White Coat, Black Hat Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine

17Jun/130

Dear Ethicator: Do we really need ethicists?

You're safe with me

Dear Ethicator,

I am a hard-working, dedicated researcher at one of our country's top pharmaceutical labs. We're working on a promising new antidepressant and we're pretty excited. You didn't hear this from me, but the side effects profile is pretty sweet: Euphoria, bursts of extreme productivity, extraordinary sexual prowess and a diminished need for sleep. Plus, we haven't had an adverse event in nearly three weeks. This could be big.

As far as I can see, we've only got one thing to worry about: Big Ethics. I know we're supposed to get these people involved at some point, but seriously: Can't we just get some momentum going before the buzzkill brigade heads onto the cable news shows and tells everybody they're all better off lazy, impotent and miserable? I'd rather just skip them altogether. Or maybe I could just hire one to make the others go away? What do you think?

Conflicted

Dear Conflicted,

Do you need an ethicist? You bet your ass you need an ethicist. Did you seriously think you were just going to waltz in with some wonder drug and not give any of my people a taste?

Besides:  You've got ethics all wrong. Questioning the value of your drug is not even remotely within the scope of our mandate.  We're here to stimulate discussion and frame the issues; the rest is up to you.   If your ethicists are hurting your bottom line, well, you are talking to the wrong ethicists.   An experienced pro will know what to ask.  Check these out:

  • Is it ethical to deny people your drug, once we know how awesome it is?
  • Are we harming the public by requiring this drug undergo more testing, instead of just saying "fuck it" and putting it right in the water supply?
  • What should our moral stance be toward the idiots and crazies who refuse to take your drug?  Is it wrong to post their home phone numbers online, or did these people give up their right to privacy the moment they started jeopardizing public health?

See what I mean? This is where our profession starts showing practical value.  Kick a little up to the right ethicist, and you'll start hearing all the good questions, the type that get people crashing down pharmacy doors.

All I'm saying is: I'm on your side. It sounds to me  like you've got a kick-ass drug on your hands, and it would really be a shame, hypothetically speaking, if anything happened to it. An ethicist can help you navigate those waters.

And remember: You asked me first. We both know what that means.

You're welcome,

The Ethicator

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