Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Scientist as an Activist - Health

The politics of medicine is something that Doctor Halstead would come to term: BioPolitics. From age 15, (1935) and continuing through his graduation from medical school at Loma Linda in 1948, he was obsessed in the discovery of research and unlocking the secrets of bio-toxicology. This obsession gave him a blindness to even the notion that there was any other possibility but that the world was united into the quest of new cures for disease and other medical breakthroughs. Doctor Halstead once wrote that:

"I would soon be baptized into the intriguing world of biopolitics. I would eventually learn that this world was a quantum leap downward from the pristine science I had learned at the feet of Howard Walton Clark (at the Golden Gate Academy of Sciences) in which we worked for love of the science rather than the quest for money."

His first introduction of this new reality came as soon as he began his professional career as he started advocating for the idea of research at Loma Linda University under the banner of the School of Tropical and Preventive Medicine that he co-founded.. He was trying desperately to convince the school that it was imperative to conduct research in order to advance the scope of health and develop new cures for disease. The administration made it emphatically clear that their primary mission was to teach and they were more than happy to leave research up to other institutions. For the new doctor who had a background in research that formally began at age 15, this was absurd and he argued for the necessity of research to advance the cause of medicine. In his words:

"I vigorously contended that if they would give research greater priority they would have more money for teaching. I was not particularly diplomatic about this issue and openly stated that they were a collection of medical parasites. My ranting and raving on the campus about our lack of research did not endear me to most of the other faculty members, and particularly the clinicians."

If one wants to know the turning point at which Doctor Halstead became the 'Scientist as a Health Activist', it was as a new doctor, fresh out of medical school who had a vision for starting the School of Tropical and Preventive Medicine and the need to conduct research in pursuit of new cures for chronic and degenerous diseases from drugs from the oceans and jungles. He admitted he was naive back then;

"During my early youth I lived under the total misconception that the world was seeking new and innovative ideas to save lives."

With out any support for his research ideas at Loma Linda University, he set out to get his research funded through the government, private foundations and corporations like drug companies. Here too he would find opposition of another sort:

"I was totally unprepared for the calcified intellectual attitude of 'keep the status quo and don't rock the ship.' As time went on and I became better acquainted with the fine art of grantshmanship it became evident that the government research funding system was infested with nepotism. If you didn't have the right political or university connections, you were at the bottom f the financial totem pole. I was at the very bottom of the system, and had just fallen off the turnip truck but I didn't remain there very long - I became a very quick learner!

The next jolt of reality of reality came in understanding that his projects would not be evaluated for the same merits as it is in the scientific community.

A new scientific project is generally not evaluated on the basis of its scientific merits, but it largely depends upon who is presenting the idea and the degree of popularity of the subject matter a the time. New horizon research is all too often buried because it cuts across popular lines of academic or bureaucratic thinking, or is conceived as an economic threat to large business interests.

The difference between a Nobel prize and a jail sentence may at times be a very thin line. Unfortunately my knowledge of grant-in-aid cannibalism were unknown to me when I made my debut in Washington, D.C. in 1950."

After over coming some of the initial obstacles involved in leaning how to get grants and how it was all about who you know and how you package your grant proposals, Doctor Halstead was able to get some grant funding through the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). But after a couple of years, the NIH became hesitant to keep on funding solely on the basis of screening for marine toxins. Doctor Halstead started searching for alternative grant funding by contacting hundreds of foundations but without success. These organizations were only interested in funding specific projects with immediate payback possibilities for their investment.

Doctor Halstead tried in vain to pitch these organizations on his research by raising vital issues such as: "the possibility of new drugs, cancer cures, the effects of poisonous fishes on our world food supply, antiviral agents, ad infinitum, ad nauseum" but to no success. After some discouragement on funding these noble goals, he finally came to some sad truths about American priorities for getting funded. This led to an epiphany as he eventually made the sad conclusion that:

"Stop thinking about all of the diseases that these marine bioactive substances can cure and talk to the military about all of the people that you can kill with these deadly poisons. And that is exactly what I did. It turned out to be a brilliant idea and the money and logistics support became more plentiful than ever.

I have gradually learned over the years, much to my sorrow. that money for curing people is very difficult to come by, but if you can demonstrate a technique to wipe out millions of people through the military machine there is no limit to the amount of money available. Anyone that doubts that statement has not examined the international financial facts.

The quest for financial support formula was beginning to become clear: The more deadly the substance, the more people you can kill, the more financial support you will get. On the other hand if you become too aggressively involved in curing people, you will get less financial support, and may run the risk of going to jail. This is a fact that I have learned well during my life. This formula is quite simple, straight forward, and well documented.

The pinacle of financial spending in research was achieved in the development of nuclear warfare. Nothing has cost more money, produced more destruction, and is more capable of destroying the human race. Sad to say these are the facts."

So the education into the politics of medicine began with Loma Linda University in 1948 over the value of research. From there he learned new lessons about the priorities for funding of research projects with the whole grant getting process. But he would eventually sour on getting grants from the government and from foundations because of how much you had to compromise yourself. This made him turn to the world of business deals for getting his research financed but this too had it's drawbacks due to all of the scoundrels who tried exploit him and his reputation. This led to hard times for his research and necessitated his return to the practice of medicine.

This in turn positioned him in a way that led to his rise as a pioneer in a host of alternative medicine. With this turn of events, he became in demand for his books, his public speaking, and in court appearances. At every opportunity, Doctor Halstead used his elevated position to speak out against the monopoly of the conventional medical practice of drugs, radiation, and surgery by the AMA and FDA. His message was resonating and his popularity sky rocketing. By now he was becoming an outspoken critic of the status quo and the cancer industry. As such he was quickly becoming an increasing threat establishment which organized an all out effort to silence him.

A plan to shut him up through the abuse of the judicial system was hatch and executed. It is an amazing story that dominated the latter part of his life and cost him his freedom. The story is easily a book into itself and a summary will be posted here as time permits. But there is an excellent report on this legal case that appeared in the September edition of the 1997 issue of Winds Publication. The article puts the case of the People vs Halstead into the proper context of being more like the medical establishment vs alternative medicine. The article spells out what the legal battle was all about, and the larger picture of what was at stake in terms of the motivation for the FDA and the conventional forces that were working to discredit Doctor Halstead and persecuted him for speaking out and standing up for what he believed in.

Read the article - Click here.

The balance of this post is still under construction! Please check back later.


This Post still under construction
Check back again soon!

No comments: