Team cures cancer with innovative treatment, child-patients stuck with staggering bills.
In “On the Cusp of Ending Big Pharma,” a coming revolution in biology and medicine made possible by a better understanding of genetics and gene therapy was described in detail.
Almost as if to validate the premise of having the public begin getting directly involved in not only understanding genetics and gene therapy, but begin building the infrastructure at a local level to pursue research and development, as well as implement eventual techniques and treatments, Philly.com has just recently published a follow up to an
Titled, “Girl’s gene-therapy estimate gives Children’s Hospital a shiner,”
the article describes a clinical trial in which gene therapy was used
to treat 10 adults and 2 children suffering from cancer, most of whom have had their cancer go into
remission, and the staggering bills the treatment incurred. Charities
and insurance assisted at least one patient, while another, a 5 year
old Croatian girl, was left with a $837,000 bill.
Medical care is expensive. It requires the absolute cutting edge in
technology, skilled doctors and technicians to utilize it in the care of
patients, all within an economic paradigm where demand vastly
outnumbers supply. What could be done to reduce the disparity between
supply and demand? And what can be done until then to ensure people get
the absolute best treatment possible? Or should a 5 year old girl perish
because she can’t afford experimental treatment when all other options
were sure to fail?
Trillions for War
Soldiers fighting the fruitless decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
didn’t need to buy their own weapons, procure their own transportation
to the warzone, buy their own meals, and when they were injured, pay for
their own medical treatment. Indeed, these fruitless wars built openly
on categorically false premises, were subsidized by trillions of dollars
from American tax payers despite the wars having no public support.
Since these two fruitless wars sold upon a pack of lies, the United
States has conducted combat operations in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia,
Uganda, inside Pakistan, Mali, and covertly in Iran. Again, subsidized
by trillions of tax payer dollars.
Image: US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler was a two-time Medal of Honor recipient, and anti-war. He wrote “War is a Racket.”
Despite the torrent of pro-war propaganda we are bombarded with, and
all the pretexts and excuses used to sell endless global conflict, it is
indeed a racket perpetrated by big-business interests at the rest of
humanity’s expense, and has been for a long time.
For unpopular wars fought upon false premises, sold by practiced liars
across the corporate media, there seems to be an endless torrent of
cash. In turn, this money doesn’t simply go into a fiscal blackhole.
Instead, it ends up in the profit margins of Fortune 500 corporations,
from the big-defense contractors arming and supplying military
operations, to big-oil and construction contractors building in the wake
of these operations. It is a well understood racket that casts a dark shadow on Western society and has very real implications for modern human civilization.
Imagine if these trillions instead went somewhere else. Imagine if
cancer research and treatment was subsidized with the same impetus as
wars of profit. Imagine if improving education, infrastructure, and the
means by which we could accelerate medical research and development and
thereby reduce the disparity between supply and demand was done with the
same fervor we pursue wars abroad.
Our Problem, Our Challenge
We could hold our breath, march with signs, and continue to vote hoping
eventually someone will come to office and fix this perpetual injustice.
Or instead, we can realize that our faith and investments in time,
money, energy, and attention to this corrupt system is why we have this
problem in the first place.
There are several steps
we can take now to begin tilting the balance away from the ruling class
and their pet projects pursued at our expense and toward the things
that really affect us, like our children dying from cancer and medical
treatment that is too expensive to afford. And as we take these steps,
people should continue fighting for medical care subsidies as a stop gap
measure. If there is money for perpetual, unnecessary war, there is
money for medical care.
1. Improve Education: Medical treatment is expensive because of
immense demand for a small supply of both the technology used to treat
people, and the skilled doctors and technicians that use that
technology. That technology is in turn scarce, because of the lack of
skilled designers and engineers working to develop it.
By improving real, relevant, technical education in the fields of
design, engineering, science, and medicine, and by making such an
education available to all, would be one step toward increasing the
supply versus demand. Online,
there are vast resources available for free, from some of the most
prestigious universities in the world on subjects ranging from basic
math and science, to more specific topics like biology, medicine,
genetics, and their applications.
While there is no substitute for a proper medical school education, local organizations called DIYbio labs
are springing up around the world and creating an environment where
regular people can learn and practice techniques in modern biology,
especially in the field of genetics. Just as hackerspaces have begun
contributing to, and spinning off into small and medium businesses,
while driving the advancement of technology, DIYbio labs can augment the
existing medical infrastructure of a given society.
Additionally, people should not abandon efforts to improve traditional education.
2. Build Local Infrastructure: DIYbio labs are one way of
bringing medical research and development, however small of a scale it
may be on for now, into their local communities. Building up
after-school and weekend programs to educate people in basic science and
particularly biology, genetics, and medicine helps raise overall
awareness of the issues at hand and their possible solutions.
Already, high schools are beginning to participate in MIT’s iGEM competition,
an annual synthetic biology event where teams from around the world
engineer biological components to solve a specific problem. Schools that
become involved in iGem must build up both their physical
infrastructure and their human capital to compete, and by doing so, lay
the foundation for more permanent and relevant research and development
when they return home.
3. Reclaim Our Institutions: With a well established
infrastructure developing both technology and human capital, a community
is better positioned not only to understand what state and national
institutions are doing in terms of medical research and clinical trials,
but are able to partner with them and augment their efforts.
Furthermore, a human connection is established between institutions and
the people they were designed in the first place to serve.
The day will come where technology makes medical care affordable for
all, reducing or eliminating the need to subsidize it. Until that day
comes, we must balance our pursuit for “health care policy” with
developing real, pragmatic, technical health care progress.
It starts with something as simple as getting a few people around a
single table and talking. Identify who may already have an interest in
the particular fields you plan on tackling. Look for the nearest local
groups already doing this, either as hackerspaces or as DIYbio labs. Look for schools nearby already participating in iGEM and see what you could to to help, or expand on their work.
If you are not interested in medicine, even a standard hackerspace
working on a wide range of projects could help build local
infrastructure that could be used to help advance DIYbio groups.
Biomedical technology is grounded in the same fundamental design
principles and manufacturing techniques as any other engineering
Start or join an after-school program that teaches real skills and
practical knowledge to students – including science, math, design,
engineering, etc. Look into OpenCourseWare online and raise awareness.
Start a blog collecting your favorite courses.
Taking human capital out of the coffers of the ruling class, and placing
it back where it belongs, amongst the people from which it was drawn,
begins the rebalancing of power, and ends paradigms where trillions can
be spend on endless wars of profit, and none is left for cancer-stricken
children, even when we’ve developed cures.
The choice is ours, but unlike in faux-democracy, we will have to do
more than simply cast a ballot to exercise this choice. It will be
daily, patient, sometimes frustrating work to build the infrastructure
and human capital we need to rebalance this equation and reclaim our
destiny. Self-determination is not a spectator sport, it is something
you either do, or do without. Don’t wait for your child to be the one
struck by cancer and your family stuck with a million-dollar medical
bill – that is – if you are lucky enough to get access to the latest
treatment in the first place. Start working now to fix this immense