Thursday, March 09, 2006

Giving blood, a bad joke, and how the government is worse than a bad joke

New York Blood Services held a blood drive today (meaning Wednesday) at my workplace. I had scheduled a lunchtime appointment and was thinking about it on Tuesday, when suddenly I had this strange feeling that one of my closest friends would call me while I was in the middle of things. Sure enough, she did when on her lunch break. And I couldn't resist when she asked how I was doing:

"I'm bleeding profusely at the moment."

"What? From where?"

"My arm."


"Oh, I'm just giving blood."

The several others around me, phlebotomists and donors alike, seemed to find it at least slightly funny. My friend wasn't terribly amused, though! She's going to hit me hard the next time I see her, no doubt.

I strongly encourage people to donate blood if they are qualified, and platelets if they can tolerate the process and greater length of donation time. Platelets are always in very short supply, and there's always high demand from cancer patients, hemophiliacs and transplant recipients. I used to give platelets regularly at the apheresis center in the University of Utah's fine hospital. After three or four years, I got a seven-gallon pin. A few times I was an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) match, meaning that my blood's antigens matched a particular patient's. Such a match can be critical for a patient who's undergone an organ or tissue plant (to reduce chances of rejection), or if a patient's overly strong immune system may attack blood components that are of the same blood type but have slightly different antigens. When I matched someone, the center would ask me to donate again within a couple of weeks (one time I made a second platelet donation just ten days later).

The need for new platelet donors may become critical if the feds have their way. The Food and Drug Administration has been looking to restrict platelet donors to 24 pints per year, but healthy patients could give up to three pints per visit. Not all give that much, but some blood center officials told ABC News that they fear the FDA's proposed restrictions could cut platelet supplies in half. Why should the state have any reason to get involved here? Is it not the donor's decision to donate a pint or three, and the center's decision to accept it?

The FDA's restrictions will be just another way by which government kills people, or at least worsen their suffering by denying them easy access to things like non-prescription insulin. Then government does the converse, attempting to appear benevolent and creating the illusion that it's protecting us from harm, by "approving" new medicines like inhalable insulin. Would it make any difference to my body whether federal bureaucrats decide a medicine is "safe" or "dangerous"? The truth is independent of their decision, particularly since they are known to be wrong.

A year ago, Biogen Idec and Elan Corp. pulled their drug Tysabri from the market. The FDA had approved it, but then Tysabri apparently caused three people to develop a rare brain disease. But three studies published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Tysabri is safe after all, so in another example of false government magnanimity, the twelve members of an FDA panel recommended Tysabri be allowed to sell again. That may seem fine to some that the government is trying to protect us from killing ourselves, but what of the patients long since denied Tysabri (and any other drugs) who could have greatly benefited? Some of them may have elected to take it anyway, knowing and accepting the statistically miniscule risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

A couple of days ago, I was thinking of when I was about 12 years old and playing with my chemistry set. There was one simple experiment outlined in a book I got from the library, introducing effervescence into fruit juice via sodium bicarbonate, but my father would not permit me to do it. Though it was just plain bicarb of soda and nothing more, I explained, he refused and said, "You're going to kill yourself with that stuff!" Very well, that was his prerogative and responsibility -- he was my father. Children do not have quite the same rights and freedoms as adults, for the simple reason that they are young enough and thus someone else's charges.

(Side anecdote: it took so much coaxing before my father would let me perform electrolysis of water with plain AA batteries. In my mid-teens, more knowledgeable of electricity, I started using rectifiers so that I could get high DC voltage from house current. Then I lent my apparatus to one of my best friends, and his mother later told me she caught him using the bathroom sink as his container for the electrolyte!)

That begets the question: is government our father, that it can order us around regarding what we may and may not ingest? Once we accept parentage as government's role in our lives, we consequently and necessarily surrender the full extent of our rights to life, liberty and property that God Himself gave us, those precious rights for which, as Bastiat reminded us, God in His goodness gives us full faculties and reason. In other words, to surrender any of your personal decisions to the state is to acknowledge that you indeed don't have the brains God gave you.


Blogger Steven Tomer said...

Ah, yes, good times.... I remember clearly doing the electrolysis experiment in the sink, and my mother's shocked reaction :-)

I also found that adding NaCl to the electrolyte solution made the reaction proceed much quicker, although I probably should have done that outside, rather than in confined space of the small bathroom, since that reaction releases chlorine gas.

Thursday, March 09, 2006 4:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, who can forget the little pits in the sidewalk outside your mom's old house from some pretty high molarity acid. ;)

Perry and I did the sugar and nitric acid experiment on my mom's front porch, and then ran quickly to a safe distance (after warning those inside not to exit) to avoid the nitrogen dioxide. :)

Thursday, March 09, 2006 7:05:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Tomer said...

Ah, yes.. those were the days :-)

Thursday, March 09, 2006 7:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad Warbiany said...

With geek cred like that, how did you not become an engineer?

Saturday, March 11, 2006 1:26:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Pure burnout, Brad. I had gotten a chemistry set at 11 and a microscope at 12, so I had a big head start on honors science classes in high school. I started college as a civil engineering major, but I quickly realized that I didn't want to do science anymore. English disgusted me once I got into the deconstructionism, poli sci was stupid, and computer science was an option but not something that interested me anymore. Then I found a full-time job and dropped out of school for five years. By the time I moved to New York state and transferred to a better school, my aunt suggested economics. She thought it would be a good gateway to an MBA, but it was a stroke of luck in how it changed my way of thinking.

By the way, Charlie meant sulfuric acid. It was a remnant of the strong acids that Steve's mother wanted him to get rid of -- which I was all too willing to accept. :)

Saturday, March 11, 2006 1:45:00 AM  

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