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How human curiosity is moving away from planet Earth

We often talk among us and with other colleagues who work as doctors in different branches with passion and difficulties.

In all the talks at one point the conversation is about the many progresses made in the medical field in the last ten years. Many treatments that we studied during our degree course have become obsolete and others that at the time appeared almost science fiction have instead become reality. Stem cells, targeted cancer therapies, monoclonal antibodies and 3D printed prostheses are just some of today’s medical realities.

We then remembered an article published a few months ago on this blog: “the goal of medicine is the end of medicine” on prevention.

And yet there is a problem. The progress of scientific discoveries has gone hand in hand with an increase in the patient’s right to choose, but not with an increase in knowledge from the non-specialists. Yet the ability to accept or refuse a cure must happen based on accurate knowledge and awareness.

The practice of informed consent originates from the Nuremberg trial, when human experimentation in concentration camps was declared a crime against Humanity. It was opposed to what the Nazis proposed as scientific research and progress and was the first act for the protection of human rights.

Today we are witnessing a careful but often only formal application of the practice of informed consent.

Trying to explain accurately to the patient the risks and benefits of a traditional therapy when the State, closing hospitals and institutions, demands that the doctor visits a patient every 20 minutes is already very complex. Explaining an innovative therapy is even more complex. But our work becomes very difficult when a large proportion of the population distrusts the doctor and relies on sources of questionable information, to say the least.

It would be nice to share the passion for research, the thrill of discovery, the happiness of finally defeating a pathology with everyone, no one excluded. But in recent years this seems impossible. Why?

We wondered if the problem was perhaps cultural.

Perhaps in schools teachers are concentrated and forced to finish school education programs increasingly rich in concepts and notions and while they fail to convey a method for knowledge. And this makes young and old people unprepared for a conscious and responsible choice about their health and puts them in search for simple answers to complex realities.

The bombardment of notions that happens at school has often the opposite effect to the one hoped: it crushes curiosity and leaves little room for hope that is the engine of human research and progress.

Sometimes we have the feeling that humanity’s progress in science is being kept in the shadows. Recently, for example, a malaria vaccine has finally been approved that will save millions of lives all over the world, and yet no newspaper has spoken of it except with a little note at the bottom of the newspapers. Why is it that the only news that is published is about ill health and no-vax? Are people really so uninterested in what is happening in the scientific world? Or are they having difficulty understanding it, feeling it far away?

It seems that progress is not for everyone and, on the contrary, one looks with distrust at what has been achieved. Perhaps sometimes there is confusion between the technological effort to improve living conditions and the use of technologies with the aim of exploiting resources.

But progress as we mean it is a human product, it is the expression of curiosity, of commitment, of human obstinacy to improve life. Then following this thread of thought, choosing consciously to get vaccinated or not will no longer be the result of distrust but an act of responsible knowledge.

Maria Giubettini

Gioia Piazzi

Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article


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