Professor and Chair of Health Law, Policy and Management of the School of Public Health at Boston University, Michael Stein is a primary care doctor and has been a leader in general medicine and substance use research and policy for two decades. In the first half, he discussed how the structural components of everyday life ultimately determine who gets to be healthy in today's America. There is a 15-year gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest Americans, he reported. Even if the poor never got cancer, the wealthy would still outlive them by 12 years on average. A variety of factors contribute to bad health in the poor, he cited, including living conditions, diet, smoking, and obesity. These conditions won't be solved by medical interventions, he added. Even so, America spends more on health care than any other country but ranks in the middle to the bottom in developed nations for life expectancy and infant mortality.
In the COVID-19 era, we're likely going to be hit with a "tsunami-sized wave" of mental health problems, he said, as a result of psychological trauma, stress, and depression due to people's isolation, job losses, and fears of returning to everyday social interactions. As many as half the population may experience mental health issues, Dr. Stein noted, and this will only amplify the preexisting opioid epidemic. Suicide rates, which have been on the rise in the US in recent years, are likely to go up with the increased unemployment rates. He also spoke about the importance of giving workers health insurance, as well as sick leave benefits, so they can stay home if they're feeling unwell.
With a Master's degree in religion from the University of Chicago, Michael Lichens focuses his work on overlooked aspects of spiritual life. In the latter half, he spoke about the Catholic Church's celebrated exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth - how he got involved in this field, and what his cases were like. Amorth (1925-2016) became an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome in 1985, a ministry he practiced until he died. In 1990, he founded the International Association of Exorcists (a training facility), of which he was president until 2000. Lichens detailed one of Amorth's exorcisms in Italy, in which a demon speaking through a possessed person cursed in both Latin and English. The whole room got cold, with ice crystals forming, and when Amorth commanded the demon to identify itself, it replied simply, "Lucifer."
Over his career, Amorth performed thousands of exorcisms, some quite short, others longer rituals, and he would often follow up with those who'd been afflicted to make sure they were still OK. Many times the possessed will try to spit on priests, and in one bizarre case, a man actually spit nails out of his mouth at Father Amorth, Lichens recalled. In one long-running case, a once happily married woman became possessed and was able to talk in languages she didn't know. During one of the exorcisms on her, Father Amorth learned that the woman's mother-in-law had found someone to place a curse on her, and that was how the demon initially entered. The author of The Devil is Afraid of Me, Father Amorth, was also the subject of a documentary by William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist.