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, Europe’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. 25 mcg supplement tablets of Vitamin D3 daily are recommended, sometimes described as 1000 iu (international units). My own additional 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, they 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 disrupted 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 stage, 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 for which she was not tested, but which she assumed was due to coronavirus, gave no advice on what to do about a sore throat! [20 Nov 2020: she was interviewed again on BBC Newsnight tonight and confessed that she was now reluctant to speak publicly about Covid because the debate has become so toxic.] 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 on other surfaces. It simply needs a little lateral thinking and I have demonstrated its effectiveness to myself times without number, although Johnson & Johnson necessarily make no claim for Listerine’s utility in this regard. 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. [28 Apr 2020: most of the world now knows about Donald Trump’s blundered way of putting across this advice, focussing on his ill-chosen use of the word ‘inject’ instead of extracting what is useful in his suggestion. If he had used the word ‘gargle’ instead of ‘inject’ a useful contribution would have been offered. The world’s media has been so busy excoriating him for his blunder that they missed the relevance of its proper application. Slowly, the UK is accepting the utility of face coverings such as scarves or bandanas, in public defiance of the proud intellectuals who are hidebound to their academic models. The Scottish Goverment has at last recommended wearing face coverings in specific public circumstances where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, such as on public transport or food shops. It has taken mainstream media a long time to draw attention to immunity but here is an article at the popular level by the BBC.] [19 Sep 2020: New England Journal of Medicine is supportive on face masks; see details below at 19 Sep 2020.]

12 Mar 2020: Boris Johnson’s daily briefing: “We are considering the question of banning major public events such as sporting fixtures. The scientific advice as we’ve said over the last couple of weeks is that banning such events will have little effect on the spread.” This has been interpreted as declaring “in favour of herd immunity” [2 May 2020 BMJ, p. 157; published online on 27 Apr 2020: “and nothing that has happened since shows serious intent to prevent the cull which that implies.”]

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 heart failure. So the scientific strategy of actively promoting ‘herd immunity’ is very suspect – it will be better to have the vaccine when one is developed and becomes available in due course. Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief science adviser, said he hoped the government’s approach to tackling the virus would create a “herd immunity in the UK”. Those countries with poor health services will demonstrate only too forcefully if herd immunity works, while the economic chaos created in the rest of the world will demonstrate which scientific models have worked. This global trial will test the various socio-economic models around the world.

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 advice is to secure supplies for healthcare workers. Masks will protect you if someone unexpectedly coughs or sneezes on you, but a scarf or bandana 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 own pace but probably too slow. Now that 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.

30 Mar 2020: former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC’s Nick Watt that the Government’s strategy had been to develop herd immunity but it was changed to “suppression” halfway through. The fact and reasons may be disputed, but it is good that it has been abandoned.

3 Apr 2020: the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood was asked today in the daily press briefing about the use of Vit D. She acknowledged that she did not know about its applicability to the coronavirus pandemic and said that the usual advice was to take Vit D from October to March when there was less sunlight. The NICE Guidelines, see above, suggest that the elderly in particular should take it all year round in Scotland’s northern climes with reduced sun exposure and those who are “housebound or confined indoors for long periods”.

3 Apr 2020: on BBC Newsnight 31/3/2020 Professor Nirmal Kumar, an ENT consultant and President of ENT UK, sees a new presentation of young fit people with sudden loss of smell and associated loss of taste. He recommended that these symptoms would improve containment of coronavirus if these young fit people were told to self-isolate. However, today’s UK daily press briefing quoted the experts: “it does not contribute to the affinity of the diagnosis.” So what? It does contribute to the advice to self-isolate and this response smacks of scientific hubris.

3 Apr 2020: the link from the Health Protection Scotland PDF to the NHS video for the proper ‘donning and doffing’ is not available on YouTube although it is available on Vimeo. The summary details of the emergency Coronavirus Act 2020 on the Scottish website gives details “as applicable to England”.

3 Apr 2020: boosting your immune system: some education. Benefits of Vit D against respiratory infections.

8 Apr 2020: my proposals for research and why face masks might be beneficial. Now confirmed by studies: see 2 Sep 2020 below.

10 Apr 2020: Scammers have succeeded in extracting almost £2 million from UK businesses by pretending to have face masks, coronavirus tests and sanitizer available for sale. The scammers have targeted businesses, hospitals and care homes seeking to buy in bulk.

13 Apr 2020: a good news story about early preparation. EDF Energy prepared Sizewell B power station for the coronavirus pandemic lockdown over two months ago in Jan 2020 before there was one coronavirus case in the UK. It sent one half its staff home to be safe and it built up essential stocks of commodities and spares so it can continue till 2021 if there was no restocking from overseas. Some people were far-seeing enough to see the storm coming, so UK electrictity will continue through the pandemic, essential during the lockdown.

23 Apr 2020: the Scottish Government has published today a 26-page document outlining its first draft on how to establish “a new normal” for personal and public life until the threat of COVID-19 subsides. It states on page 5: m the coronavirus

“We are clear that an assumption that there is a proportion or section of the population that it is safe or acceptable to allow to be infected forms no part of the Scottish Government’s policy or approach.”

Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making Scottish Government 23rd April 2020

This is a direct contradiction of the early UK policy to allow herd immunity to develop, and long may it continue.

2 Sep 2020: at last, someone has done the studies to show that wearing a mask will help you. It may not prevent you catching the disease but the course of the disease will be greatly reduced. Those wearing masks catch a smaller dose of virus – the technical terms are the inoculum or ‘the viral load’ – so your infection will be milder and I suggested this long ago in The BMJ here. It gives 1. a suggestion to explain asymptomatic infection, 2. a possible route of ‘natural’ coronavirus inoculation 3. a possible benefit of face masks, 4. how herd immunity may have developed and 5. suggestions for research.

19 Sep 2020: NEJM confirms my theory on facial masks. TheNew England Journal of Medicine on 8 Sep 2020 suggests that facial masking leads to milder COVID-19; see my comments above. Also, American Anthony Fauci, lead member of the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force is taking 6000 iu of Vit D daily.

One thought on “Medicine cannot make up for stupidity

  1. Richard Tallach

    “The Voice of the Cholera” is a very good sermon by Spurgeon on the theological implications of infectious epidemics.


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