How Would Pasteur Heal Todays Body Politic?

Commentary; Louis Rodolico

The methods Pasteur used to address microbes/germs hold an answer for our toxic politics.

In the mid 1800’s, Louis Pasteur and others were unable to convince the medical profession that hand washing and operating room sanitation would reduce microbes and improve patient survival. Back then surgeons did not believe in operating room sanitation. They believed that microbes did not exist in the air, but were spontaneously introduced into a patient by God’s will. The spontaneous creation of microbes came from the belief that God created the Universe out of nothing in 7 days; therefore God also spontaneously introduced microbes/germs in those who deserved death.

In the 1840’s Ignaz Semmelweis was a young doctor whose observations challenged that assertion. He noticed that the Bartsch birthing clinic had a 3% mortality rate, here hands were washed, clean linens and clean field were the rule. Doctor Semmelweis also noticed that another birthing clinic, the Klein clinic, had an 18% mortality rate. Klein’s clinic used no sanitary measures. They did not wash hands and wiped their hands and equipment on bloody aprons that had been used for previous patients. The overwhelming number of microbes the Klein methodology introduced resulted in six times as many mothers dying.

Voila! Sterile fields and hand washing procedures improve patient survival. Not so fast. Klein was a “Free Thinker” and organized to protect the status quo. Klein had the backing of the; clergy, medical establishment and all the material and service suppliers. In operating theatres Free Thinkers kept day’s old cadavers so they could route around in the cadaver to figure out how the patient should be stitched back together. Free Thinkers then went immediately from cadaver to putting their unwashed hands inside a living patient. Some Free Thinker had mortality rates over 90%. Regardless, Klein and the Free Thinkers eventually prevailed and ran Doctor Semmelweis out of town. Semmelweis was ridiculed by the medical establishment and committed to an asylum where he died as a result of being beaten by guards. Surgeons would jokingly drag their scalpels in the filthy floor sewer drains before cutting into their patients mocking that lunatic Semmelweis. The wealthy establishment won the day.

Confronting the wealthy establishment here in San Diego has also failed. Here Westfield Mall along with; NIMBYs, government workers and a cadre of lobbyists figured out they could enrich themselves by removing key roads in order to funnel; traffic, customers and therefore money to a wealthy Westfield Mall. Mall lobbyists fanned hate in the community, pitting neighbor against neighbor, thereby keeping the spotlight off themselves. Westfield paid a half million dollars for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), to remove the Regents Road Bridge, an EIR that somehow did not consider ambulance service times. With the bridge no longer on the city plan, 35 million dollars in Development Impact Fees must now be refunded to the Mall and other developers. To date only one of Universities 3 main roads has been completed.  According to county statistics not having finished these key roads in University results in 7 citizens not making it alive to the emergency room each year, but why would a foreign owned mall like Westfield care about that? This remains an important public health issue and like Pasteur citizens face a well-financed opposition.  Several times I have requested ambulance and FRS-56 statistics from the city, no response. What is being hidden, are there more than 7 deaths per year?

Westfield is a microcosm of what is happening nationally; we can clearly see how the political sausage is made and how hate plays a key role. Corporations should not control public safety decisions affecting the body politic like; police, fire, ambulances & health care. The insurance component of our healthcare system can be heartless and corrupt. Unlike other things we need there is no option with health care, we perish or pay the inflated prices forcing many into bankruptcy. Like most of the industrialized world American Healthcare needs to be under government aka voter control much like police and fire responders. If we were to vote to privatize the police, for example, will we be put on hold while they verify our police insurance? The more we privatize the more rights and public safety we forfeit to corporations who will withhold a response until payment is secured.

Pasteur’s answer was to eliminate microbes that harm the body. Any behavior that harms the body politic also needs to be eliminated. As the Westfield case illustrates, unchecked corporate greed is a hazard. We have to find a cure for this disease at all levels of politics. Big money curses socialism, which is simply voter control. Corporations have successfully lobbied to pay lower taxes, increasing their control over; politicians, our tax dollars and our lives. Our votes continue to mean less and less. It is insidious to watch corporations gain more power while simultaneously decreasing their taxes and contributions to health care. The U.S. now has the most expensive healthcare system along with dropping life expectancy. (Search: How does U.S. life expectancy compare to other countries)

Pasteur openly challenged the Free Thinkers, but for decades Pasteur helplessly watched thousands suffer and perish needlessly. To his credit, he never gave up and only towards the end of his life did the medical community stop blaming God and embrace sterilization in the operating room.

I am hopeful that corporations like Westfield Mall and their cabal will not remain unchallenged modern-day Free Thinkers, dragging their proverbial scalpels in filth. Our city should be better than this. In University todays Free Thinkers have the political power and an age-old message; “Roads do not matter, if you or a loved one are delayed getting to the emergency room alive, well that’s Gods will”

Louis Rodolico has been a resident of University City since 2001 and is a candidate for District 1 City Council

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