti-vaxxers seem to believe their prerogative to remain unvaccinated is absolute: Their right to infect and kill their fellow citizens shall not be infringed. This is the proud march of summer soldiers of kindergarten conservatism into the maw of rank stupidity and death.
Even with the more infectious Delta variant, unvaccinated people in August were about six times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, and 11 times more likely to die from it, the Centers for Disease Control reported.
All this is merely fake news for many of the MAGAs. Against such know-nothingism, my doctor’s logic has proven impotent.
I can only hope other doctors have better answers than I. At least here in East Texas, it appears not. As of last week, the fully vaccinated rate in my home county was only 37%.
The unvaccinated have unintentionally poisoned more than 700,000 Americans, with a chilling nonchalance.
This is truly an S3 phenomenon: Stupid. Selfish. Sad.
And so sinfully unnecessary.
Dr. Robert McFarlane is a recently retired cardiologist and writer residing near Palestine, Texas.