7
MEDICINE AND HUMAN SUFFERING

Also if you don't get AIDS, you die.

Zen Master

Most people want salvation in six easy lessons. This is not possible.

Darryl Reanney

When the first attempt at gene therapy was approved after years of debating its ethics, the medical team's PR section released a human-interest story about the team and the patient. The story was meant to disarm widespread suspicion of 'gene doctors' by replacing stereotypes with living persons. The project was described, and the team chief commended its therapeutic promise by saying: 'My ambition is to take the word "incurable" out of the English language'.

This is yet another expression of the bizarre mingling of science with fantasy that Rene Dubos called 'the mirage of health'. Although the mortality of mortals is plain to see, doctors and the public act out elaborate 'conquering disease' fantasies that mute and forestall fate. The charade is bizarre because it looks so much like perjury. On one level, doctors know that the therapeutic benefits of gene therapy lie well in the future, and that at best they will be enjoyed by a few, at great cost. As for eliminating genetic diseases, that could happen only in a world that we do not inhabit. But on another level, doctors and patients somehow believe the hopeful fantasy.

In a wise book, The Death of Forever, Darryl Reanney pondered the human predicament before death. Animals are exempt from it, he explains. Although they know fear, they do not experience death anxiety because they lack self-consciousness and foresight of the future. When the brain of Homo sapiens evolved to the point where individual finitude could be grasped, our kind struck a crisis of consciousness. Self-consciousness functions as the handle on the self-control necessary for tool-making and the wide latitude of action that we call 'choice'. In that sense the evolution of self- consciousness was the watershed for the species that would soon

-52-

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The AIDS Mirage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Frontlines i
  • Contents 3
  • 1 - Why We Need Aids 4
  • 2 - A Virus Invades the Mind 11
  • 4 - Donald Francis Invents a Viral Epidemic 19
  • 5 - Aids Mania 37
  • 7 - Medicine and Human Suffering 52
  • Further Reading 59
  • Glossary 60
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