If what you have already read about the poisoning effects of medical drugs, vaccinations, etc has not made you question which are the most dangerous--pharmaceutical drugs or germs--perhaps the following true story will.

The story is recounted from a recent edition of The Australian Weekend Magazine and is entitled "Ben's Story". It is the story of a twenty-two-year-old Queensland University 1st Class honours student awarded a $20,000 scholarship for research work in biometrics. To gain experience before commencing his doctorate he, with two other young male companions, embarked on a backpacking tour of Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia, a trip which was to end in disaster.

Lean and good-looking, Ben must have been very fit, having not long before this tour trekked around Tasmania and other parts of Australia as well as powering a pedicab around Brisbane all year showing tourists about in order to supplement his limited means. As his sister said:

"Thorough as always, he packed only two changes of clothes in order to make room for a comprehensive medical kit containing antiseptic, dressings, antibiotics, burn cream and insect repellent.

Malaria was just one of his many health concerns, and along with being immunized against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis B, polio and tetanus through the University of Queensland Health Service, he obtained prescriptions for Malofrim and Chloroquine, the recommended anti-malarial drugs. "

According to one of his companions: "Ben was the one always on the ball with the drugs", nagging his friends to take theirs. "He was meticulous."

After about four weeks in Nepal and about five days in Ko Chang, a Thai island, the boys split up and Ben went by bus to Singapore. Seven days after leaving Ko Chang, Ben started getting alternating fevers and chills, which he put down to a flu-like virus he could not shake, and he arrived a few days later in Singapore after an all-night bus journey. Staying with friends, he slept most of the day of his arrival, and on the following day, complaining of "dark urine" and sore kidneys, he visited a doctor who diagnosed a possible kidney infection.

Later the same day he was admitted to Singapore General Hospital and soon afterwards his friends were alarmed by a phone call from the hospital informing them Ben was comatose with failed kidneys and suspected septicemia, a liver tumor or malaria. The following day he suffered cardiac arrest and was revived, only to pass away the following morning.

The medical verdict, based on the blood tests earlier done, was malaria,* because the malarial microbe Plasmodium falciparum was found. Over the same period of time, the companion who had shared a hut with Ben in Ko Chang had also come down with malaria and had spent two weeks in hospital in Penang before recovering well enough to travel home. Although Ben's friend could not recall being bitten by a mosquito in Ko Chang, it was natural enough to assume that they both had been, and suffered malaria as a result. That, you might agree, is a reasonable assumption.

*Medical authorities state that among Australian military personnel serving in New Guinea, the expected incidence of malaria is one person in five. Worldwide, the fatality rate was estimated to be 1.5 per cent of people contracting the disease.

The symptoms of severe anemia and dark-colored urine, sometimes called blackwater fever, and associated usually with the falciparum microbe, seldom occurred in people who had been in the malarial region for less than six months and who had not already suffered at least four previous attacks.

If this is the case, once again arises the question: does the pathological factor reside in the microbe or in the host?

Once upon a time the writer certainly would have agreed, but that was before I learned enough to write this book. That was before I watched my son die, having displayed in hospital dark urine, fever and comatose after weeks of heavy "scientific" drug therapy.

When you consider a single course of penicillin and terramycin, designed to protect orphan children against infections, was sufficient to cause them pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (Chapter 8), and when you consider how supposedly harmless vaccinations for supposed protection against diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus, etc, can cause, within six weeks, symptoms of tuberculosis, chills, fever, meningitis and gastroenteritis with the concurrent presence of tubercule bacilli,* one is powerfully inclined to agree with Professor Oliver Wendell Holmes when he said: "If all the drugs were cast into the sea, it would be so much better for man, and so much the worse for the fishes."

*The Hazards of Immunization (Sir Graham Wilson, MD, London, 1967).

When Ben felt his first symptoms of fever, etc commence, did he use his carefully prepared kit of antibiotics to try and allay them? That was the very purpose he carried the kit with him, so it is reasonable to assume he did.

The author, from the age of twenty-one through to fifty-three, travelled continually through New Guinea, the Pacific Isles, the Far East, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Egypt and the Middle East, in the days before hygiene and Hilton Hotels, never took any medicine and was bitten by many mosquitoes. I had a sore throat in Rome in 1958 and a touch of food poisoning in Singapore once in 1962. I didn't believe in medicine then, and I sure as hell don't now.

It is three years now since I lost my youngest son and I still feel the pain of grief, although of course it lessens with time. So I know how it feels and can sympathize with Ben's family.

May the loss of Mike and Ben help us to understand how better to protect ourselves, bearing in mind that in order to understand one must never blithely accept answers without first asking a lost of questions.