The Constant Gardener

In the article “The Constant Gardener: What the Movie Missed” by Sonia Shah, she talks about the issues and concerns of new drugs being tested on people in developing countries such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. In Shah’s essay she brings up two convincing arguments against these experiments. One argument Shah speaks on is that in the movie The Constant Gardener the seriousness of the possible danger in these experiments is not well depicted. She argues that the movie makes the situation seem much simpler than it really is.

The film does talk about some of the deaths caused by these experiments however; she argues that not much is revealed. The second argument bought up by Shah is the unfairness of using the poor in these developing countries as guinea pigs to test the drugs, though she cannot prove this morally. Though I fine both arguments as reasonable, the argument that I find most significant is the fact that poor individuals in developing countries are being used as the guinea pigs. Like Shah, I feel like this is really unfair to these people.

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In the article it says that major companies like Merck does half of its trials outside of the United States, whereas Wyeth Pharmaceuticals does 70% of its trials in other countries. It also states in the article that the drugs being tested are not for illnesses that affect most of the people being used as the guinea pigs in these countries. I think that if you want to test a drug on someone that could be potentially fatal it should at least be a drug that can also be beneficial to them. These poor countries obviously don’t have the money for some of the drugs needed to treat them.

With this being said, as hopeless as they are they will do almost anything in hopes of being cured. These people being so vulnerable because they are dying for treatment, it is almost as if these companies are taking advantage of them which is morally not right. Experimental testing can be very risky. There are many issues that come into play when testing new drugs on individuals. Two major issues when testing new drugs are honesty and safety. It is important to be honest with the tester because honesty can influence whether they want to be used as the guinea pigs or not.

The researchers were not honest with the people in the 3rd world countries. They didn’t fully tell them what the drugs were for or what side affects they may have caused. In not being honest each time the testers were put under an experiment their lives were at risk. Some of the testers even died. Moral values also play a role in experimental testing. Some individuals would object to being used as guinea pigs because of their moral beliefs. Two very important moral values are life itself and education. Generally speaking people value the lives they live.

In the essay it said 30 out of 33 people were misinformed that the HIV vaccine would prevent them from acquiring the virus. Some of the people who took this vaccine because of the lies they were told ended up dying at the end. Shah states that a lot of medicine was not beneficial to the people and did not help them at all. She also says that it was also unlicensed and unaffordable even if the people did need it. People in 3rd world countries value the importance of education even more so then people in the United States.

Education in a lot of other countries is a privilege whereas in America education comes more naturally. Because education is not always an option for some of these people in these countries they value its importance a lot more. The researchers not being honest with the testers in these 3rd world countries in a sense robbed them of the education they rightful deserved. In a previous assignment we learned about two opposing ideas. One idea was utilitarianism which states that the best outcome is to make happy the greatest amount of people.

Another idea is Immanuel Kant’s theory which says that an action is made right or wrong based on the way the actor chooses to do the action. I believe both of these theories can be applied to the drug testing experiments. Utilitarianism can be applied by first figuring out how many people were going to benefit from the drug testing. In the case of the people from the 3rd world countries being used as the guinea pigs not many of the people benefited. You can apply Kant’s theory based on the way the researchers went about doing the experiment.

If they would have been honest with the testers and explained to them what the drugs were and what they could possibly cause and the tester still agreed to be used as guinea pigs the experiment would have been okay. A principal that I would require all companies to follow is to be honest regardless if the truth may change the mind of the human subject. I think honesty is always the best policy and you should never manipulate anyone just to get them to do what you want. I feel that it is unfair and it is not right to the person being deceived.

I think the human subject should be well aware of what they are getting themselves into and should have the option if they want to go along with it or not. If drug companies failed to follow this principle strict consequences would apply. If such a law existed that everyone had to serve at least once in their life as a human subject I would not comply with it. I think you should have the option and not be forced to do something you don’t want to do. I think putting Americans in such a predicament would have a lot more negative outcomes then it would positive and for this I don’t think this would be a good idea.


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