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When the vaccines first rolled out, I was blown away by how well received they were by my colleagues. It is one thing for the scared and unaware public, whose lives have been disrupted to no end, to enthusiastically anticipate the arrival of 'life-saving' new interventions - but, doctors?
Could they be captive to the same psychological stranglehold of the global fear campaign?
The events preceding the rollout of the vaccines did not sit well with me, already. Now, I was hesitant for multiple reasons.
First, December 2020 was not a concerning period. In one of the most high volume centers in the USA the number of people being admitted for covid-pneumonia was miniscule relative to the earlier half of the year. Yes, lots of people were admitted to the hospital - as is usually the case every winter season. Yes, many of these admissions had a positive PCR test.
As a radiologist covering the entire hospital for a 12-hour period, every night for weeks at a time I can tell you this: most of these were just positive tests. A small fraction of them had respiratory findings. When the anxious ordering physician would call me up asking if I see anything in the lungs because “...they are PCR positive!”...I would have to disappoint them more often than not.
During the consultation, it became clear most of these patients did not come to the emergency department for a respiratory issue - let alone full-blown pneumonia. There were all manner of complaints, from back-pain, to diarrhea, to recent delivery of a baby. As far I could see, the number of admissions for covid-pneumonia were dwindling, accounting for seasonal variations in flu-like illnesses.
Second, almost everyone in our hospital either had substantial exposure or caught it themselves and had recovered. A significant number of us had volunteered to serve every department that was in need of assistance during the 'surge' of Spring 2020. For all intents and purposes, my colleagues and I were protected.
On that fateful day that the Pfizer Phase 2/3 trial hit the press, our institution went into a bit of a frenzy. Announcements, e-mails, and group chats were alight with enthusiasm to be the first people to get injected with this new concoction which has barely undergone preliminary testing (as evidenced by Phase 2/3 designation).
Except for a handful few, nobody stopped to consider the gravity of the decision. In a moment of gross naïveté, I thought that my colleagues simply did not have the time to dig into the available literature & data. So, I shared my concerns & findings with them - with direct reference to the actual article & its supplementary materials.
No acknowledgement. No response. Nothing.
No one seemed to care. The doctors who pride themselves on practicing evidence-based medicine, and who cannot stop talking about ‘systems-based’ decision-making had failed to consider: current context, historical precedence, and the ‘systems’ which make up the medical industry.
They had not just failed to consider it...they had willfully ignored the information presented to them.
It appeared that they were completely at ease parroting headlines, abstracts, and whatever they had heard from the ‘news.’
Disappointing is an understatement.
Fast-forward about a year, and now our institution had decided to mandate uptake of these experimental injections.
If you are not yet aware of my objections & concerns, which have proven to be legitimate as time has passed, you can read about them here:
This was a very precarious time for my family.
This was a test.
A test of principles. A test of convictions. A test of resolve. A test of courage.
With the threat of suspension without pay, the stakes could not be higher. To make matters messy, my wife and I were expecting our first child within weeks.
I made the case as thoroughly as I could manage to the institution and employee health. At every level of the administrative hierarchy I was given the exact same response:
“This is the policy. There’s nothing we can do. Our hands our tied.”
My own department refused to support the petition. One or two colleagues met with me outside the hospital to discuss the situation. After long conversations, they were not only sympathetic - they were furious that the institution we have tied ourselves to would go to such an extent to force our hand.
What the hospital did was not merely coercive. They had violated my right to health privacy (HIPAA), and masqueraded as my physician to ascertain sensitive information from my actual doctor, so they could check their bureaucratic boxes and proceed with my suspension.
I made my boss & department immediately aware of these illegal actions.
There we were, one week away from the expected due date of our first child, suspension letter in hand - with no pay. This was an extremely trying time for my wife and I. It didn't even matter that we couldn't go to any venue or event without a vaccination. No salary, no frivolous spending.
We held the line for as long as we could. I held the belief that sooner or later the institution would recognize its mistakes. As much I was being tested, I too was testing the system.
I had to see how far they would take it. I had to see what they were willing to do to the productive members of their organization.
With time away from work I was able to help my wife care for our child (a blessing in itself). Also, I took the opportunity to see just how deep the rot had invaded our institutions. During this time of investigation and introspection, a few things were clear:
Most people only care about these issues on a superficial level, and this lack of engagement was part of the pathology that resulted in what happened to thousands of my colleagues across the country
There are psychological safeguards that will keep people from approaching an idea that would risk shaking the foundations of their worldview.
Doctors would like to excuse themselves of the moral responsibility to their patients, profession & colleagues - justified by the plight of their sustained lifestyles
If that doesn’t work out for them, then the surrounding system will provide them with the 'information' necessary to assuage their cognitive dissonance.
Most doctors do not practice Medicine
Most are automatons - and to some extent, the way we have been treated over the last two years is a perfect reflection of how our industry views our role in the care of patients.
Unfortunately, there came I time when our funds dried up. My wife was smitten with our baby, and wanted to extend her time away from work. How could I say no?
Fortunately, by then we had a plan for:
disengaging from a healthcare system I no longer recognize, nor want to be a part of
where and how we want to raise our family
the community we want around us
Family is my first priority - and if for the long-term health of my family I had to comply with a short-term requirement, then I would.
We resisted & evolved in ways we could not imagine, and at a rate that left everyone around us (including ourselves) bewildered.
On my return to clinical duty, I was met with a mix of sentiments from my colleagues.
Some were ecstatic, some were confused, some were elated, and some...were resentful. I started hearing phrases thrown around like “we covered for you, while you were x...or y” or however they interpreted the situation.
As if I wanted to interrupt my employment at such a critical phase in my family’s life. As if the hospital was justified in doing what they did. As if any part of what had transpired made any sense, at all.
As time went on, the vaccine mandates soon became booster mandates. One by one, my colleagues started turning.
Suddenly, the outcast had become the advisor. People started to see that it wasn’t going to stop at "just a vaccine." The hesitation was particularly pronounced with the women in my department who did not appreciate the coercion (my body my rights).
The first time round, they were so frightened they wanted the shot - by now, reality had started to settle in. Now, they were concerned with bodily autonomy, coercion, and experimentation.
Everyone has their threshold - and the institution had just crossed it.
What came next was nothing short of amazing.
The lead up to the booster mandate deadline was accompanied by an onslaught of administrative announcements, emails, and personal calls asking department chiefs to pressure our trainees into getting a booster. One week before the deadline, in an act of desperation, the hospital administration sent out an email with a spreadsheet listing all the trainees who were still delinquent on the booster requirement.
My first thought upon seeing this e-mail was:
"There is no way they are stupid enough to include personal health information of their own staff, and send it in a mass e-mail." There is just no way.
So, I clicked on the spreadsheet.
The largest breach of HIPAA I have ever witnessed.
Over 400 trainees (about half of the total) were still delinquent. The spreadsheet included their names, their medical record number, date of birth, employment status, income source - and of course booster status.
With this knowledge in hand, I informed the many trainees in my department that there were hundreds of trainees who had still not complied with the booster. The likelihood that any action would be taken against them was very low - especially if they collectively decided to send the administration a message: enough is enough.
Unfortunately, they had become well-trained cowards - submitting to every idiotic demand. And again, they complied. Every single one of them. Many of them waited until the very last day.
On the day of the deadline - there was an announcement in the press:
The trainees were livid.
It is hard to imagine that things would have gotten this scandalous if you had just said no.
If you stood by the ideals you claim to uphold. If you had set your emotions aside, and thought critically.
It is time for reflection. It is time for courage. It is time to take back your profession from the clutches of corporate influence and regulatory capture.
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