Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Informed Consent

Not that it's something new, but I can't get over how many pharmaceutical ads there are on TV. Growing up in Kenya I never once saw anything like that (this may have changed since then) and I am startled by how normal it is here in the States. I get that with the liberalization of every facet of our lives (a change I am appreciative of), healthcare too must follow suit but I am concerned about what the end result would look like.

I think of my days in a boarding school where all our medical grievances were treated with Paracetamol, regardless of the widely varying complaints. And when my doctor, with encouragement from my penny-pinching dad, prescribed Vick's rubbing salve for my broken arm, all the while ignoring my insistence that what I had was far more serious than a mere bruise. My grandmother's Alzheimer's was brushed off as mild senility, old lady just likes the attention.

All these things make the benefits of an empowered patient more apparent. But still I wonder where to draw the line between informed consent and profit-driven coercion. Pharmaceutical companies have access to inextinguishable resources, and with the manipulative power of advertising, what's to say that these companies are not trying to pull a fast one on an uneducated individual who does not necessarily have as firm a grasp on medical particularities as a trained professional? Before we know it, we are going to have a bunch of Will Smiths running about donating extraneous lungs and performing bathtub organ transplants.

No comments: