[extropy-chat] Are vaccinations useless?

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Tue Mar 14 21:21:14 UTC 2006

On Tue, Mar 14, 2006 at 12:54:52PM -0800, "Hal Finney" wrote:

> In any case, I don't think we can justify a feeling of relief even if it
> does turn out that medical knowledge has helped.  Go back to the strong
> claim that "medicine", defined as services delivered by doctors, has
> played an insignificant role in extending life.  Redefining medicine to
> include washing your hands doesn't make this uncomfortable fact go away.

Isn't the stereotype that past their pre-college checkup most men don't go to
a doctor anyway unless they're really sick or broke something?  Looked at that
way, the fact shouldn't be that uncomfortable.

> And the real sticking point Robin raises is this: even if you find this
> convincing, as I do, will you change your habits?  Will you stop going
> to the doctor, and even harder, stop taking your kids or loved ones?

Those aren't necessarily conclusions of the analysis, though.  If the
reduction in mortality is from far fewer people getting sick, that still
leaves open what to do if you *do* get sick.  And even if something probably
wouldn't kill you, the doctor might be able to shorten the duration or to
lessen your pain.  The relevant statistics here are not global ones, but of
the form "given 100 people with your problem, and half of them going to
doctors and half not, what are the relative rates of recovery?"  If you are
the person with a heart problem, or antibiotic-susceptible TB, is there any
rational reason not to go to the doctor?  I don't see it.  (Well, expected
value and cost, maybe.)

-xx- Damien X-) 

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