Archive for Health

Five-Year Low Of Blood Supply Might Not Be So Bad

Dave Killion — November 17, 2014

This article is not too recent, but it’s a particularly good reminder of how undependable mass media can be –

“Canada’s blood supply is at its lowest level in five years, according to Canadian Blood Services. The reason is simple: Canadians just aren’t rolling up their sleeves to give. It’s a troubling issue, especially going into a long weekend, when demand typically spikes…

…On some level, we all know there’s a need for more. Ask yourself: When was the last time you gave blood? Maybe back in high school? Maybe never?”

Or, better yet, ask yourself: In an article concerned about the need for blood, why is there nothing about the need for blood? That is, why are they talking about supply, but not demand? Well, maybe because then the story wouldn’t be quite so alarming

“A recent article in The New York Times has revealed transfusions in the US are down almost one-third.  One reason cited for declining demand is that recent studies have found many transfusions unnecessary, so patients are no longer getting expensive services that did them no good.”

Indeed, not only are many transfusions unnecessary, some can be fatal! Happily, technological improvements and advances in technique (spurred, in part, by the refusal by Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept transfusions), mean that there’s a lot less need for blood than there used to be. That being the case, it might be interesting to know what the gap between supply and demand is, relative to five years ago. But since that particular stat might not be so menacing, we only get part of the story.

Smoking: As Safe As Meat And Cheese

Dave Killion — March 6, 2014

Well, it seems smoking might be no more unhealthy than enjoying a diet rich in meat and cheese. Of course, as I have pointed out recently, researchers and lazy journalists can only say so in a back-handed, inflammatory fashion –

“A diet rich in meat, eggs, milk and cheese could be as harmful to health as smoking, according to a controversial study into the impact of protein consumption on longevity.

High levels of dietary animal protein in people under 65 years of age was linked to a fourfold increase in their risk of death from cancer or diabetes, and almost double the risk of dying from any cause over an 18-year period, researchers found. However, nutrition experts have cautioned that it’s too early to draw firm conclusions from the research.”

Too early to draw firm conclusions? Perhaps… but clearly, not too early to present the research in as alarming a fashion as possible.

Whine And Cheese

Dave Killion — April 29, 2013

Better watch out for the Cheese Police.

Better watch out for the Cheese Police.

At, Baylen Linnekin writes about “The Government’s Looming Crackdown on Raw Milk Cheese” –

“Earlier this month reports emerged that the FDA had detained a U.S.-bound shipment of mimolette, a French cheese”… “If this FDA crackdown on a set of rather obscure, mitey artisanal cheeses that conform to traditional standards sounds like a small, targeted regulatory intervention involving cheeses you’ve never heard of, consider that this agency crackdown is but one small part of the FDA’s larger, very concerted international and domestic attack on artisanal cheeses—especially those made with raw milk.”

Although the article refers chiefly to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Linnekin also makes it clear that what is happening in the U.S. is also underway in Canada. Anyone surprised?

Not me. There are a bunch of bureaucrats who have budgets to justify and jobs to protect, so they have to find something to do. So, let’s see… shall we target big, corporate food producers? You know, the ones who have lawyers and make donations to the politicians on whom I depend for employment? Or, how about some defenceless small scale artisanal producers and organic farmers? Yeah, that sounds better. Let’s go after the hippies and the Amish.

Coming soon: Black Market cheese. If you’re making any, let me know, because I want to buy it. In fact, I’ve heard of people using Bitcoin to make anonymous purchases of illicit products over the internet. I don’t know if raw-milk cheeses are amongst those goods, but if not, there’s a market opportunity for somebody.

At These Prices, You Can’t Afford To NOT Have Heart Surgery

Dave Killion — April 25, 2013

drnickThank goodness that for every area where Canada has regulated innovation near to death, there is a country where the market is permitted freedom. If that were not the case, this world might never see $800 heart surgeries

“Using pre-fabricated buildings, stripping out air-conditioning and even training visitors to help with post-operative care, (the chain of “no-frills” Narayana Hrudayalaya clinics in southern India) believes it can cut the cost of heart surgery”… “Already famous for his “heart factory” in Bangalore, which does the highest number of cardiac operations in the world, the latest Narayana Hrudayalaya (“Temple of the Heart”) projects are ultra low-cost facilities.”

It is a cold fact of nature that your typical Canadian would sooner bleed out and die on the operating table before admitting there are problems with the universal health insurance system. Well, all I can say is ‘Go, India!’ Neither Canada, the U.S. nor any other country is going to see constantly improving health care and perpetually falling prices until governments withdraw entirely from every facet of the health care market. If it weren’t for progress on the margins, we’d have none at all.


Hat Tip: Neatorama

Blood Money

Dave Killion — March 31, 2013

If the federal government approves a licence application to open three clinics, willing Canadians may soon be able to make up to $40 a week by selling plasma to Canadian Plasma Resources. Self-interested parties eager to keep market competition out of health care are not supportive

“The chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare said she was shocked by the news that a company in Ontario was planning to pay for plasma.

“The critical issue here is opening up our blood services sector to for-profit companies who have an interest in providing a profit to their shareholders that at times could conflict with the imperative to maintain high quality health standards for Canadians,” Dr. Danielle Martin said in an interview Wednesday at Women’s College Hospital, where she is a family physician.”

Given that about 20,000 Canadians who received tainted blood products from U.S. sources contracted HIV and Hepatitis C, and that those U.S. sources paid for donations, one might think Dr. Martin has a point. One would be mistaken. Although the Canadian system was extensively revamped after the Krever Commission, market forces had already put key players (such as Health Management Associates) out of business. Furthermore, Canada has continued to use products from for-profit companies, to no ill effect –

“…officials distinguish between two uses of plasma. Plasma used for transfusions is always donated as part of an extensive screening and testing system.

Plasma can also processed and purified into therapeutic products using technology that inactivates viruses. For this stream, Canada uses products made from U.S. paid donor plasma.”

In a world where a free market in organ donations is desperately needed, it is depressing that there is even a debate concerning for-profit blood donation. It is doubly depressing that so much of the opposition comes from the medical community, which is bound, by oath, to do no harm. Cross your fingers, and hope the feds do the right thing here.

A Tingling Sensation

Dave Killion — March 18, 2013

Up yours, Bloomberg!

Up yours, Bloomberg!

At times, even the most optimistic libertarian can temporarily succumb to hopelessness, brought on by fending off a seemingly endless torrent of tyranny and stupidity. I confess, there were moments when I was so depressed about the future that I would have happily voted for any candidate who promised nothing more than a quick and merciful death for my children. Happily, libertarians are better able to quash such sentiments thanks to our understanding of the difference between what is seen and what is not seen. Take, for example, Judge Milton Tingling’s rejection of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed large-sized soda ban. What is seen? That New Yorkers may continue to decide for themselves whether or not to purchase sugary drinks by the litre. What is not seen? The snuffing of many regulations certain to have followed

“Public health activists were already pursuing plans to use the ban as an entering wedge to get laws passed in other cities and states restricting food and beverage choices. “I think you’re not going to see a lot of push back here,” predicted Bloomberg himself.”

So, this is a bigger victory for freedom than it appears, even for Canadians. In Victoria, in Vancouver, in Charlottetown… in every major city in Canada, there are paternalists disguised as public health specialists, and each of them is eager to conflate medical judgements (tanning beds might raise your risk of cancer) with moral judgements (you should not use tanning beds). For the sake of their jobs and their egos, they look to deny their friends, neighbours, and family members the freedom to decide to trade some health and longevity for other things they might prefer, such as pleasure or convenience. Judge Tingling’s finding will almost certainly chill the enthusiasm of some of these nannies, and bolster the fighting resolve of their opponents. That’s a big win.

Introducing: A Non-Coercive Temperance Organization

Dave Killion — March 12, 2013

One of the local radio stations has been broadcasting advertisements for a group called Canada’s Temperance Foundation (CTF). Although the tone of the ads was very moderate, they set my libertarian alarm bells ringing. Surely, this was a group of religiously motivated neo-Prohibitionists and Drug War advocates. Imagine my surprise when I visited their website to find this –

“CTF is a contemporary temperance organization.  We do not advocate or support the prohibition of alcohol.  We are a secular organization in that we do not promote any specific religion.”… “Canada’s Temperance Foundation is unique in that it will be privately funded and will operate independently of government.”

Intrigued, I emailed some questions to CTF, and soon received a reply from Vice-President and Community Outreach Co-Ordinator Gray Garten. Enjoy –

1. Why has your group elected to pursue private funding and to operate independently of government?

It is our feeling that government is under the falsehood that they are creating revenue through the taxation of beverage alcohol. The fact of the matter is that if you factor in medical costs, legal enforcement costs, lost productivity costs the revenue raised by alcohol taxation is dwarfed exponentially. It appears they are unable to remove the blinders to the aforementioned facts. It lacks integrity to accept money from any entity whose policies are directly opposed to ours.

2. Why does your group decline to advocate or support prohibition? Will you go so far as to declare your opposition to current prohibition regulations?

A. History has taught us that prohibition does not work. There are roughly 950 organized criminal groups active in Canada and 80% of those derive their revenue from illegal drug sales. Prohibition will only create another product for the black market. 

B. At this time CTF is not going to lobby for or against any regulations. It is our mission to educate and that is where our focus is and will remain at this time.

3. Why does your group note that yours is a secular organization?

We are a secular organization because we welcome everyone and exclude no one. 

4. Are you familiar with any of the research in which participants indicate benefits from, or feel otherwise positively towards, intoxication from alcohol or drugs? If so, how do you reconcile that research with your group’s position that intoxication is irresponsible and unhealthy? If not, can you imagine any circumstances under which such intoxication could be healthy and responsible, or in which an adult may reasonably conclude that the trade-off between the costs and benefits justifies intoxication?

We are not opposed to the medicinal benefits of a very small amount of alcohol for cardiac benefit. (although new research is being conducted that may refute original findings) We are also not opposed to Marijuana use to counteract the nausea of chemotherapy. If you are a non drinker it is unlikely that any doctor would suggest you to begin drinking as it has be linked to a multitude of very serious medical conditions.   


Although my views on the potential mental, spiritual, and physical benefits of intoxication differ from those of CTF, I must say that I admire their rejection of state support and intervention in favour of peaceful persuasion. They might be worth a cash donation, and they are certainly worth promoting.

How Concerned Should We Be About GMOs?

Dave Killion — September 23, 2012


The Future of Food had a recent showing in Langley, courtesy of a couple of resident ladies. Articles about the event emphasize that these women are ‘moms’, as does a website named for the daughter of one of the women (apparently this lends them extra credibility, or signals that they are more genuinely concerned about the well-being of others). Both women have made it clear that they are simply out to educate consumers so that people can decide for themselves what is best, and insist that getting the government involved is not one of their goals.

Just kidding. These folks think GMOs are EVIL, and they want them banned!

Don’t get me wrong. There are issues with GMOs, mostly surrounding patents, but unfortunately many activist critics have proven themselves untrustworthy. Happily, you can always turn to the libertarian journalists for accurate information.

Equally important, you can count on market forces to bring about the changes consumers demand. When it became clear that a number of consumers were concerned about the use of herbicides and pesticides in their food, producers rushed to provide clearly-labeled organic produce. When a sufficient number of consumers indicate they have a preference for GMO-free food, you can bet producers will respond. Until then, is it too much to ask these busybodies to stop making demands that will result in higher prices, when the rest of us aren’t concerned?


Eating Like A Libertarian

Dave Killion — August 4, 2012

As a libertarian, it sometimes seems to me that the path to health, happiness, and prosperity can be found by taking every piece of advice that comes from the government, and do the opposite. Case in point: nutrition

Guys like Taubes and Tom Naughton have found a sympathetic audience amongst libertarians, who are naturally skeptical of the prevailing wisdom on virtually every subject. As a consequence, many libertarians have foresworn all refined carbohydrates and embraced other components of the primal and paleo lifestyle, reportedly to good effect. Having personally gained an average 1/4 pound per month since leaving high school, I can report that even my own half-hearted adoption of the regimen has not only ended this nearly implacable increase, but helped me shed 15 – 20 pounds. There have also been some respiratory and inflammatory issues that appear to have been largely resolved, but I am hesitant to attribute that to the regime because correlation doesn’t equal causation. That said, the correlation is quite strong.

Frustrating as libertarians can find the world to be, I can honestly say that I have never been happier than since I became libertarian. Not only have I acquired a firm moral compass and an intellectual clarity I had previously not even known I lacked, but I have also befriended people who are smarter and more decent than I might otherwise have met, and stumbled upon thinkers who have made my future more promising with their suggestions as to how I can become healthier, wealthier, more knowledgeable, and more attractive. This is a great deal more than one would expect from a political philosophy, and I have certainly not seen the like amongst my progressive and conservative acquaintances.

85% Off is a Good Deal

Dave Killion — June 14, 2012

I bet they would accept payment in chickens, too.


Many times I come across arguments against health care privatization in which one is advised to ‘just look at the US!’ The fact is, though, rather than being a free-market system, American health care and health insurance provision is regulated to within an inch of its life. Comparing the US and Canadian systems has only served to strengthen my conviction that, other than enforcing prohibitions against the use of force and fraud, government should withdraw from every aspect of the health care market. This graphic (courtesy of the LA Times) gives us some inkling of the tremendous savings that may become available once the state is no longer interjecting itself between the health care consumer and the health care provider.

Via Carpe Diem