The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates urged doctors pondering disease to “do good or do no harm.” That’s easier said than done, of course, involving a weighing of potential risks and benefits, especially during a pandemic.
Dr. Bonnie Henry and others have had to make judgment calls – often in an absence of good information. She’s known that measures put in place to keep us safer from the virus would come at a cost.
A stark glimpse of that came recently with statistics showing more people died of overdoses in May than from the virus during the whole pandemic up to that point. People are using alone, avoiding supervised injection sites, and the supply is less reliable.
We prudently cleared hospital beds to make way for a potential wave of COVID-19 patients. But delayed surgeries have still had real impacts, and have taken both a physical and emotional toll.
There are also reports of patients who avoided the ER out of concern about the virus – only to see their conditions worsen. In addition to anxiety from economic and social fallout, fear of COVID is a legitimate mental health issue.
Unfortunately, there is no decision that can be made in this pandemic that harms no one.
But as more of us take simple steps to limit community transmission, the fewer measures with serious repercussions will be needed.
We can plead ignorance for some of the unintended consequences of our actions so far, but more decisions loom, especially if we face the spectre of a “second wave.”
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