October 2001

Return to Normality?

By Michael J. Katin, MD

It was originally concluded that this month's column would not be written considering that there is currently a limited interest in business as usual after the events of September. Other than the value in returning to normality, it was possibly justified in going ahead this month if only to make two observations.

First, it should be recognized that with terrorism, as with cancer, precursors needed to be recognized and addressed. A government commission was funded to assess the possible damage that could be inflicted on our country and essentially nothing was done to address their recommendations. Otherwise intelligent people can smoke cigarettes for 30 years without adequate concern about the consequences. In both situations, once harm has resulted, an intense and expensive response is mounted which cannot be guaranteed to correct the situation.

Second, please note the extent of the destruction in terms of deaths alone, let along injuries and property damage. The American Cancer Society estimates that 553,400 Americans will die of cancer this year. This means that the death toll from the terrorist activities of one hour was more than a three-day total of cancer deaths throughout the United States. Please put this into perspective the next time months of combined modality treatment are needed to give even one person with moderately advanced cancer the possibility of living a few years longer. And what was the point? Nobody has even taken credit for the plot.

"Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together." George Santayana, 1918


email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com