For those of you in any field that deals with health, you may know this feeling.
Fortunately this is rare but in the past two weeks I’ve been completely exasperated at 3 different meetings and discussions I’ve been to. Without going into specifics, I’d like to say that as a group, us scientists are a short sighted bunch. We pay attention to the facts at hand, and the justifcation of any action, not the impact of decisions made. So many discussions about environmental health, drugs, war, poverty, consumer safety,…etc seem to exist in a bubble. For one of these meetings (not one where I work), an argument between two groups had sort of run out of steam (end of the day, long meeting). The decision was made to table the discussion and continue the status quo in hopes that new information would turn up (acknowledged as unlikely). I got so frustrated I blurted out, “these are peoples’ lives” I got a bunch of blank stares as if speaking Greek. “would we feel comfortable with the attention we give these problems if the people we were affecting were here? One way or another we should really figure out what we are going to do”. Although at that point I was sure I had overstepped the normal bounds of professional etiquette; It was probably a good idea and but it wasn’t what I really felt like saying: “I’m sorry your all tired here, but don’t you think that your wanting to get home and your personal squabbles can wait a bit if it may mean health or disease / life or death for someone? Selfish *(^$&^%@#!” A plan was made at that meeting, and even though it’s not the one I would have chosen, that’s a very good thing.
I know we can’t make good decisions if we’re constantly thinking about the personal impacts of every decision we make, but we need to think about them some. Note to public health professionals, elected officials and civil servants: Take the time to get it right. It’s not a game. Stop fighting about things you can’t agree on and work on at least some things that you can. Put the ideology away and get something done!
A good example of this is what happend to the CPSC recently. They don’t have all three commissioners to authorize manditory recalls and their temporary authority to use two just ran out. So no manditory recalls. (Read more at Enviroblog). This may seem like a political game to a lot of people, and it probably is but the people who play politics over an easily fixed problem that affects peoples lives (lives!) are some of the lowest forms of humanity I can think of. Compassionate conservative, my ass. The CPSC should be one of the few things that could escape the worst of political gamesmanship due to the stratspheric public support, yet it’s one of the worst lately. And as I said before, this isn’t academic; we had one of the crib toys that was recalled lately as I’m sure thousands of other parents did. Our child could have choked in the middle of the night. Luckly, that didn’t happen, and thanks to the CPSC it won’t. But this came to the CPSC’s attention now instead of last month, we might not have known.
PS Don’t tell me that it doesn’t matter because most recalls are ‘voluntary’. How many voluntary recalls do you think there will be when there is no threat of a manditory one?
Friday Aural Pleasure
Speaking of people that are more interested in themselves than their professed interest in others, here’s The Rakes’ excellent The World Was a Mess But His Hair Was Perfect.