As the Omicron wave crested in January, many institutions tried to do more and seemed to assume that the more intrusive or inconvenient a restriction, the more powerful it was. I talk about why this is the wrong way to think about medicine at The New Atlantis.
They assume that our safety is proportional to the amount of effort we put in, perhaps even proportional to how much we’re willing to suffer. Throughout the pandemic, many safety precautions have treated Covid as though it were a moralistic slasher villain, visiting punishment on those who enjoy themselves. […]
The stories we tell about medicine imply that outcomes depend on the physical and moral strength of the doctor and patient. Cancer patients’ treatments are still frequently framed as a war, which may make patients reluctant to choose milder treatments over harsh chemotherapy. Abandoning the heavy artillery feels like conceding the fight.
No one, patient or practitioner, is too much to blame for struggling with these tradeoffs. In ordinary times, we take for granted the near-magical disproportionality of medical interventions. Many of the most powerful methods are nearly invisible to us: My baby’s risk of spina bifida is warded off with a pill the size of her second-trimester palm; the benefits of treated water accrue without experiencing any of the trouble of hauling or boiling it. The victories of public health infrastructure disappear into the background of everyday life.