The immunocompromised will be right to be terrified

In the Atlantic, Ed Yong writes about immunocompromised people and the dilemma they face as society rushes to drop COVID-19 restrictions:[1]

This isn’t a small group. Close to 3 percent of U.S. adults take immunosuppressive drugs, either to treat cancers or autoimmune disorders or to stop their body from rejecting transplanted organs or stem cells. That makes at least 7 million immunocompromised people—a number that’s already larger than the populations of 36 states, without even including the millions more who have diseases that also hamper immunity, such as AIDS and at least 450 genetic disorders.[2]

These are doctors, professors, children, just to cite Ed Yong’s examples. COVID-19 won’t necessarily kill them, but it’s certainly more likely to make them severely ill, and yes, certainly more likely to indeed kill them. Many need the option to work from home; many have jobs that preclude working from home.[3]

[O]ne of [Beth] Wallace’s patients was told by their sister that no one is dying anymore. In fact, people are still dying, and immunocompromised people disproportionately so. Ignoring that sends an implicit message: Your lives don’t matter.

Sometimes, the message becomes explicit. Several of the immunocompromised people I talked with have been told—sometimes by family members or former partners—that they are a burden on society, that they don’t deserve a relationship, that their dying would be natural selection. When Corey Corrigan was trying to decide whether to put Harper through another surgery, “a medical provider said, ‘Well, she’s not going to live very long, so it doesn’t really matter,’” she told me.[4]

In what I’m about to say, I mean no criticism of Yong. His article[5] is eloquent and, I believe, sensitive. He adopts, I believe, an ethical position.

I have previously told the story of how I came to present my theory of political polarization at the last Human Science Institute “retreat.” I wound up intervening when the president of the Institute was questioning Jim Smith, seeking to elicit that theory, for which he had provided all the evidence, but was, for reasons that remain unclear to me, utterly failing to articulate.[6] This is not the part of the story that is important here.

Prior to my intervention, Smith, whom I understand to be a hunter and fisherman, had denied that “we” have a value to life, saying that if we did, we would all be vegan. I objected, of course, noting that I am vegan, but really, his point stood because the vast majority of people are indeed not vegan. There are, as well, though I don’t recall Smith mentioning them, war, poverty, lack of health care, food insecurity, and the death penalty, the sum of which end millions if not billions of human lives prematurely, not to mention the tolls that animal agriculture, habitat destruction, and human exploitation take on nonhuman animal life. And I would add that I have spent the last twenty-plus years of my life—this is my utterly hopeless job hunt[7]—learning that as a society, we gleefully discard people, really with no concern for whether they live or die, though we obviously pretend otherwise.

Being among the discarded people myself, I can hardly be surprised that we will surely just as gleefully discard the immunocompromised in our haste to appease the capitalist god.[8] Smith was right: We do not value even human life. And the immunocompromised will be right to be terrified.

  1. [1]Ed Yong, “The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo,” Atlantic, February 16, 2022,
  2. [2]Ed Yong, “The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo,” Atlantic, February 16, 2022,
  3. [3]Ed Yong, “The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo,” Atlantic, February 16, 2022,
  4. [4]Ed Yong, “The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo,” Atlantic, February 16, 2022,
  5. [5]Ed Yong, “The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo,” Atlantic, February 16, 2022,
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The theory of the morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, December 23, 2019,
  7. [7]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d.,; David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2021,
  8. [8]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, January 11, 2022,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.