Accepting Responsibility and Death
There is now a prevalent culture in America for suing to get compensation for every adverse result of any event, as in product liability litigation from tobacco, to birth defects and injuries. The criminal negligence of greedy entrepreneurs, some corporate executives and most market manipulators has been proven frequently and is not in doubt, but little scrutiny or criticism has been given to individual and the need to bear a personal responsibility for one's actions.
It is customary for legislators and investigating bodies to highlight the malfeasance of the usual suspects, while pandering to the vociferous cries of the mob, on which their funding and election prospects depend. It is imperative to severely punish these unethical offenders without conscience and morality, but equally important to put a stop to the corrupted financial and general press, which hypes the false claims of these manipulators and to condemn the naked greed and unattainable desires of the general public, which plunges blindly into foolish behavior without thought or rationality and then accepts no personal responsibility for idiotic habits or actions, while clamoring for redress through the courts, as Tocqueville predicted. The influence and evils of factions, which were the morbid fears of Madison, have come true, as pressure groups intimidate and coerce the Federal Drug Administration, Environment Protection Agency, the Congress and the Executive branch to promote their partisan agenda with total disregard for the public good.
The current debacle of Imclone is a case in point. This is not to belittle the genius and good fortune of great advances like Protease Inhibitors and the new drug to cure Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and the potential of the future to provide fantastic new drugs after our deciphering of the Human Genome. I still hold the cynical view that these advances will be prohibitively costly and available to a select affluent few, contrary to the major benefit that sewer systems, clean drinking water, antibiotics and vaccination provided to the general population. They, even as much as those who live with the fantasy and delusion that they can forestall, delay or stem the inexorable tide of death, will have to wake up one morning, shorn of dreams and hopes, to accept the reality that life is of necessity fatal. Evolution in its mindless way works amorally, inevitably and mercilessly not to promote longevity, but leaving behind viable and successful progeny as Medawar explained.
This is not some eastern fatalists resigned capitulation to the grim reaper, but a plea of a rational individual's coming to terms with reality, after much soul searching deliberation with the poetic defiance of 'Invictus', the prudent understanding that at times discretion is the better part of valor and that there is a time to live and a time to die and a season for all things. It is even more important to realize that prolongation of life with callous disregard to its quality is often a curse, not a boon. It becomes an unforgivable crime, when physicians from their privileged positions and for pecuniary benefits, become a party to perpetrating such fraud on desperate victims in the terminal phases of disease, by raising false hopes.
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Gaurang Bhatt, MD
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