The phrase “Catch-22” refers to a paradoxical situation in which the solution is thwarted by a circumstance inherent in the problem. It is derived from the satirical novel by Joseph Heller: “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to“.
The world of medicine currently faces a real-life catch-22 which goes something like this: “In the face of antibiotic resistance and superbugs, medical experts preach the need to use fewer and fewer antibiotics, so the pharmaceutical companies become less and less motivated to develop new ones. Why should they risk major investment in research if there will be no return on that investment because doctors will not prescribe the end products?”
Oh, and there’s a catch-22a: “Drug resistant diseases thrive in the very places set up to treat patients. Sick people flock to hospitals and surgeries to get cures, only to be met by the likeliest disease carriers – nurses, doctors, medical technicians, porters, cleaners and other ancillary medical staff.”
So they’re all out to get us – the doctors, the drugs companies, the superbugs. The health system needs to find a way of straightening out this circular logic. But how?
Don’t worry, we’re all going to live forever … or die in the attempt.