We have a new instance of “Blame the Messenger”: this time it’s the media for frightening the public about a possible flu epidemic. But what else could the media do? We are told that the swine flu situation is in flux. It’s a new strain to humans, so no one can’t predict the risks entailed. How widespread will it be? How long will it be around? How sick will its victims get? Is this just a preview of a bad situation in the next flu season? What will it leave in its wake? How prepared are we? The President tells us that his administration is taking this very seriously, monitoring it, but not panicking. We are told too that we are prepared with plenty of medication and authorities are keeping a close watch.
I personally think that the media is doing a measured and appropriate job. They are reporting the incidence in different locals, the death rate (which, so far, is very small), the symptoms, and they are even interpreting the alarming sounding numbers referring to the speed of the spread---does it approach the World Health Organization’s prediction of a Pandemic? In the U. S., it has been declared a public health emergency, so far not a pandemic. Some schools have closed because there have been at least a few cases reported among their students. Other schools are closed to prevent the spread, even though no local cases have been reported. The media is simply reporting all of this and adding a note saying there is no need for panic. Wash hands often, cover our noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing, stay home and keep our kids home if we or they are ill.
Despite careful, accurate and measured reporting, some people are prone to great anxiety over talk about a pandemic. So the American Psychological Association and APA Practice.org are offering help to ease that anxiety. You can read, “Managing Your Anxiety about Swine Flu” at www.apahelpcenter.org.
Stay informed because this is a dynamic situation. Check the CDC web site.
Get the facts that will help with decision making; but limit the time spent watching or listening to media coverage. Then help me with my own tough decision: should I go to “Grandparents’ Day” at my granddaughter’s school in 3 days? I have had more than my share of illness this past fall and winter; but how can I disappoint her by being so extra cautious? Advice please!
We must acknowledge the abhorrent truth of Frank Rich’s report (New York Times, April 26, 2009) that torture was “a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels” during the Bush administration. What is most troubling to me about it all is the fact that “psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain”. Those individuals trained to reduce pain and suffering nevertheless did not say “no” to torture.
We are all prepared to acknowledge the sad fact that evil exists in the highest levels of even some democratic governments; but I hope I am not alone in shunning the dreadful reality that some members of the helping professions which declare they will “First Do No Harm” have stooped to a partnership in evil. Where I come from, doctors and psychologists don’t use torture for any end, no matter who calls them to duty.
There is a famous experiment designed and carried out by a social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, shortly after the 2nd world war. Recent studies have repeated Milgram’s design, with predominately the same results: the majority of people asked to press a button to cause an innocent person to feel strong electric shock, carry out the command. Few refuse at the risk of displeasing the person in charge. These results have been shocking to two generations of readers. Now, in my view, even more shocking is the fragility of the moral principles of some who have taken an oath to do no intentional harm.
Can we bring these facts to the table in admissions committee meetings at Medical Schools and Graduate Schools? Can we hope to give less power to arbitrary standardized tests and more to character assessment? Can we start, in fact, in preschool, and proceed all the way through the pre-vocational years in order to restrict a caring professional identity to those who cannot be corrupted as the Bush/Cheney physicians and psychologists had been?