Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fight Against Cancer: not a good idea?

We have just seen a national event, "Stand Up For Cancer" ontv, seen Cops For Cancer begin a 1,000 kilometre bicycle ride in a group of 25 riders. On the eve of 9/11, when almost everyone's mind is on the events of 2001 on this date, I wonder what would be the result of winning the fight against Cancer.
To put it bluntly, what if we won the battle against cancer, what then? And let us here let cancer, stand for all disease. The major disease killers are heart disease, cancer and stroke. Apparently nobody dies of old age anymore. Do we even know what death by old age is now? So if we defeated these 3 major killers, what then?

There would still be death by accident and natural disaster. But these causes barely put a dent in population growth. If we ended death by the big 3 causes, would not our population skyrocket?

If it did there must surely come a time when massive death by famines would occur. No matter that technology proposes to supply food endlessly. For even if finite resources could be extended by technology with cloning meat substances in a vat, or farming algae in the seas, whatever, there is still the logistics of transport to overcome. We have seen many famines in the world in the last 50 years, too many to mention, yet, even knowing in advance where and when they would occur, and that they would occur, we have still failed to get the food there, and millions have died.

In addition to the, as yet unsolved, logistical problems of food distribution, we have the insuperable problems of overcoming the lack of political will to feed everybody. Recently, the tragedy of Darfur has showed us that there is no unanimous belief that all people should be saved from starvation. In Sudan, Chinese oil interests trumped the death of thousands by starvation as they used their Security Council veto to prevent the tragedy when tons of food & supplies stood ready to be delivered to the beleagured population, and they died before our eyes.

East Timor is another example of political disinterest allowing the death of thousands. It is foolish to think that we would save everybody, merely by providing food, even if we could overcome the logistical problems.

There are the further battles with birth control and eugenics issues, for how else could we stem the tide of humanity that threatens to overwhelm our ability to feed the masses. UN figures show that by 2050 world population will reach 9 billion people, fifty per cent more than lived at the turn of the millennium. Dare anyone say massive death by disease or malnutrition is not certain.

So, why try to stop heart disease, cancer or stroke.

Clearly, the personal motive is to spare us the loss of loved ones or even personal demise, no one wants their life ended prematurely by a named cause.
The public motive behind the battle against heart disease, cancer, stroke is profit.
Pharmaceutical companies seek treatments, not cures. Fund raisers, like the Cancer Society, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, are run by people who depend on their fund-raising for their livlihood.
Not that there is anything wrong with that per se. There is a market for the drugs and a need for money to pay for them, but neither group is looking long term. Big pharma does not want an end to the diseases and they would lament the discovery of a cure because it would put an end to that profit stream.
Of course, they would simply move on to some other ailment, there is no shortage, and they are very creative when it comes to finding new income streams, even inventing problems that seemingly did not exist before. Prozac comes to mind. But to stay on topic, even though big pharma does not want an end to the big killers, neither do we.

And, by extension, we do not want fund raisers to continue either.

In reality, death by disease, a sudden heart attack, or stroke, a short final struggle with inoperable cancer, ameliorated by powerful pain killers, seems preferable, to me at least, to a long, slow, pointless, painful, death by starvation, with awful wasting away of the flesh in desperate wishing for something to eat, watching family members growth weaker, scrawnier, day by day until they finally succumb to wasting away as skin covered skeletons.

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