Willful blindness occurs when there are things we could know, should know, but somehow manage not to know. Margaret Heffernan argues in her 2011 book, ‘Willful Blindness’, that sometimes we ‘ignore the obvious at our peril’. For example, in the 1950’s, Alice Stewart, a British researcher, identified a relationship between X-rays and childhood cancer–yet it was not until the 1980s that the medical system acted on it. In 1982, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, Australian physicians, identified a link between the bacterium Helicobacter and ulcers–yet it was not until 1994 that the medical system recommended that the bacterium be treated with antibiotics.
Heffernan argues that human capacity to ignore what is in front of us is staggering. A Harvard study asked subjects watching a basketball game to count the number of passes; no one noticed a woman in a gorilla suit standing at centre court for nine seconds.
In order to see more clearly, she suggests that we must challenge our biases, encourage debate, and not back away from complicated problems. I must therefore challenge the biased May 9th article, ‘Fissures in Zamboni’s MS theory widen’.
This article details one side of a highly polarised dispute regarding whether or not CCSVI causes multiple sclerosis (MS), and whether or not liberation is a cure for MS–rather than the fundamental question, regarding whether or not MS patients improve following the liberation procedure.
To provide some balance to the article: many different groups from all over the world have shown by means of gold standard catheter venography that the prevalence of CCSVI in MS is more than 90% of the cases (e.g. Greece, Poland, Jordan, United States of America). An international, multicenter study of more than 705 cases with echo-colour-doppler indicated the percentage of MS patients with CCSVI is 86%.
Over 12,500 liberation procedures have now been undertaken worldwide in over 50 countries. Patients report reduced brain fog, fatigue, improved circulation and motor skills, as demonstrated through improved EDSS scores. For example, Dr. Petrov reports that 62% of his 461 patients show a functional improvement. Dr. Mehta studied 150 consecutive MS patients, who showed more than a 25% increase in quality of life scores (one year after angioplasty)as measured by physiatrists unaware that the surgical procedure had taken place.
From studies presented at scientific conferences in both Poland and Italy in March 2011, what is becoming increasingly apparent from multiple countries around the world is that: (1) every patient is different, with different venous anatomy, different course of MS, and different length of illness; and (2) some patients do seem to experience an improvement in symptoms.
We must stop the polarisation. We need evidence-based medicine in Canada, and therefore we need a nationally-funded, multi-centre clinical trial to determine if treating CCSVI will improve the quality of life for MS patients. Multiple treatment trials are underway in the US—it is definitely time for Canada to act.