I hope you have that place in you.
Hidden, even from you, intuition springing from values, incubation growing into illumination – awaiting the right issue, the right time, the right need – to be ignited. It arises from a noble place. Even so, the passion it evokes surprises you. Because what you see happening is wrong, and people are being hurt.
In every age, in every country, people have responded to that call. A cry that becomes impossible to ignore. Priests, Rabbis, Physicians, Professors, Journalists and Philosophers wait for their societies to lead. Only to find these trusted institutions have betrayed them and are working to suppress their dissent.
The fire you see may not be mine, nor mine yours. But people will be at the core. Every question of evil is either raised by a person or is about a person. I will respect your voice because I know the virtue from which it arises. It is not from a place of pride or personal agenda. Rather, it is a righteous outrage of a violation perpetuated upon your community, targeting those most fragile; lives you feel a trust to protect.
For my brother, John Powell, it was Covid which opened the door to that place. It began as another medical challenge; a problem demanding an informed systematic response. He immediately sensed the magnitude of the moment and the potential for harm. Politicization of the issue was furthest from his mind.
Early on, it became clear which sector of our populace was most vulnerable to this plague. John was consumed with reviewing the accumulating data from around the world. He watched different country’s response and the results of each. He became convinced Covid had arrived both in the U.S. and in Douglas County sooner than was being reported.
John spent hours reading and listening to epidemiologists such as Dr John Ioannidis of Stanford, but also infectious disease and public health experts in Sweden, Denmark, South Korea, Great Britain, and Europe. He became convinced that a focused protection approach centered on those most exposed, those citizens at greatest risk, was a preferred course to the one prescribed. He spoke early of the need to keep children in school, both for their personal safety and development, but also in recognition of the extremely low risk the disease implied to them, giving opportunity for development of herd immunity.
His blogs and letter to our Governor, still recorded on our website, were respectful but clear. Public policy was misguided and hurtful. Each argument was accompanied by data. John expressed his admiration for the pace in which the Covid vaccine was made available. Truly an incredible medical triumph. But when this vaccine was aggressively pushed to adolescents and teens, he advocated for honest informed consent of patients, parents, and guardians to be part of this process.
If you find yourself in that place, there is something important you must understand. You can control the words you write or speak. You have no control what use others make of them. John’s words have been purposefully misrepresented to fit other’s agenda; his character made a target of derision.
It has been hard for me to watch. Because for the last 25 years, John has been a loyal soldier in medicine. He works so hard. He practices in accordance to the best science, accepts protocols, and follows recommendations of the professional societies, CDC and public health. Those who know him understand his humility. Never, has he become controversial. Never, has he sought attention.
From my conversation with John, what troubles him more than any personal attacks, is the difficulty his personal stance has brought to Evergreen Family Medicine. Even without his speaking out, the tension surrounding this process, permeates, like a thick fog, every aspect of our community. The fear and loss of trust have divided us.
Evergreen is not immune. Employees are both participants and witnesses to the fire. Both providers and employees have different sentiments on some aspect of the pandemic. That’s important to understand. Unless we extend grace toward that expression, we become what we oppose.
For some, we should just accept what authorities prescribe. Wouldn’t it be better to remain silent?
John could not. Never has he been so convinced that the profession of medicine was being politicized, it’s trust tarnished. More than this, the evil he saw in urgent care and the hospital, hidden from view of public officials with guaranteed salaries, obscured from those who work safely from home, was manifest in economic pain, isolation, mental health decline, substance abuse, spouse and child abuse, suicide rates, and delayed diagnosis and care.
And the anger burned as self-righteous pompous officials not only refused to listen to respected experts but publicly shamed them, even as they plotted to suppress their voice. This is not how we disagree in medicine. This is not how truth is found.
Today we are asked to join the effort to vaccinate adolescents and teenagers from a disease for which they have a 99.997% survival rate, with a vaccine issued under an emergency use authorization. We are asked to add our names to a newspaper promotion endorsing compliance. Lottery rewards are offered as inducement to influence medical decisions. Oregon Health Authority has made it clear they support the rights of minors 15 and older to consent to COVID 19 vaccinations without parental consent or knowledge and so must we.
Is anyone considering the consequences? What will happen if we are wrong? How will that trust ever be regained?
Should John have remained quiet? Is there not also a cost to silence?
I am writing this on Memorial Day 2021. Contemplating lives sacrificed to afford this freedom to us. Guardians of the steps of heaven upon which we stand. Do we not owe it to them to speak? Of what value is freedom if it is not informed by truth?
Your place will be different. Perhaps it will be government requirements of your license mandating participation in care which offends your conscience; abortion, castration with hormonal therapy in children undergoing gender reassignment, euthanasia or assisted suicide. Perhaps it will be an intrusion of privacy, reporting private patient information for nefarious use. Likely it will be an ethical issue I am not thinking of. You will have nothing to gain by speaking out. Only something to lose by remaining quiet.
You will know when that time comes. Institutions you trusted will fail you and you have to depend on what you know to be true. You will not be able to remain silent. Your voice will be respectful but strong. Offense will be taken. A price will be paid. The power of the message will reflect the heart from which it arises. You seek truth, not affirmation. You do not need to win the argument. You have already won by objecting.
I hope you have that place in you.
Tim Powell MD