In the name of science … what science?

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For many months now, the SARS-Cov19 coronavirus has been making its way into our lives. Today, we can say that we are living a real upheaval of the living together in the name of a health imperative hammered without respite by politicians and media experts.

European governments have all, to varying degrees, adopted measures restricting our freedoms in order to curb the epidemic or at least control its evolution. These measures have been among the most restrictive in our country, with an overall result that it would be difficult to consider as conclusive. It’s not for lack of listening to the experts. All of them were decided not by the government but by a National Safety Council composed of medical experts, epidemiologists, virologists and other specialists in infectious diseases.

As our Minister of Health confidently proclaims, decisions are therefore based on science. Even if this statement is a shortcut, it is clear that it is the opinions issued by scientists that determine the so-called sanitary measures that are imposed on us over the months. But which scientists are we talking about? Personalities who occupy institutional positions (Ministry of Health) … or placed at the top of the academic hierarchy or recognized specialists to whom tasks of health crisis management or communication with the general public have been assigned? All are expected to share the view that the directions taken since the onset of the pandemic and the prospects for the post-pandemic period are unquestionable achievements. It is a matter of getting a frightened population to accept the idea that the decisions taken to control the situation are the only ones possible and that our unconditional submission to these decisions, even the most incomprehensible ones, depends on our health and especially that of the most vulnerable among us. Drastically reducing the circulation of the virus is the only possible way.

At the end of the tunnel, the Holy Grail: the availability of vaccines that will defeat this cursed virus. Let’s trust technoscience and we will be saved! Doctors, scientists or legal persons who try to express a different opinion are at best ignored, at worst discredited, or even professionally threatened. In our country, some personalities have challenged the blind confinement or the house arrest imposed on young students or the compulsory wearing of masks in open environments.

UCL professor Jean-Luc Gala, a specialist in infectious diseases and head of department at the Saint-Luc University Clinic, whose competence is internationally recognized, has been condemned by his institution for his media interventions, which are considered counterproductive and « contrary to the values and scientific position of the institution « . Jean-Luc Gala was wrong to describe the figures released by the Belgian authorities as alarmist and to declare that  » the closure of the hotel and catering industry is not based on anything « .

In France, the situation is no better. State authoritarianism and the academicism of the self-righteous elites are even more prevalent. The case of Dr. Didier Raoult is emblematic of the conflict between two conceptions of the role of the physician. Didier Raoult is an internationally respected scientist for his work on infectious diseases. But he considers that the role of the doctor is to treat. Faced with a health emergency, he chose to use a care protocol that he believes is effective in treating his Covid-19 patients at the onset of clinical symptoms. The results obtained led him to make optimistic statements that rallied a pack of specialists and other health officials against him. At issue is hydroxychloroquine, which he recommends in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin, considered ineffective and even dangerous. A fraudulent international study, recognized as such by the prestigious journal The Lancet , which published it, contributed to discredit Didier Raoult and, worse, to ban the treatment he advocates in his country and, by ricochet, in certain neighboring countries, such as Belgium.

But Didier Raoult, dragged before the Order of Physicians of his country, does not give up; he considers indeed that a doctor, in conformity with the Hippocratic oath, must treat. Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that has been used for decades even though it is not officially licensed for use against a novel virus; it does not pose a risk to the treatment of early-stage disease as currently recommended. The latter consists in doing nothing but resorting to paracetamol to bring down the fever.

We are in complete absurdity. Either one chooses the absence of treatment in ambulatory medicine and waits for better days with the risk of aggravation that follows and hospitalization, or one treats with an unofficially approved drug that presents the risk of being effective and even avoiding hospitalization and especially the passage to intensive care … while the hospitals are overwhelmed or in the process of being so

One has the right to wonder about the real reasons for this attitude. They are plural.

  1. Professor Raoult overshadows the conformists, for whom respecting the rules, even when they are stupid, comes first. Didier Raoult openly displays his non-conformism; therefore he displeases and especially arouses jealousy.
  2. The treatment he recommends is inexpensive. If it proves to be effective, it is a potential market that collapses for the pharmaceutical groups on the lookout.
  3. The marketing of a drug requires double-blind studies which, if properly executed, allow the conclusion of the statistical effectiveness of the drug. This methodology is well adapted to industrial production. But it requires a lot of money and time. In addition, it poses a fundamental ethical problem in that it compares two groups of patients, one of which receives only a placebo. It therefore implies choosing to voluntarily leave sick patients untreated when there is no alternative.

Professor Luc Montagnier has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the AIDS virus. He is an endearing personality with a very open mind. Concerned about the origin of the pandemic and the coronavirus involved, he dared, on the basis of laboratory observations of the virus genome, to put forward the hypothesis of its artificial origin. It was too much to face the pack of reverential journalists and pundits.

To question a laboratory is akin to sacrilege for the techno-scientist church which says what must be thought and especially what is forbidden to think. From being a genius researcher, respected and even revered, Luc Montagnier has become a controversial and not very credible character. His hypothesis is not admissible… especially since it comes from someone who is losing his mind… Think! He went so far as to publicly speak out against the extension of mandatory vaccination in France for young children, on the grounds that their developing immune systems could be seriously disrupted. In addition, he regularly speaks out in favor of natural treatments for African populations threatened by AIDS. Thanks to nutritherapy and, more simply, to a regular intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, it is possible to reduce the incidence of AIDS. All this does not look very serious in the eyes of the guardians of the Temple of orthodox medicine, subject to the pharmaceutical lobbies.

Luc Montagnier has the courage to use his moral authority to make disturbing statements that threaten major financial interests and challenge the certainties of technoscientists. He now dares to question the security of a virus research laboratory. This is too much, especially for the French hierarchy, knowing that the P4 laboratory in Wuhan was able to equip itself and start up thanks to French cooperation. I am not competent to judge the relevance of Luc Montagnier’s hypothesis. I hear specialists reject this hypothesis on the basis of credible arguments. What is certain is that even before any serious analysis a hypothesis is rejected as politically incorrect. Its author must therefore be discredited and his scientific skills questioned!

Like Luc Montagnier, Christian Perronne is a man respected as a physician, a rigorous scientist and also recognized for his human qualities. Head of the Infectious Diseases Department at Garches Hospital, he considers that the management of the pandemic has been and remains calamitous in his country. For months he has been denouncing the politics of fear that hypnotizes his fellow citizens. He has recently expressed himself again in no uncertain terms on the sanitary measures in force in France. He considers that « theealth measures should be targeted to protect those at risk, to screen them and to treat them as early as possible at the onset of symptoms with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, whose efficacy and safety have been widely confirmed, if given early. Many deaths could have been avoided. General practitioners and geriatricians have been discouraged from treating. In this context, continuing to persecute our children behind useless masks remains incomprehensible. All these measures are made to make the French people ask for a vaccine. But what is the interest of a generalized vaccine for a disease whose mortality is close to 0.05% ? None. This mass vaccination is unnecessary. In addition, the risks of vaccination may outweigh the benefits « .

What to conclude? Certainly not that any decision based on scientific knowledge should be challenged a priori . But it is essential to agree on the concept of scientific knowledge. Not only does knowledge, in a given discipline, evolve over time, but it is also always dependent on the spirit of the times and on presuppositions or postulates that have nothing to do with science. Clearly, scientific knowledge is not neutral. It can be at the service of the general interest but it can also be an instrument of power, capable of silencing any desire to challenge and above all of subjugating the citizens. In this case, the term « science » used by the Minister of Health should be more correctly replaced by « technoscience ». It is a science at the service of technique and, more precisely, of industrialist technological development.

We are really into ideology. Credible scientists are those who adhere, even without being aware of it, to this worldview. Any solution can only come from industrial products to be consumed, which is the case of vaccines. Prevention, taking dietary supplements or using off-patent medications are ways to ignore or even mock.

Finally, it is fundamental to remember that medicine is not a science. It is a set of practices, certainly based on scientific knowledge, aiming to heal. Medicine therefore involves prevention, care, attention and treatment after informed consent of the patient. Informed consent cannot be the result of one-sided propaganda, masking adverse effects and unknowns.

Paul Lannoye, member of the Grappe board, doctor in physical sciences

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