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‘17 things we don’t know – and shouldn’t pretend to know about COVID-19’ (2)

‘17 things we don’t know – and shouldn’t pretend to know about COVID-19’ (2)

15 October, 2020

Femi Kusa


That the scientifically proven “nocebo effect” (the opposite of the well studied and poorly understood “placebo effect”) isn’t amplifying what might have been a relatively benign outbreak were it not for a media-driven pandemic of terror and fear. Think about it as a sort of medical hexing, a kind of institutionalized power of suggestion leading to real physiological symptoms and measurable changes in the body, as happens in patients in pharmaceutical trials who are warned about the side effects of the drug being tested – and then they get those side effects, even though they are taking nothing more than a sugar pill. If the nervous system is in chronic repetitive stress responses (sympathetic overdrive) because of fear and terror, many symptoms of sympathetic overdrive are similar to COVID symptoms. I have a whole chapter in Mind Over Medicine, including the shocking data of how powerful nocebo effects can be in producing legitimate physiological illness. (Read Mind Over Medicine if you really want to nerd out on nocebo effects.) In short, though, nocebo effects are not just the power of suggestion causing psychosomatic side effects. Believing you might be getting the real drug – and knowing the side effects of the real drug – might cause real physiological change in the human body in someone who’s taking the placebo and not getting the real drug.

10) That people aren’t dying of sudden death as a result of acute terror. Sudden death in the face of a terrifying threat is a real thing. You can read about the science of it in my book The Fear Cure. If we can’t test anyone accurately, how do we know that someone who dies from acute terror is getting the cause of death counted accurately (acute sympathetic overdrive leading to heart attack or stroke, rather than COVID-19). How can we possibly get an accurate case fatality rate if we’re not peeling these potentially-confounding factors apart? And if we still don’t know the real case fatality rate, how can we make wise public policy decisions about lockdown, reopening, or other public behaviours intended to save lives?

11) That reducing COVID deaths is the #1 public health threat the world faces right now. Our reaction to COVIDd-19 has shown us how quickly we as a collective can mobilize and make radical change when faced with a public health threat. But why haven’t we done that to address the reality of one in five people on this planet starving to death? Nine million people die of hunger every year, but we didn’t rally to solve that problem. Is it because we care about rich white people dying of a virus but we don’t care about nine million mostly brown people dying of hunger? There is a very real threat that starvation or mental health deaths may actually increase as an unintended consequence of lockdown, social isolation, loneliness, and the long-term sequelae of economic collapse. Do we not care, as long as rich white people don’t die of this virus? If we save 500,000 people from COVID deaths but increase the hunger, suicide, and overdose deaths by two million, will we have made wise decisions that serve overall public health?

12) That the WHO and the public health branches allied with it (the CDC in the US, the NHS in the UK, etc.) can most certainly be trusted to protect the health of the world’s population. Are we certain the WHO, the CDC, and other organizations tasked with altruistically protecting the health of the collective have not been corrupted by financial or political agendas? History has shown us that humans can be ruthless. Many ruthless humans pretend to care about the good of the whole while actually intentionally harming the collective. What kind of oversight is in place to ensure that the WHO and other public health institutions have not sold out to corporate or political interests? Is there full transparency in how they get their funding and are there clear laws to protect them from conflicts of interest?

13) That scientific journals like the New England Journal of Medicine are unbiased, devoted to scientific purity, and uncorrupted by financial or political agendas. From what I can discern, they survive financially largely because of pharmaceutical ads and donations from sources like the Gates Foundation, which is perhaps why Bill Gates seems to have been given free licence to publish in the NEJM, even though he is not a doctor, epidemiologist, public health expert, or in any way academically qualified to write in our most venerated medical journal. Why is Bill Gates writing opinion papers in the New England Journal of Medicine during this pandemic when he comes right out and discloses that he has a vested financial conflict of interest? (In his own words in the disclosures section, he writes, “Bill Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation work with numerous companies in a broad range of fields, including companies working with vaccines and other methodologies to eliminate infectious diseases.” Read the disclosures for yourself here.) In this article intended to be read by front line doctors desperate for good advice, Bill Gates says, “The world also needs to accelerate work on treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.” He stands to profit from having doctors promote the use of said antivirals and vaccines. How is this ethical? Don’t we want our doctors getting advice from our most trusted medical journal from people who do not have any vested interest in promoting any particular pharmaceutical or vaccine? I have always trusted the New England Journal of Medicine. Now, I no longer assume they can be trusted to have the public’s unbiased best interests motivating editorial choices. Maybe they can be trusted. Maybe not.

14) That drugs and vaccines are the best and only way to treat COVID-19. I was alarmed when I heard from many colleagues in complementary and alternative health practices that their treatments were deemed “ineffective” in the midst of lockdown. How can you tell a Chinese Medicine doctor or a chiropractor or an energy healer who treats the terminally ill that her acupuncture services or her adjustments or hands-on healings are not needed in the middle of a public health crisis? If the WHO and CDC sincerely have our best interests at heart, why are they not recommending nutritional guidelines, vitamin and supplement recommendations, scientifically proven mind-body medicine interventions, evidence-based trauma healing therapies that clear trauma, and scientifically-validated alternative medicine treatments like acupuncture? For example, one of the scientists and energy healers I spoke with today, who I interviewed for my Sacred Medicine book, claims he has treated 34 very sick COVID-19 patients who got better with his scalable energy healing method within 12-24 hours. He’s rushing it through scientific channels to try to prove that it works. But who will make money from it, when he’s creating something he intends to give away to the public for free? If nobody stands to profit, who pays for expensive research studies? Why would the WHO and CDC not recommend proven CAM modalities that treat viral illnesses, especially when conventional medicine has so little to offer?

15) That the anti-viral remdesivir is definitely effective enough and safe enough to justify rushing it through FDA approval. If you’ve read all the studies on remdesivir like I have, you’ll see that most of them showed no clinical efficacy and horrifyingly dangerous side effects. What you won’t see is any peer review of the government-funded study of 1000 patients that has not been published in any journal or been made transparent to doctors or scientists. So why is the FDA rushing hundreds of thousands of doses of this drug to ICU’s all over the country? Have we not learned our lesson about poorly-tested drugs rushed to market, and the damage many of them turn out to cause? What about “First, do no harm?”

16) That clinical pharmaceutical research science itself can always be trusted. Because pharmaceutical companies pay to research the medical treatments they will directly profit from, they are at risk of corruption. Science is cleanest when it is funded by unbiased sources that have no vested interest in proving that something is or is not effective and safe. Pharmaceutical drug trials are anything but clean. As someone who used to work as a physician getting paid to participate in performing pharmaceutical research, I was shocked and horrified by the corruption I witnessed directly. It was not unbiased and not even trying to pretend that profit wasn’t the motive. They gave lip service to patient wellbeing and new innovations to save lives, but the way the drug companies talked to us as insiders in the research team was alarming, to say the least. They made it clear that we would be financially incentivized if we got the results they wanted, but if we got, for example, “too many placebo effects,” we might be passed over for further profit-earning research studies. Having spent ten years working with maverick scientists in the healing arts who don’t have a profit motive and have already been discredited and lost their reputations (they waited until they had tenure to “come out” about their data on energy healing and such), I see that if drug companies and other biotech companies do not stand to profit, funding for genuine scientific inquiry into cutting-edge medical treatments is absent. So how we can say we trust science if there’s no funding for anything that questions the dominant narrative as the one and only way to cure a human? I’m all for science – and I want to trust science – but in times of crisis, funding for scientific research should include testing possible treatments that lie outside the mainstream medical orthodoxy. Can science be trusted? Yes, but not if the money only funds those that support the mainstream narrative. If there’s no room to expand to the outlin                                                                                                                                                                                                ers, science is no longer science; it’s a kind of modern-day fundamentalist religion that punishes and excommunicates the heretics.

  1. That rushing to a drug or vaccine is the right thing to do. Of course, we want a cure – and we want it now. While we may enjoy some benefits from the radical changes in our lives and culture – and while we’re seeing the environmental benefits of what we’re doing – many people are nostalgic for business as usual and want it back. However, if you trace medical history, you’ll see that when doctors and scientists rushed to new medical treatments, we often had devastating results. Just look at thalidomide as a treatment for vomiting in pregnancy. Many drugs that are rushed to market are later pulled when we discover they are killing people. With any new medical technology, slow and steady wins the race. We need to slow down, not rush at warp speed.

I asked for peer review on this list, and a friend who is a physician and medical school professor at Harvard Jeffrey Rediger, MD, MDiv, who wrote the wonderful book Cured: The Life-Changing Science of Spontaneous Healing. Dr. Rediger, added these questions to the collective inquiry:

1) Does anyone know if good, reliable information exists in regards to the pressures on the media to take or avoid certain perspectives? There are probably different ways to look at this. Our amygdala tend to notice 10 times more bad news than good, and media arguably benefits from paying attention to this with its well-known mantra, “If it bleeds it leads.” What about other levers? To what degree are they influenced by sponsors, especially pharmaceutical companies? A significant percentage of commercials are pharmaceutical-related in the US.

2) Organization is everything. What can be done to ensure that vaccines for C19 are clearly efficacious and safe before potentially being required? We all know that the history of vaccines raises considerable concern, including the history of rolling them out in spite of poorly-demonstrated efficacy and safety.

3) What would best organize the indisputable facts of the important issues in the best possible way and then make them publicly available for debate and refinement?

4) Is there anything that can be done to increase the accuracy of recorded C19 deaths?

5) What can be done to ensure that the human fallout from current restrictions, such as quarantine, etc. receives adequate, rigorous attention and research? What would it take to ensure that the main attention is to human life, well-being, and freedom rather than to deeper economic concerns on the part of pharmaceutical companies and their affiliates who stand to profit? Again, organization is key.

Here are a few stories from Harvard:

A patient I saw last: 86 years old with Parkinson’s disease, unable to leave his assisted living quarters for six weeks, unable to visit with his wife in the same building, see his children, or see anyone really. Walking has long been how he has managed his Parkinson’s. Now he can’t do that, and finally, two weeks ago, in the context of his isolation and loneliness, he quit eating and has been declining. He can’t stand the four walls any longer with nothing to do and no one to see. His son said, “The cure is going to kill him; he can’t tolerate not seeing anyone and not being able to move around.” I think he’s right. This seems to be a theme that I’m starting to see.

Another patient (76 yo) admitted from the Nursing Home: he and his roommate at the nursing home had been diagnosed with C19 and isolated from everyone else. His roommate died three weeks ago, and the patient is restricted to his room without a TV, telephone, or anything to do. He already has mild dementia; now, he also has both grief (to the degree that he has awareness and can process such things) and depression and no way to fully comprehend what is going on. He quit eating and has been declining. He, like many others, depends in a vital way on social connections and activities. There are lots of stories like this, and they seem to be invisible stories.

We are now seeing an increasing number of patients admitted to both Good Sam and McLean, who are terrified that they have C19. Sometimes the tests say they have the diagnosis and sometimes the tests are negative (whatever that means). They are freaking out at least to some degree because of the media stories and hype. We need more data on what fear is doing to people.

Has Medicine Become A Fundamentalist Religion?

As Charles Eisenstein said when I asked for his feedback on this list of assumptions, these days, modern medicine behaves more like a fundamentalist religion with doctors as their priests than like a true, pure science. “Our culture has its peculiar set of rituals for healing. Anything from outside that ritual system will be rejected as heresy. For something to be a legitimate potion, it must have gone through extensive rituals (called “laboratory research,” “animal trials,” “clinical trials,” and so forth). Those administering these rituals must have gone through multiple initiations (e.g. graduate school, medical school, etc.). They present their findings in a specialized dialect that only the initiated can read (medical journals.) They perform divination too (epidemiological projections). However, just as in the late Middle Ages with Catholicism, this system of ritual has been highly corrupted by profit motives. So we now have an Inquisition to enforce the purity of the cult; hence the crackdown on alternative medicine.”

We see how the public is revering doctors right now, giving their power away to authority figures like Dr. Fauci like he’s a kind of god. Those on the political left laugh and rage at silly and dangerous Donald Trump, while we pedestalize Dr. Fauci as the epitome of grounded, objective science. But are we 100% certain that all scientific experts are objective and pure of heart? Most doctors I know are so good-hearted. We care deeply about our patients, even to the point of loving them. But this does not make us perfect gods or worthy of being pedestalized as holy heroes. Yes, it’s true that frontline workers are all in positions where they’ve been drafted to fight a war they never signed up to fight, martyring themselves – and dying of COVID-19 and suicide – in the face of this public health crisis. These same doctors are my clients in the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and I adore them and am grateful for them – and they’re telling me how brutal it is to be on the frontlines and how much PTSD it’s causing. Yet the doctors I’m working with are not making assumptions. We are asking good questions together – and questioning everything. Some of these doctors are horrified by what they’re seeing, especially when many realized that ventilators may be killing people who would have survived if they were just given oxygen without mechanical ventilation. It crushes us when we realize that medical intervention is the #3 cause of death in the US, when we try so hard to save lives. These doctors are questioning these same assumptions alongside me, as compassionate, ethical, spiritually attuned priests must have done during the Inquisition. Are the doctors like us who are questioning such assumptions about to get excommunicated, or even worse, beheaded?

Science must be objective, free of agenda, without conflict of interests, ego-free, and committed to questioning our assumptions, challenging the status quo, making hypotheses, understanding that we will make mistakes, and then publicly admitting when our hypotheses sometimes turn out to be wrong with humility and understanding that being wrong is part of good science. Doctors and scientists who challenge the dominant narrative must not be written off as quacks or labeled as “pseudoscientists.” Maverick doctors and scientists have always been the ones who make exciting new scientific breakthroughs. We need our mavericks right now- and we need them to ask good questions.


In Case Questioning These Assumptions Scares You

It is too soon to suggest that we understand what is happening. We do not know what is really going on, and to pretend we do is morally questionable. Conspiracy theories are not good science. Neither is fake certainty with political or financial agendas. I know it can be uncomfortable to stay in the place of uncertainty when many are so frightened and even dying. As one sweet woman who touched my heart on Facebook disclosed, “This post is the opposite of The Fear Cure. For my own mental and emotional health, I am going to stop reading news and social media posts that perpetuate fear, while also trying to diligently keep myself safe. It’s confusing and sad. The questions in this post do not move humans towards healing. In my opinion, they create more fear and confusion. You have always been sensitive to your followers, and I appreciate that, but my boundary at this moment in history is to avoid anything that takes away from feeling safe inside my own body.”

I responded to her, saying, “I totally understand if you need to set boundaries around what you consume. Uncertainty does make some people scared. For me personally, right now, I am more scared by people who are pretending to be certain, when we can easily prove they’re lying. The craving for certainty is part of what I’m hoping to heal with posts like this. If we can develop psychologically and spiritually (by healing trauma) we can feel safe in the face of uncertainty – because, to quote The Fear Cure, ‘uncertainty is the gateway to possibility,’ and when you don’t know what the future holds, anything can happen, even miracles! I just got off the call with my doctors in the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and we were just talking about this – how to help cancer patients who are terrified of getting a CT scan, for example. They have a valid reason to feel fear. They might indeed get bad news from the test. But when we start to trust that there is an organizing intelligence that is conducting a grand symphony of which we are all a part, and if we can quit clinging to certainty and be willing to just let go and flow with the river when it’s in the rapids like it is now – if we can trust that we don’t have to control life, that life is living us – to stop resisting change or uncertainty, there comes a time when uncertainty can even become exciting – because if you don’t know what the future holds, there could be amazing surprise plot twists full of blessings. It’s true that there could also be pain – but unless you’re willing to go for the ride, you’ll never resolve the mystery that is unfolding for us all. The key shift comes when we discover the Mystery can be trusted – and at its heart, this Mystery is benevolent. Call it God, call it the Universe, call if Self or Inner Pilot Light- if you can “let go and let God” – not in a passive way but in a fully surrendered way, if action is needed and you feel certain, you will be guided – and will trust that action. Sending love. I hope that comforted rather than scared you. It was my intention to offer comfort.”

So . . . let us be humble in our not knowing, for in the space between stories, in this place of uncertainty, when we don’t know what the future holds, anything can happen – even miracles.

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