Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of May 7th

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Fear should not influence COVID-19 policy

I have been hesitant to submit this letter to Pique, given my profession. For the record, I have a loved one who will likely die of COVID-19. As a physician, I care deeply about the health of all people in this community. I sincerely hope that this letter does not make you think otherwise.

I worry that fear and strong emotions have clouded rational decision-making by our political leaders and public health officials with respect to COVID-19 policy.

Those in charge have chosen to substitute fiscal chaos for healthcare chaos in order to hopefully minimize the death toll from COVID-19. Knowing whether this optimizes well-being for Canada as a whole is extremely difficult as the economy, healthcare, education, social welfare and environment are so interconnected.

One area cannot tumble without repercussions to the other. Lowering the death rate, infection rate or healthcare utilization from COVID-19 are not metrics that really embody what we should be trying to maximize, that being the collective well-being of Canadians. These measures only comprise a portion of that well-being today and an even smaller portion when considering how well-being will be affected in the long term.

When humans play Mother Nature on this level, we tend to make inefficient and irresponsible decisions without clearly considering the ramifications of our actions. This is particularly true when fear and emotion play a role in our decision-making.

I worry that our leaders have not considered what is a reasonable amount to spend to save human lives in this context. Perhaps more relevant would be putting a number on what is a reasonable expense for anticipated years of life saved. Doing this estimate and calculation would certainly be difficult. However, this should be modelled to the best of our abilities.

I do not have the skillset to do this, but I wonder whether the cost of lives or life years gained would be staggering for our current approach. I am not suggesting that a human life is only worth X dollars. If, for example, we had to spend $10,000,000 to save one life, I suspect that the ethical choice as a country is to do it, and have all Canadians collectively throw in 33 cents for the cause.

However, I believe that the ethics change when we have to make this commitment for thousands of people en masse. In a previous Pique opinion column, Andrew Mitchell stated that the total debt obligation when all is said and done will be $1 trillion, or $24,000 for every man, woman and child, not including provincial debt ("The end of the world," April 10). At this point, I believe that our ethical obligation shifts from only focusing on the victims to the collective well-being of the country.

I am not saying that B.C. and Canadian leaders have made the wrong decisions so far. I am not informed enough to make that judgment. As we ease restrictions, we face the possibility of second and third waves of this infection. If this occurs, I hope that our leaders consider allowing for a higher burden of disease, despite the possibility of a higher near-term death rate and hospitalization rate, given the cost and consequences of our current approach.

Many of you will find the notion of placing a dollar figure on human life horrendous. If you feel that way, consider how many lives could potentially be saved if we deployed the trillions of dollars we are spending for this crisis to some other aspect of healthcare, environmental policy or social policy, like cancer research or cardiovascular disease. If we could have saved more lives deploying it elsewhere, is what we are currently doing ethically wrong?

Of course, our government would have difficulty justifying going into enormous debt for cancer or our environment. The population at large would have a tough time justifying giving up months of their lives for these causes as well. But if we would not do it for those causes, and those causes would save more lives, should we be doing it now? And if we blow the bank on coronavirus now, will there be any money left after it's all over to address these other issues in the future?

Perhaps the acuity of COVID-19 compels us to act communally now, whereas the chronic nature of cancer or our environmental woes makes us feel as though we can act more slowly in a way that lacks global cooperation.

Dying from COVID-19 in the next two years is actually quite unlikely for most of us. That any one of us might die from cancer or cardiovascular disease some time in the next 50 years is actually quite likely. Despite this, our brains are hardwired to feel much more fear and emotion for the first possibility.

This fear, based on the timing of possible death and our unfamiliarity with it, should not make a significant difference when guiding our national policy. After all, death is death and tragic no matter how it happens. Our leaders need to be able to look past the fear and emotion to develop policy that will be best for all Canadians in the long run.

Denton Hirsh, MD, FRCPC // Whistler

Remembering Scotty Hurren

Back in the days [when] I was writing "The Inside Edge" for the Whistler Question, people thought I was writing for the masses of readers in Whistler, Vancouver and around the world. But that wasn't the case.

I was only writing for about 10 people in Whistler who I thought were important enough to please and didn't much care about the general public or their opinions. They were, in no particular order except the first: my beloved muse, Cate Webster, Dave Murray, Mike Fox, Harley Paul, Scotty Hurren, Stue Donald, YP, MY, Emmylou Harris and Nancy Greene [Raine] (until she pissed me off).

Emmylou is the only one I didn't know, but always wanted to, and Scotty Hurren is the only one who ever gave me a case of writer's block. It happened like this in Tapley's friendly neighbourhood pub where we all hung out and where Hurren was a local legend for appearing naked on the Toad Hall poster.

(Editor's note: Hurren passed away last week.) 

He was a constant source of anecdotal humour for the column, and he also participated in NFL picks, and was a member of the Golden Foursome that opened Furry Creek Golf and Country Club every year. We had a long drive contest worth big bucks on the uphill par 5 on the front nine.

Hitting a fairway was unusual for Scotty, but this time he hit one straight down the middle about 300 yards before the ball took a wicked bounce straight left and trickled onto the long, paved cart path. The ball slowly rolled all the way back down the hill to the tee box and came to a stop about 20 feet (six metres) in front of where he hit it. All he said was, "Damn, I thought I got all of it."

I also ran equipment with Scotty, who was one of the best hoe operators I ever saw.

He said this one day at coffee break while he was discussing Whistler in the good old days growing up in Squamish: "I remember when Whistler was just a wide spot on the highway where the Squamish boys and Pemberton boys used to meet on Saturday nights to drink and fight."

All of those quotes made the paper, of course. But the one that made me question my decision to write a sports column in a rowdy ski area was something he said in Tapley's that no one heard but me. He told me he had read everything in that week's paper except The Inside Edge, which he never read except in the mornings when he was sitting on the toilet.

Of course, even though I should have known better, I asked him why and he said, "I've had a struggle all my life with constipation and laughing helps keep me regular. Your column is better than Ex-Lax!"

For the longest time after that, when I sat down to compose next week's literary effort, I was confronted with the image of Scotty Hurren having his morning constitutional, which caused me to wonder what magical words I could write to help him have a nice day. As far as I know, I'm the only sportswriter in history who did double duty as a colonic to keep a reader's enema bill under control.

Thanks for all the good quotes, good times and good memories, Scotty

Keep your chin up and your head down.

Doug Sack // Yukon

TaekwonDawn for the win!

I wanted to send a big shout out to Master Dawn, of Whistler Taekwondo.

After several weeks of confinement (and no Taekwondo twice a week for our kid), we got an email from Master Dawn: she missed teaching and her students.

She offered to continue her current students' classes from a parking lot or patio—at a safe distance—for free, as she is retired and her time can be of great assistance to families.

We could not believe this generous offer and her dedication to her students and her sport! Our son has had three classes already and loves it (us, too)!

Virginie Lamarche // Whistler

Thanking our community for its support

As our community negotiates the unprecedented changes in our lives, the outpouring of support to our healthcare professionals and other essential workers has been overwhelming. From the 7 p.m. cheer, to the food and coffee brought to the staff at our hospital and the monetary donations made to support the highest level of care, our community has stepped up.

The Squamish Hospital Foundation has been working alongside the staff at Squamish General Hospital to best prepare our community for the potential influx of patients requiring care because of COVID-19, coordinating the food donations, identifying potential equipment needs for the hospital and being the conduit to the community for donations of all kinds.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to you for your continued support of the work of the Squamish Hospital Foundation. The donations that have been made are directly impacting the care that is provided at the hospital during this crisis, but we are also looking beyond this pandemic to ensure that our community receives the highest quality of care while keeping our healthcare workers safe.

From the smallest of donations to the largest, your contributions are helping our healthcare workers. I would like to recognize 100 Women Who Care (Squamish), the Rotary Club of Squamish and the Squamish General Hospital Auxiliary for their quick support of this work, Bob Fast and family for their very significant contribution, and Jaime Morum for her assistance in coordinating with donors and the Foundation.

Your contributions to the Foundation will ensure that our dedicated healthcare team at Squamish General Hospital has the resources it needs to provide the very best care possible at this time. The needs of our hospital are evolving and the Foundation will continue to support our frontline healthcare workers in every way we can. For more information and ways you can help, please visit www.SquamishHospital.com.

Finally, I would like to extend my thanks on behalf of the Foundation to all of the frontline healthcare workers, support workers in our healthcare facilities, grocers, delivery drivers, emergency response workers and all those who are working to keep our communities moving.

Again, we encourage you to take every measure to stay healthy. Thank you for supporting the Squamish Hospital Foundation and those on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Alison Hopkins // Squamish Hospital Foundation President