The coronavirus crisis has divided America in ways that other healthcare problems have not. On one side are those who will do everything the government and medical experts advise, including double masking and maintaining six feet of separation despite being vaccinated. On the other side are those who refuse to follow any of the official guidelines.
Ironically, coronavirus is not all that unusual. It is also not the only malady that can kill you. You could double mask, get your vaccinations, practice social distancing religiously and still die of a heart attack before the day is out. The uncomfortable truth so many are afraid to admit is that everything in healthcare – indeed, everything having to do with human health – involves risk.
There isn’t a single illness or injury we can eliminate 100%. There isn’t a single medical treatment that is universally applied with zero adverse consequences. We approach healthcare with a risk mentality – or at least we should.
Treatments Have Consequences
Medicine does humanity a huge disservice by presenting treatment options without adequately explaining the possible consequences. For example, consider an epidural steroid injection (ESI) recommended to treat chronic back pain. Texas-Based Lone Star Pain Medicine says that the risks of ESI are reasonable. But they also say that there are some potentially serious consequences, including:
- temporary or permanent nerve damage
- temporary or permanent paralysis
- infections, including meningitis
- potential seizures.
None of this is to say that the ESI is a bad thing. It is not, especially when utilized by a back pain expert. But patients need to understand the risks. They also need to be able to make intelligent decisions without being criticized by their doctors, their family and friends, or society in general.
Coronavirus Vaccines and Regenerative Medicine
The big healthcare issue of the day is coronavirus and the subsequent vaccine. After promising that vaccine passports would never become part of the equation, more and more governments are talking about them. Some industries, like the cruising industry, have already crossed the line. The icing on the cake is public shaming of those who choose to refuse the vaccine for whatever reason.
Regenerative medicine, though it might seem to be completely unrelated, actually has something in common with the coronavirus vaccine. It has not been fully vetted by the FDA to treat conditions like osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal injuries.
The medical community is largely negative toward regenerative medicine for this very reason. Doctors warn their patients to avoid stem cell and PRP injections because these are not approved by the FDA in the way pain medications and surgeries are approved. Yet many of those same doctors push aggressively for a coronavirus vaccine that has not undergone the normal FDA approval process.
Risk Is Part of the Equation
It matters not whether you are talking coronavirus or Tommy John surgery. Risk is part of the healthcare equation. Every pill you swallow, every shot you get, and every surgery you undergo involve some measure of risk. The question is really one of how much risk you are willing to accept in order to be treated for whatever ails you.
The current coronavirus mess carries with it the risk that the virus itself will never be eradicated. Like the flu virus, it might rear its ugly head every year. There is also the very real risk of suffering adverse reactions to the vaccine. In the end, a one-size-fits-all solution is not appropriate. Every individual should be allowed to assess the risks and make choices accordingly. Otherwise, we run the risk of creating an even bigger problem.