In one of my daily (hourly?) excursions down the rabbit hole that is the Internet, ended up reading about the Salem Witch trials. (FYI: the original Q: Salem is named after Jerusalem, right? How early on was it founded? Did the founders expressly or merely implicitly intend to establish the New Jerusalem when they founded it?)
A couple things leapt out: Cotton Mather was a very well-educated and accomplished man – Harvard grad, son of Harvard’s president, published over 200 books. The witch hunts were not started by ignorant rubes, but by an obvious member of the social elite. Then, once they got going, Confirmation Bias, or You’ll Find What You’re Looking For, kicked in, and fed on itself. Bad things, which sane people know are always with us, happened exactly as usual, but, because of the lather Mather had whipped up, all these very typical bad things were attributed to witches. Then, once the presence of witches among us had been confirmed, that made it all the more likely and necessary that the next bad thing would also result in a witch being found out.
2 years, 200+ accusations and 20 or so executions later, more reasonable voices, including Increase Mather’s, Cotton’s dad, prevailed, and the executions were stopped. To recap: a highly educated member of the elite whipped up a panic over some invisible cause of every bad thing that routinely happens, the many get caught up in the hysteria, everybody and especially their papist household help get accused, ridiculous evidence-free trials are held, people are executed and lives destroyed, and then, finally, it ended after saner heads prevailed.
We should be so lucky.
Had a conversation like many similar conversations I have had over the years, discussing nursing home care. While many nursing home workers are saints, some are very evil, and most are merely human, meaning they get tired, sometimes, of taking care of whiney, difficult, demanding people or simply having to do basic rather disgusting care for unappreciative (or simply unconscious) people. Last night, I was told of a visit where the unfortunate incarceree could not speak because her mouth had so dried up. What she needed was a drink of water, but that would require someone standing there and helping, one sip at a time, and then repeating that process regularly and dependably. Upon complaint to the staff, they hooked up an I.V. and pumped her full of liquids. This, I am told, is hard on a frail person’s kidneys. Be that as it may, the poor old woman died shorty afterwards.
Another story: another old lady was under a ‘check every 2 hours’ protocol, because she was demented and tended to try to walk around, which she could not safely manage. A visitor found her on the floor with a broken hip – where she had been for 5 hours.
An older story of my own: In the last few days of my father’s life, the nursing home doctor called my mom and me in, and, under the guise of sympathy and kindness, basically tried to talk us into letting him instruct the staff to not try to keep him from getting food in his lungs (he was loosing control of swallowing) and then withhold basic antibiotics when the inevitable infection resulted. Because he was on his way out, why fight it? (When you could help it along a bit, was unspoken but unmistakable.)
And on and on. I’d imagine anybody who has had a loved in a home would have similar stories, how it was only because a visitor insisted that a dirty diaper was changed, that a patient was patiently fed instead of having food shoved in front of them, and that a doctor take a look at that wound.
We’ve removed that check. Then, we’ve done our best to terrify the workers and the patients. An angel of death would be far more free to do his thing, but that’s unnecessary. That infected wound that goes untreated, the dehydration that leads to falling and breaking a hip, the general neglect that frustration, terror, and overwork are bound to create – it would be shocking if nursing home death were not rising dramatically simply due to the vigilance of visiting loved ones having been removed.
Confirmation Bias. We find what we’re looking for. There’s one cause of nursing home deaths everyone is looking for. There are a thousand others no one is there to prevent or even notice.