cross posted at the demise
When my sick brother was fitted with deep brain stimulators to attempt to address some of the most debilitating symptoms of the progressive and cureless brain affliction called Parkinson’s disease there was no real alternative to the treatment that his doctors had prescribed. My brother was 40 at that time, he has since passed.
Many understand Parkinson’s disease as an old person’s disease, and for most of my life this was the case. Many are now aware that the illness can afflict younger people (the poster boy for early onset Parkinson’s is the well-known Michael J. Fox). When an older person gets the disease, they usually expire before the permanent progressive affliction exhibits its horrible and merciless deterioration on one who is stricken.
My brother had just exited a regimen of treatment that was promoted by profit seeking drug companies and perhaps well intentioned doctors whose desire to find new treatments for Parkinson’s disease led my brother to be experimented upon. This was, of course, for the combined purposes of easing the painful and ever present symptoms my brother was experiencing and to find a ‘holy grail’ for drug manufacturers; a drug that every patient with an incurable disease must take several times every day (the pharmaceutical companies really love those cash cows). By the way this drug, Mirapex, is currently being prescribed to help lady sleepers with “restless leg syndrome” – both a syndrome and a marketing campaign!
After years of complaints and pleadings to the doctors which flowed out of episodes of dangerous and wildly uncharacteristic behaviors on the part of our sick brother, we threatened legal action, and my brother was offered to be one of the first patients in the nation to undergo surgery to implant electrical stimulators directly into his brain to hopefully abate or countervail the unbearable and incapacitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
I have to honestly report that the technology did work. While the stimulator did, as we were advised prior to the installation surgery, further incapacitate my brother’s speaking ability (one of the many aspects of complete body rigidity – I mean like a wooden post, and not limited to arms and legs but both the mouth and throat muscles were also cemented in my brother due to Parkinson’s rigidity) the stimulator did ease his dyskinesia and immobility (although these symptoms may seem contradictory, such are the ravages of the nasty permanent sickness called Parkinson’s disease) allowing him to live a higher quality of life for the last years of his life, especially as the electrical stimulation machine allowed my brother to not have to be a slave to the psychological horrors of Mirapex.
On the day of his implant surgery, our family was at Northwestern Hospital where a brilliant neurosurgeon performed the multiple hours long procedure during which time my brother was kept in a semiconscious state, as is required when one is having holes drilled into one’s skull and the deus ex machina is being tested to detect the most effective placement of the stimulating electrodes. It was during the testing of the electronic brain stimulator that I witnessed something as strange and scary as it was revelatory and understandable.
The doctor positioned the electrodes deep within my brother’s brain, into the area that controls movement of his arms and legs, capacities that the disease took away from my brother, to unlock his limbs so he could walk more easily, swallow…all of the motions that we never think about too deeply that allow us to be humans in this human world. Then the doctor would turn the machine on to see how my brother responded to the electrical impulses, the intent was to make sure that the electrical stimulation was directed at the exact spot in my brother’s brain to ensure he received the positive effects that the treatment was intended to provide.
During the electrode placement trials, the doctor shifted the wires inside my brother’s head and revved up the stimulator unit – my brother, lying on an operating table, not having been told anything, not thinking of anything in particular, uncomfortably clad in a hospital gown, began to laugh – busted out laughing. The stimulator was turned off – the doctor jiggled the wires – the machine was reactivated…and my brother sobbed.
Revelatory and understandable, I’m not a doctor but have often used the words “synapses firing” (or not firing, as the case may be) relating to my pre-coffee state of mind in the morning. Strange and scary, I don’t read science fiction but am aware of DARPA.
Recently the strange science witchdoctors who do their National Security State and Military scientificism in the service of protecting the homeland (and destabilizing the homelands of others with secret invasions and drone monitoring/assassination campaigns) announced that it’s right now researching the capacities for deep brain stimulators to override humanity, compassion, moral impulses and empathy, while at the same time highlighting the killing instinct, desensitizing the natural human aversion to unspeakable violence and sublimating the fear of our great and good American (and also human) soldiers.
The press release that identifies these mad scientists’ vision for dehumanizing fighting men in the service of mechanizing their roles as murdering invaders and transforming them into more controllable uncontrolled killers mentions;
Approximately 100,000 people around the globe live with a DBS implant,3 a device that delivers electrical stimulation to reduce the motor impairment caused by Parkinson’s disease and dystonia.
As children, we have all sat in our elementary school history classes and heard the morally repellent stories of how the Nazis experimented on the humans that they imprisoned in concentration camps. We may even be aware that our own government, many, many years ago, experimented on Americans (both the African Americans who were part of the Tuskegee Experiments and the guinea pigs who took part in the MKUltra Experiments). So long ago…
But, over the past ten years we have been told of both drug and psychological “experimentation” that was met out by our brave military doctors at Guantanamo Bay where the services of medical professionals were utilized to ensure those humans who we were torturing 1) didn’t die and, 2) were able to maintain awareness under the physical pain that we Americans we forcing them to endure so we could cause them more and more aggressive pain using different torture techniques as directed by the White House.
As children, we also learned about and learned to hate societies where every communication was under the threat of being eavesdropped upon and neighbors were encouraged to turn in their neighbors (and children encouraged to turn in their parents) to the Stazi, the police force in the out of control medieval-mindset totalitarian regime in East Germany.
And now, Mark Klein, William Binney, Thomas Drake, and finally Edward Snowden have revealed that our spy services are more total in their totalitarian uber-surveillance than any 1950’s era Boris Badinoffs could in their wildest totalitarian dreams ever have been.
We, as a hopeful, egalitarian, humane and altruistic people, believe that medical science itself is hopeful, egalitarian, humane and altruistic. But we delude ourselves to imagine that the captains of industry, who decide who will be healed and how they will be healed in this world of commerce (and the capitalist’s best friend is, of course, war without end), will choose to pursue advancing humanity over the American dream of cashing out to the Caymans. I can almost hear the operating room banter now, “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone – but the implants will still be fully functional.”
As I hear my president talk about American Exceptionalism more and more, the more I think we are seeking exemptions, here in our great land, from humanity, compassion, moral impulses and empathy. Thank goodness the good folks of our commercially based medical establishment are working with those patient focused military doctors and scientists to find the right equipment to implant to nullify any compunction in our humans to act as humans.
Reminds me of the recent work of our in-house comic artist, verbatim, who provides art to the demise under verbatim and v2… “to fight monsters, we created monsters”
Can’t wait to see what our patriots on Madison Avenue and the Chamber of Commerce have planned for DBS.
God bless America.
Photo by National Institute of Health