At What Risk?

I’ve taken a decent time off from this blog, and for those few readers that noticed, I apologize for my absence. I still have lots more to say, so I’ll try to keep my writing up with my brain.

I have wanted to write on October’s outbreak of fungal Meningitis for a while now, especially since the steroid injections that caused the problem originated from my supposedly tech-savvy state of Massachusetts. The moldy injections caused  36 deaths and 541 reported infections across 19 states, nothing to scoff at, and it’s a sad and horrifying tale at best.

Obviously there was gross negligence involved here, on the part of the lab- which didn’t seem to consider sterilization a priority, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health- which didn’t seem to care, and the FDA- who allowed the injections to market.  But the issue raises an equally valid burden of negligence of how we, as a population, deal with pain, and our own misplaced trust in elective medical interventions like steroid injections.

Don’t get me wrong- I do understand pain. And I understand wanting to do anything it takes to make it go away. But are you really willing to do anything? The notion that having something injected into your spine is without consequences, and serious ones at that, is just naive. Honestly, the fact that this is still “first line” treatment pisses me off given how much information is out there about how successful acupuncture is at relieving the exact same kind of back pain steroid injections are targeted for.

The risk of fungal meningitis and death was likely never on any consent forms anyone signed, nor is its presence among the potential side effects list remotely excusable. But, we all need to understand that there is very real risk every time we:

  1. Have something injected
  2. Go to the hospital
  3. Undergo an invasive test (Contrast MRI, CT scan, biopsy, etc.)
  4. Have an operation
  5. Take medication

Often, the above are necessary and life saving procedures. But, when they are not, when they are optional, why not try something non-invasive first? Why not try acupuncture?

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