Over the last years, I have written numerous articles in several local publications about the COVID pandemic. Each was different but all were written with a goal to give assurance when good news was available to dispel the fear of the unknown that hovered over us the initial days and months of the pandemic.
In the last three years, health policy has been made in echo chambers where everybody agreed with each other and dissent was not tolerated. The results could be expected. Learning and humility have not flourished as too much power has been placed in too few hands with too little accountability. This has been the foundation of policies that have been too often more destructive than constructive.
At this point, there is little that comes from news reports about the COVID pandemic that surprises. But a report read last week was surprising even to me. The article noted our country is now preparing to sign a legally binding accord with the World Health Organization that will give the United Nations health agency the authority to dictate America’s healthcare policies during a pandemic.
We should have learned from the recent COVID pandemic the dangers of putting too much power in a too small group of subject experts. Instead, it seems we have decided to double down on this failed framework. It is hard for me to believe that America wants to leave our approach to health emergencies to the whims of an international organization under the control of an even smaller number of health policy experts.
If not for our forward looking founders that delegated the authority of health care to the states, the pandemic impact on America’s health and economics would have been worse. Much worse. If a small group of governors had not decided to go in a different direction than the experts and pointed out the “emperor had no clothes”, we would still be suffering under a lockdown and mandate mindset.
In the current proposal being considered, the World Health Organization will decide what constitutes a health emergency and that definition could well be expanded beyond past accepted definitions. As we have learned in this pandemic, health emergency can have a very broad definition. In this case as in the last 3 years, there will be great temptation for the WHO to gather more power by expanding that definition.
With the health emergency enacted, the World Health Organization will develop uniform directives. Government regulations and decisions about lockdowns, school closures, vaccine and mask mandates, global supply chains and surveillance of the population would also fall under governance of the World Health Organization.
In the early months of the COVID pandemic, there was a legitimate fear of the unknown related to thousands of world wide deaths and very high estimates of the expected mortality rate of COVID. There were daily news conferences with a daily scoreboard of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Government policy was based on a “just do something now” platform. Little integration was done of lessons from both the pandemics in the past and the current one. This is best illustrated by the dismissal of well established principles of natural immunity in making claims about COVID. There was essentially little real debate over policies that amounted to shutting down schools and commerce. Any dissent on these efforts was labeled misinformation and significant efforts were made to dismiss opinion differences.
I write this thought piece because I fear connecting our policy and fate to the World Health Organization in health care is just an invitation to repeat the same mistakes of the last three years on an even grander scale. Our country need not repeat our mistakes. It needs to learn from them.
Bureaucracies are neither effective or efficient and the World Health Organization has not built a trustworthy past. Relocating the handling of health emergencies in the future to an international bureaucracy that cares little about us is a recipe for future pain and suffering for all of us.
The height of naivety is to put our head in the sand and say this couldn’t happen. Our leaders in President Biden’s administration and Congress need to think twice before taking the power of decision making by states and delegating it to an unelected international organization. This is especially in such an important area of concern. It makes no sense for this great country to double down on failure.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist. He has recently been honored with the Distinguished Service Award of the North Louisiana Medical Society and the Council to a Better Louisiana. He has been honored with the John Miciotto Healthcare Lifetime Achievement Award.