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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Moral dilemmas and connecting dots

There's two parts to this article. Please read all the way through it for the second part, which is of some interest... ;-)

Last night I saw an episode of "Law and Order: SVU" which was interesting. Here's a blurb for it:

"Goliath" (Season Finale)

VIOLENT POLICE BEHAVIOR IS LINKED TO AN ANTI-MALARIA DRUG, ADMINISTERED BY THE U.S. ARMY -- When two police officers from separate precincts attack their wives and demonstrate suicidal behavior, Detectives Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) connect the incidents to both men's service in the same reserve unit in Afghanistan. Linking this behavior to a similar trail of attacks in 2002 by other officers, Benson and Stabler believe the common denominator is the drug Quinium, which the Army provides to fight malaria. When they discover that the Army is aware of its side affects, Novak (Diane Neal) goes after the government for administering the drug.

Now, the premise that resulted by the end of the show was this:

The military plays a numbers game, offsetting the risk of one thing against the risk of another. Moral issues are often involved, but when reduced to numbers, that makes it 'ok' to make the decisions that they do. Example: if the army didn't use this drug, then hundreds of soldiers would come down with malaria and significantly reduce the effectiveness of the military presence in Afghanistan. They know the drug has side effects, but only, apparently on 1 in every 140 people. And so they administer the drug to their soldiers, thus saving hundreds from malaria (and saving the military from all the associated costs of hundreds of disabled soldiers), but in the process a few soldiers go off the deep end and kill their families, other people or themselves. It's a cost - benefit analysis that works out in the army's favour by continuing to supply the anti-malaria drug to the majority of the troops.

Deidre didn't agree with the moral decision. I do. I pointed out to her scenario similar to the following:

Imagine that you have a choice. On one hand you can give a pill to people that will kill 10 of them. You know it will kill 10 of them. You know you are going to actively kill them. But if you don't give them this pill, 1000 people will die. What do you do? Do you kill 10 people to save a thousand, or choose to do nothing and let a thousand die?

She said she wouldn't like to be in that situation.

Neither would I, but I still understand that sometimes decisions have to be made that aren't in the interests of the minority, but are in the interests of the majority. Some people, especially in the military, have to make decisions that they know are going to end up with people dying. But what's important is how many people end up dying. If they can reduce the numbers by allowing a small amount to die, then it's worth it. This is what the military is about. They're in a job where people are being paid to die if necessary, and, if the situation calls for it, die they will. Hopefully their sacrifice will be worth it.

Many people don't think it's worth it. I can understand their point of view, but it's not likely to change.

And now the second part of this article...

In my quick research for some information about the tv show, in order to show the blurb that's above, I found some highly fascinating bits of information.

The tv show is based on fact. The drug 'Quinium' is, in reality, called Lariam, also known as mefloquine. This drug is known to have some very serious side effects, as recorded by many websites and lawsuits, one of which is called 'Lariam (Mefloquine) Side Effects Lawsuits':

The most-prescribed malaria drug could produce psychiatric side effects in more than one-quarter of all travelers who take it.


Emerging evidence suggests that a rash of domestic killings by soldiers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in the summer of 2002 may be related to this drug.

And then I found something else which took this into the realm of 'highly fascinating'. The makers of the drug, which is used by the US Department of Defense, is Roche Pharmaceuticals.

Anyone who's been around for a little while and reading my writings, might find that the name 'Roche' sounds familiar. It should.

Roche also make the anti-bird flu drug 'Tamiflu', which was the subject of an article I researched over here: The bird flu hoax. In that article I point out to anyone who's interested - including links to supporting information on the public domain - that Tamiflu is created by Roche, who pays royalties to Gilead, who's ex-chairman is Donald Rumsfeld, the current Secretary of Defense, who still receives income from shares in Gilead.

The US Department of Defense organised a contract for Roche to supply Lariam to prevent soldiers coming down with malaria. There actually are other anti-malarial drugs out there which don't produce psychotic side effects. However, those drugs aren't associated in some way with indirect ties to the Secretary of Defense.

It wouldn't surprise me, in today's world of corporate backroom deals, that Rumsfeld, by arranging for the supply of Lariam by Roche, sweetens the royalties deal between Roche and Gilead regarding Tamiflu, which ultimately sweetens his own pocket.

Just a scenario, of course, because we all know things like that would never happen in the real world. Right?

Posted on 1/12/2006 11:21:00 PM Backlinks

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Blogger Moghal said...

I don't like the numbers game, but it's a sort of necessity. I don't think, when push comes to shove, the problem is even doing it, or not informing the people in question of the risks (I don't know that they didn't, I'm just guessing).

The problem, far too often, is that once the deed has been done and the decision made, no-one sets aside any resources or contingencies to watch out for the side-effects. Once the shot is administered, that's it, and if someone goes loco then it's their problem unless someone goes hunting back.

Taking a little more responsibility in the first place would reduce the overall costs (both financial, from lawsuits, and personal, from deaths and psychiatric problems) and improve the image of the services as well.

1/13/2006 12:56:00 AM  
Blogger Terrence said...

I agree with you that some time people we put in power have to make hard choices like this one. I can't say I would want to do it. I think the case you give however is not justified as there are alternatives. Yes we should do our best to protect service men and women but we should do it with the best possible solutions not the lowest bidder or the product from our friends.

I also agree with the other commenter, is the real problem that they do it or that they try and hide it and shy away from the consequences?


1/13/2006 02:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chancelucky said...

the good of the many question is one thing and can be reasonably be debated and often is in literature.

The more interesting thing is the whole business about there being other drugs on the market that don't have the side effects, but are produced by rival companies without ties to the Secretary of Defense.

1/13/2006 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Alan Howard said...

Moghal, I agree with you. Denial of responsibility, however, is a game most government departments play.

1/16/2006 10:37:00 AM  

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