Tue, Feb

Honouring our Parents Memory by Upholding their Principles of Life whilst Questioning their Beliefs

Thoughts From Afar
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Some have even averred that in times of crisis they will rather be treated on the floor than be turned away due to, “a lack of beds.” Forgetting that, just finding a place in emergency care is one thing but without oxygen, defibrillators, nebulisers and other basic critical care equipment, any health facility that just gave you a furniture space may actually be doing more harm than good...

“For the most part, people strenuously resist any redefinition of morality, because it shakes them to the very core of their being to think that in pursuing virtue they may have been feeding vice, or in fighting vice they may have in fact been fighting virtue.” - Stefan Molyneux

The story is told of Ivan Frantz, born January 16, 1916, in Smithville, West Virginia. Till date one of the leading lights in the research into the role of blood lipids in coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. A scientist who even raised his family in the best practices of nutritional science. He was the principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health-funded Minnesota Heart Study that linked diet, cholesterol and heart disease. Having spent close to four decades researching, he was an advocate for the Mediterranean diet and the use of vegetable oils as the mainstay of cooking. At the time of his death in 2009, he was one of the most revered medics and left a huge legacy that his family was proud of. Whilst at this he brought up his children in the best vestiges of parenting, Ivan was Mr Meticulous.

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One of his children is Robert Frantz a respected cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. Following the passing of his father, Robert received a call out of the blue from Christopher E. Ramsden, a medical investigator at the National Institutes of Health of the United States in an effort to obtain access to Ivan's well preserved medical archives, he obliged. Following painstaking evaluation of the material, Ramsden came to the conclusion that high consumption of linoleic acid (the main ingredient of vegetable oil) even though helping to lower cholesterol was counterproductive and in fact could be harmful. This finding was in sharp contrast to the long-held views and medical conclusions of Ivan Frantz that were accepted worldwide as conventional wisdom. In essence, by allowing Ramsden access to his father's archive, Robert Frantz had become complicit in destroying his father’s legacy.

Ramsden was concerned and asked Robert how he felt about this development? He was concerned about how posterity will judge Robert Frantz in the light of his father’s legacy. Ramsden was about to challenge half a century of medical orthodoxy and had enlisted the son of the very man who helped create this orthodoxy. Strangely Robert held a different opinion; in his view, he wasn’t betraying his father. He quips, “If my father was alive, he would have done the same thing.” He explains, his father brought them up to preserve his principles and not to become dogmatic in upholding his beliefs.  Like Malcolm Gladwell, the storyteller concludes, "In helping to prove his father wrong, the son was upholding his father's memory."

Yesterday, I listened to Newsfile with a lot of trepidation. I did because, in the wake of the no-bed-syndrome scandal, our politicians were being dogmatic, stuck in their political corners like caged fighters unwilling to see the bigger picture and help move the discussion forward. At points, I was seething with rage wondering what we had done to deserve this. Then I got reflective wondering whether the systemic failings that ultimately led Ghana to lose a former president Atta Mills and a statesman P.V. Obeng was lost on us? I was surprised that few were making a link between these and other tragic losses of life and the total capitulation or clear non-existence of a comprehensive national emergency framework.

In the entire discourse, the concentration had been on vilifying health workers, scoring cheap political points or populist incitement. Without little analysis of why six decades after independence we lack simple telephone connectivity between hospitals to ensure referrals are expedited in a smooth and timely manner. Why there is no protocol to ensure that at the first hospital, an ambulance could be commandeered fully resourced with a complete paramedic team, needed equipment and adequate communications to transport the deceased whilst a bed was being found and cut down his journey distance and time.

Some have even averred that in times of crisis they will rather be treated on the floor than be turned away due to, “a lack of beds.” Forgetting that, just finding a place in emergency care is one thing but without oxygen, defibrillators, nebulisers and other basic critical care equipment, any health facility that just gave you a furniture space may actually be doing more harm than good and possibly hasten your departure from planet earth. The thought of populist utterances, forcing health professionals out of making informed decisions based on the availability of staff, equipment and medication but providing space without an ability to treat makes me cringe.

Clearly, even though most of those we elect to hold public office often access healthcare in facilities many voters will only dream of, they still manage to spin webs and get many of us to follow their beliefs rather than stick to principles. I doubt the principles that underpinned the quest of our founding fathers to fight for independence included a caveat that we throw away our national outlook and argue through the lenses of our political colour. I opine that many who sacrificed to see the Gold Coast metamorphosis to Ghana would not be proud should they take a sneak peep at how the country has turned out to be. Coming from a family with a grandfather who was a district sanitary inspector, I have heard numerous stories of the relative cleanliness of hospitals in the Gold Coast and newly independent Ghana, compared with the sordid states we have today. Would my late grandfather Albert Ofosu-Asiedu Snr. be proud of the Ghana Albert Ofosu-Asiedu jnr. and his generation have helped create? I leave the reader to glean an answer.

On this Father’s Day, I pray we all challenge six decades of orthodoxy and examine if sticking to the beliefs of our forbearers has done us any real service?  Whilst at this let's reflect on their principles, one of which is enshrined in the quote by Nkrumah, "the black man is capable of managing his own affairs” and determine if this continual blame game and a total lack of a comprehensive healthcare system smack anything like us managing our affairs as a people. If the conclusion you reach is similar to what many of us have already come to realise, take a chill pill and accept; your partisan beliefs and the dogmatic upholding of same are the reason why this country has come this far without a system to manage your health in times of critical medical emergencies.

Holding up the beliefs of our parents and their parents who grew up in the era of the typewriter only equips us to live life as yesterday's men trying to tackle tomorrow's problems with obsolete tools. This is a betrayal of their efforts and why I for one would rather equip my children with my principles and discourage them from fiercely upholding my beliefs. I stand with Robert Frantz and all his actions and encourage you all to inculcate same in the generation after us. In the end, he lived to answer the question of the day, "what's a child's obligation to his parent?" For me, there is something impossibly beautiful about his action.

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