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The Nonsense Of Vivisection

Dr George Haritakis

The health system in Greece

The Greek health system rates on a scale from mediocre to bad. There are unacceptable conditions in the hospitals: unbelievably long queues in the waiting-rooms of the social security services (IKA); and citizens treated "at two speeds" - the rich carried in well-equipped ambulances, whilst the poor die because ambulances don't come in time or are out of service. Furthermore, if you need therapy or an operation abroad, you can only obtain this by paying a huge sum to a consultant, who has to give you the necessary certificate justifying your expenses to the IKA for refunding. If you can't afford this certificate, you remain in Greece.

A journey through an Athenian hospital

There are 33 hospitals in Attica (in the Athens area), of which 18 are in Athens itself, with about 7,500 beds and a staff of 21,000 people. The journalist Nana Daudaki, in "Ta Néa" ("The News") of December 1990, describes perfectly the situation in a state hospital:
"Patients lying in folding beds try to preserve their dignity, whilst their disabled state and half-naked bodies are transformed into a public performance for the people walking amongst them. When there aren't enough folding beds, stretchers are used, so that patients can no longer be carried anywhere. Sometimes you see people lying on the floor. At the same time, there are empty beds in other hospitals. Relatives and private nurses join forces with the inadequate number of hospital staff and work with them, creating further confusion, noise and new loopholes for infectious illnesses. In one of the biggest hospitals, Evangelismos, one single nurse has to take care of 40 to 60 patients, and sometimes only one nurse is responsible for four floors on night shift.

"If you want a home visit, you add your name to an endless list." It's the same if you want to be operated on at the General Hospital in Nikea (Piraeus): you still have to wait six months perhaps, even when new surgeries have been built.

"Very expensive machines are constantly out of order or work for only four or five hours a day. At the same time, patients who are not already in hospital have to find for themselves suitable means of transport to private diagnostic centres, as the hospitals do not have their own ambulances. So the expenses for examinations are doubled, first for the expensive machines that don't work, then for the huge sums paid by the social security services to the private centres.

"Within this lack of organisation there are also the exploiters and the misfits; there is a waste of resources of criminal dimensions; and there is thieving inside the hospitals that belong to all of us."

A case was recently brought before the authorities concerning a massacre of dogs carried out in the name of scientific progress. Their howls, coming from the terrace of Ippokratio Hospital in Athens, were heard by the whole neighbourhood. Members of the Greek Anti-Hunting Initiative succeeded in taking photographs of a primitive "surgery" for animal experiments and of some of the dogs themselves that had been shut up in a toilet and had survived the slaughter. The director of Ippokratio declared that he knew nothing about all this, and the person responsible, Professor Golematis, disappeared for some time. The members of his team refused to reveal their names until the police forced them to do so. They did not have any permission to perform animal experiments; the dogs had been stolen; the "surgery" was nothing more than a dirty hut. Nevertheless, the police did nothing, and only certain newspapers made a fuss about the episode. The surviving dogs could not be saved, and the team members were not harried any longer by the Law. But it is these people who will be the "paper doctors" of tomorrow, and it is they who, together with their research, will cooperate for the "welfare" of Greek hospitals .......

Hospitals in the provinces
Hospitals in the provinces are short of 4,250 doctors, and the health centres lack 1,250. Moreover, there is an imbalance in the distribution of supporting staff. Except for the town of Salonika there are in Macedonia and Thrace 18 hospitals with 57 surgical beds and 222 nurses (that is, 3.8 trained nurses for every surgical bed). In Salonika itself there are eight hospitals, with 50 surgical beds and 179 nurses (that is, 3.5 trained nurses for every surgical bed.) However, we know that five nurses are necessary for every bed.

There are 4,000 people working today in the eight hospitals of Salonika, whereas, according to the International Health Organisation, there should be 7,000, showing a 40% lack of staff.
At the Ippokratio Hospital in Salonika, patients who need a simple radiological examination must wait 10 days, because the machines are old, and there are delays in the renewing and servicing of parts.

In the 124 out-patient clinics that function by appointment, patients are on the waiting list for at least two months. Lack of medical and support staff and lack of modern machinery cause obvious problems for the patients.

There are only seven or eight nurses to take care of all the patients in the out-patient department of the Ahepa Hospital when it is open - that is, seven or eight nurses take care of 400 to 450 patients in the pathological, surgical and cardiological clinics!

The other side of the coin is that the availability of medical services decreases because so much money is wasted in the experimental laboratories of the Ahepa Hospital, where doctors administer electric shocks to rats and induce strokes (encephalic haemorrhages) in rabbits, renal failures in dogs and paraplegia in rabbits by breaking their spines.

Nevertheless, experiments are carried out at the St Demetrios Hospital, where strokes are induced in rabbits in order to discover a new therapy, even though we already knew ten years ago that the animal model is not valid, since strokes in man are completely different - so we can clearly discern what the aim of these experiments is!

One more point - in the hospital at Alexandrou-poli (near Salonika), the meals provided for children are unacceptable under the rules of the International Health Organisation, and other patients also eat unhealthy foodstuffs
Litter from hospitals
Every week, the hospitals in Athens produce 35 tons of polluted litter, which is left in the streets or burnt by primitive methods in the centre of the city. The hospitals have not created the necessary structures for getting rid of litter, and the staff ignore the dangers of contamination and transport litter by hand.

Garbage is thrown into places where passers-by can touch it, so that it is a source of deadly danger. The harmful substances in litter cause embarrassment to the Health Ministry, but nothing has been done -the dimensions of the problem border on actual criminal indifference.
One Greek in twenty is a carrier of hepatitis B, so that everyone realises how important prevention is in limiting hepatitis and cirrhosis: from next year, there will, in fact, be compulsory vaccination for these diseases.

Fifty per cent of all injured people could be saved by first-aid treatment, but they die during the journey to hospital. Professor Roussos, director of the Intensive Therapy Unit at the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, declared recently that more than half of those who die could be saved if there were an organised system of immediate, urgent, pre-hospital medical attention and intensive therapy.

On the other hand, at the very same hospital vivisectionists waste money on animal experiments such as striking the heads of rats with different weights in order to induce different degrees of cranial and cerebral injuries: they then calculate the level of the enzyme CK-BB. These useless experiments are done solely in order to publish papers, since the results are already known from clinical studies on humans.

Imagine how many people could be saved and cured if the money used for animal experiments were put into organising hospitals efficiently all over Greece, transporting patients in well-equipped ambulances and informing people about preventative medicine!
Why do they experiment on animals? Who benefits? Who keeps the practice going? Who looks after the well-being of the animals?

Vivisectionists cannot be ignorant of the fact that money which could help patients is being wasted on animal experiments, thus ensuring commercial profits on the one hand and the continuing non-solution of problems on the other. A river of money flows into the maintenance of a huge edifice, the viability of which depends on keeping patients uncured.
Illnesses and causes of death in Greece

The incidence of illness in Greece grows, despite the ever-increasing expenses of health care, medicines, doctors, clinical examination and specialised check-up centres.


Deaths in Greece and their causes 1959 1972 1987
Cancer 7877 12512 20608
Coronary heart disease
5865 6932 10953
Strokes 6207 11746 17918
Hypertension 658 1052 ?
Hepatic cirrhosis 891 1439 ?
Bronchitis, emphysema, asthma 348
2316 4701
Patients admitted into hospitals and their illnesses 1965
1977 1987
Cancer 27873 56142 86802
Strokes 6024 19040 27966
Coronary heart disease 10843 26941 45386
Hypertension 5539 8580 13426
Cirrhosis 2188 2891 ?
Bronchitis, emphysema, asthma 4746 26533 33076

The present situation

Instead of focusing our attention and efforts on providing a solution to health problems by prevention and by applying what we already know about therapies, the vivisectionists suggest research on animals for new therapies - and this notwithstanding the fact that conditions for our laboratory animals are miserable - stress, small dirty cages, isolation and an everyday use of physical and psychological torture. Hundreds of millions of animals all over the world are tortured and killed in the name of science.

However, more and more doctors are coming to realise that research on animals is useless, repetitive and enormously wasteful of money. More reliable methods, without the use of animals, are available which are more scientific and need less funding. Unfortunately, a lack of information, the huge investments made in vivisection, powerful economic interests and a blind trust in traditional but wrong methods of research are enormous obstacles - but we must fight our way through all this.

Many people are horrified about vivisection, but they would be much more so if they knew the gigantic errors it gives rise to - and their consequences. Vivisection does not only give false results; it also distracts medical attention from the proper sources of information. Most experiments are done to produce publications, for economic profit or for academic study.
The health system must be changed for ever. The way to do this is to fight against causes rather than trying to reduce symptoms.

In Greece, this means that we should:
- improve social conditions
- find solutions to unemployment
- stop the ecological catastrophe
- improve our diet
- apply clinical studies
- avoid harmful therapies
- educate people about health
- give encouragement to alternative methods in medicine .
- offer real ethical and material help to patients and invalids,
- independently of their social-security standing

Our contemporary consumer society, its structures and ways of functioning, creates unhealthy people, who are without individuality and without beliefs. Their sole occupation is the acquisition of material goods; they are anxious, frightened and without the necessary will to create anything or to resist anything. All this gives rise to many illnesses, and contemporary medicine colludes in the multiplying of these illnesses in two ways:

1. In our social structure, doctors learn to prescribe a therapy for a group of symptoms, but this doesn't necessarily mean a cure. Many illnesses have a social, economic, political or psychological background, or a mixture of these.

2. Medicine today makes us believe that health can be bought, so that we get the impression that it depends on the use of specialised services and medicines and that every organ, every biological change, every age and every psychological state needs a specialist doctor.
The distribution of medicine depends on the laws of marketing; clearly the aim is not simply to improve health. The catastrophes of environmental pollution, the imbalance of man with nature, bad diet, bad housing, stress and misery all work together to produce illness and unbalanced organisms in minds.

For all these problems, our contemporary society finds an alibi in animal experimentation. In its testing of pointless materials (cosmetics, chemicals, medicines and so on) on animals, and in picking out the wished for results, commercial medicine imposes a great many dangerous substances on the market in order to increase profits.

Vivisection is not just about torturing animals; it is not simply a useless practice; it is also an extremely dangerous one, because it supports an entirely wrong way of thinking and a system based on financial interests.

Health doesn't just mean a lack of illness; it means peace and the balance of man with nature, and therefore respect towards all other living creatures who share our planet with us.

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