Medicine cannot make up for stupidity

The success of modern medicine has made some people behave in a reckless manner, risking their own life and the lives of others, in the false belief and mistaken hope that medicine can save them from any of the consequences of their risky behaviour.


The coronavirus outbreak is an example. The USA has repatriated US citizens from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined since 3 February in Yokohama port near Tokyo off the coast of Japan. As the number of cases of COVID-19 on the cruise ship rose to 542, with 3,700 quarantined on board, it seems that adequate procedures have not been followed on the Diamond Princes and now two UK nationals have caught the disease in spite of self-isolation. The UK is now considering repatratiating UK nationals from the Diamond Princess. If the owners of the Diamond Princess have not thrown everything into ensuring proper procedures, they may find that they will have ‘the book’ thrown at them. The USA had prepared for such a scenario but it seems that people have still to learn the lesson that modern medicine cannot compensate for risky and stupid behaviour.


This careless attitude can be seen in every risky sport and adventure. There is an unspoken belief that the rescue services and the doctors will save them in the event of a disaster. A broken leg with an open wound in the 19th century, before there were antibiotics, would have resulted in an amputation at best and death at worse. The careless use of antibiotics in various parts of the world has led to antibiotic resistance with its detrimental effect upon all globally.


The current HIV outbreak in Glasgow suggests a return to risky needle-sharing behaviour by some with HIV, possibly in the belief that modern medicine will intervene if their risky behaviour spreads the HIV virus to someone else. More than 30 years after the emergence of HIV in the UK, community education has not coped with risky behaviour. The ‘risk-reduction’ strategy, which I publicly criticised in Preventing Aids in the Highlands, March 1993, did not address human stupidity, the false beliefs of risk-takers, nor the ‘enjoy life while you can’ attitude of the ungodly who do not believe that they must give account of themselves to God. These same attitudes will ensure that coronavirus will spread as a global pandemic. Personal responsibility is at a premium in western society.


The average family in the western world is now so unfamiliar with death that there is panic whenever its risk increases. When the coronavirus becomes pandemic the blame-game will begin in earnest.

Quarantine is having its effects upon mental health and one may expect people to break their self-isolation as surely as there are those spreading HIV in Glasgow.

To add to the sum of human misery, there are crooks trying to capitalise on the panic and there are reports of a swine fever being added to the mix, to say nothing of the inevitable profiteering that will take place, the price paid for not being prepared.

Personal responsibility

It is time for cool heads and a return to personal responsibility. Christianity teaches human responsibility along with divine salvation. It is not either/or but both-and. The decline in Christianity in the UK has gone hand-in-glove with the decline in personal responsibility. The UK will be forced to listen to God’s voice in providence if it will not listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Possibly the coronavirus will teach people more responsibility. If so, its benefits will carry over into many other areas of life. However, it is more likely to be a temporary phenomenon, just as the control of HIV has been temporary and sexually-transmitted diseases continue at epidemic levels. What is needed is the change of heart that Jesus taught:

This is why Jesus said: ‘Marvel not that I said, You must be born again.’

John 3:7.


2 Mar 2020: the fear of being seen to be stupid ensures the spread of the coronavirus. Imagine a newly infected person who has no symptoms. He/she travels elsewhere and does not want to appear over-reactionary or ‘stupid’ by self-isolating. Such behaviour in a new area may appear to be ‘overkill’. So they carry on as usual and then they infect others. Only when the outbreak is recognised locally does their behaviour change and they phone NHS 111 or tell their social circle and self-isolate. However, the damage has been done and they have already infected other people, who behave in the same manner. In this way the infection gains a foothold in a new community. It happens all the time with colds and seasonal flu. The very fact that the BBC website addresses the question ‘Should I self-isolate?’ shows that people will not do so if they imagine that they are viewed as ‘over-reacting’. The fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s being rejected for a handshake by her interior minister on Monday is considered to be news illustrates that the embarrassment of changed behaviour at an early stage, the very stage that could contain infection, is enough to ensure that the epidemic will become pandemic. The fear of shame is mankind’s most powerful motivator and it is poorly understood by psychologists or else modern medicine would have addressed it long ago. As usual, Christian theologians who have studied human behaviour for much longer than modern medicine are ahead of the field.

2 Mar 2020: stupidity manifests itself everywhere. How could Highland Hospice authorise 13 payments totalling £575,000 during a 90-minute phone-call from fraudsters? Who was given the authority to allow such transactions far less actually authorise them? It reminds me of the stupidity of the Outer Isles Council who lost money in the BCCI scandal and the Royal Bank of Scotland who never did due diligence in buying Dutch bank ABN-Amro and then used cash to buy it, thereby creating its cash-flow crisis that collapsed RBS and the UK economy. When will modern governance (a new word to the BBC, used by Adam Fleming about the discussions between the Brexit negotiations with the EU, but used since before 2000 in the medical profession) incorporate human stupidity into the recruitment process? The UK banks have begun to monitor unusual transactions on behalf of its customers and they are developing Confirmation of Payee (CoP), a new account-name-checking service that is being introduced across the UK Banking Industry to help to combat fraud and ensure money is transferred to legitimate bank accounts.

5 Mar 2020: the benefits from coronavirus.

10 Mar 2020: is this a ‘responsible’ attitude? Read about the reality of coronavirus in Italy and the medical assessment of coronavirus in the UK from an Accident and Emergency doctor and of the UK response to flights from Italy’s epicentre over the weekend. Today, airlines such as British Airways and Ryanair have cancelled flights to Italy till early April, while only two days ago people were walking off flights from Milan without any protective measures in place. The British man who was in the French Alps flew home to the UK without symptoms, but he had already infected those who were still in the French Alps. So one can infect others before symptoms become apparent. I assume that the Government does not expect these healthy air travellers to become too ill even if they are infected and infective, in the belief that this will build ‘herd immunity’ among those travellers who are relatively healthy. However, they should have been given advice to stay away from the vulnerable and elderly, but many of them were given no advice at all.

The Italian experience: “They [patients] have nothing like the problems caused by seasonal flu. They can’t breathe, they need oxygen.” “With our actions, we influence the life and death of a few dozen people. With your actions, you could influence many more.”

Dr Daniele Macchini: Italian doctor in the centre of the epidemic

What can you do about it?

The main danger from COVID-19 is the viral pneumonitis that prevents oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood. So anything that prevents respiratory tract infection helps. Daily Vitamin D reduces the risk of respiratory tract infection, especially in those who are Vit-D deficient. This is the lesson from a meta-analysis reported in the British Medical Journal in 2017 BMJ 15 Feb 2017. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE Guideline) recommends daily Vitamin D and encourages the food industry to improve the availability of Vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is produced in the skin in the sunshine, so those living in the northern half of Britain tend to be Vitamin D deficient. So 25 mcg supplement tablets of Vitamin D3 daily are recommended, sometimes described as 1000 iu (international units). My own advice is that as soon as you experience a sore throat, gargle with a little Listerine antiseptic mouthwash, as far down your throat as you can manage, to kill off any viruses on the surface-lining of your mouth and throat. People are advised to clean their hands and surfaces to remove the virus, but why not clean the inside of one’s mouth and the surface of a sore throat when it develops? When the alcohol Listerine antiseptic kills the viruses, the viral cells burst open and their contents burst out and irritate your throat making it feel like burning in your throat – this means that the Listerine has worked and done its job. It has killed the viruses. Don’t swallow the Listerine; spit it out. No burning sensation means that there was nothing to kill. You don’t need to use much Listerine; enough to gargle in your throat and then swill it round your mouth also to clear out any virus there, and spit it all out. The virus wants you to cough to tear the natural protective lining of your throat so that it can invade into the body tissues through the tear. Kill it off before it succeds in making you cough. Coronavirus is a danger to the elderly because of their reduced lung capacity to withstand an insult – so one should try to catch the virus when it is at the sore throat level, before it reaches the lungs if possible. This practical advice goes beyond self-isolation and hygienic measures, which are already well-publicised. I have heard no public intimations how to boost immunity far less on how to deal with a sore throat, not even to stop smoking. Even a former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, in an interview with the BBC about her sore throat which she assumed was due to coronavirus, gave no advice what to do about a sore throat! Just because antibiotics cannot help with a viral sore throat is no reason why one cannot use antiseptics in one’s throat in the same manner as one uses them on one’s hands and other surfaces. It simply needs a little lateral thinking and I have demonstrated its effectiveness to myself times without number. Possibly you can experiment for yourself and join the club. It is a pity that I have to declare an interest and to explain that I am a retired medical doctor before some people will believe me. Unbelief is man’s natural state and leads to many problems, as rape and abuse victims have experienced and the #MeToo movement has demonstrated. My tweet on managing sore throat has been viewed by many people but after almost 48 hours (16 Mar 2020) not one person thought it was worth retweeting for the benefit of others, in spite of a spate of retweeting fake coronavirus ‘advice’. Possibly they do not like advertising a Christian blogpost. If so, their prejudicial attitude overcomes their charity. They need to learn benevolent Christianity and would benefit from it themselves.

13 Mar 2020: another complication of coronavirus is myocarditis. We have no knowledge of the long-term effects of this. People recovered from rheumatic fever in the past, but decades later some people developed rheumatic heart disease with heart valve damage and failure. So one cannot be so sure that actively promoting ‘herd immunity’ is a good thing – it will be better to have the vaccine when one is developed and becomes available in due course.

14 Mar 2020: some details about the progress of the disease in the body if it is not arrested.

16 Mar 2020: the effect of self-isolation. Offers of help for those self-isolating. The public advice is that masks are no use generally, but this is to secure supplies for healthcare workers. Masks will protect you if someone unexpectedly coughs or sneezes on you, but a scarf over your face will do the same, is cheaper and less ‘in your face’! It will remind you not to touch your face, which is a frequent, normal, spontaneous and unconscious habit; here are some hints how to restrain the habit. The UK is now implementing the lengthy crack-down at its suitably planned time. After the EU ‘open-border’ policy with its sacrosanct doctrine of the ‘free movement of people’ has come unstuck, Spain and Germany have closed their borders. To try to maintain control, the EU is attempting to act in concert and close its own borders, only days after Donald Trump was criticised for closing the USA borders.

16 Mar 2020: the first vaccine goes on trial in record time among humans, within 60 days of the genetic code being published by the Chinese. Where? In the USA. Where else?

17 Mar 2020: the blame game and conspiracy theories.

23 Mar 2020: selfish crowds ignore government advice to the extent that curfews are being considered. The UK has a generation who have not experienced ‘the war spirit’ and need to be educated. It is justification for the scientific advice that has questioned how long the public will tolerate quarantine measures. The health secretary Matt Hancock said he did not know why some people were ignoring the government’s advice. So we have a health secretary who does not know, and we have a sector of the public who do not know. It seems that some people don’t know how to take advice. It appears that there is a lot of education needed all round. It is only when panic sets in that some people will act, usually to blame others and to demand that they should be at the front of the queue for help. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed anger and disbelief at the response to the Government line. Some pubs remained open and people are blocking the 111 emergency number asking about ‘sick notes’ which they can get from the website. It is testimony to the state of education in our society.

The science says that each infected person passes it on to 2.5 others every five days, so after 30 days one person will have infected 406 other people. However, if social distancing and social isolating cut down this rate to passing on to 1.25 others, after 30 days one person will have infected only 15 others, which is a 95% reduction! This shows the dramatic effect of social distancing in cutting down the rate of infection.

24 Mar 2020: 2,700 passengers were allowed to disbark the Ruby Princess cruise ship at Sydney without any precautions and they scattered in all directions including flights back to the UK. They were not told that many other passengers had the coronavirus and one passenger has since died. How can medicine deal with such stupidity? It is called ‘denial‘.

28 Mar 2020: social distancing tool and measuring rod.

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