Friday, 13 February 2009
letters from a guinea pig
Along with all my jobs and potential jobs over the past weeks I have taken on a slightly risky moneymaking venture in something that a lot of people would consider only as an absolute last resort, or probably would not consider at all: a medical trial. Now there was that particular case several years back in the UK where a bunch of volunteers participated in a study which went horribly wrong, causing the near-death of most of them and requiring several amputations, etc.
That study is the one often referred to when convincing someone not to take part in clinical trials. The positives are almost always overlooked, however. For one, you get paid a fair amount of money for very little effort and often very little inconvenience (as most can work somewhat around work schedules.) The other obvious positive (and the reason behind the study in the first place) is that the data obtained from your participation could actually help improve the lives of others through new or improved drug treatments for their ailments. You can choose which trials you participate in, including those that are simply measuring the effects of already tried and tested drugs on ailments other than the ones the medication is marketed for. Furthermore, once you are involved you can pull out at any time, no obligation, no questions asked.
The way I see it is that millions of people around the world are pumping an inordinate amount of drugs and pathogens into their bodies daily, knowing fully their long-term detrimental effects on their own health and the health of others, and with no possible overall positive outcome for themselves or, heaven forbid, improvement to society, but still somehow do so willingly because they are generally happy to live selfishly in the moment - or denial - without consideration to their future (whether that be 50 years, 20 years, 5 years, 1 year or 25 minutes away.) So why not do something that could also possibly (though very unlikely) have an unfavourable long-term effect on my own health but that could potentially benefit others down the track whilst admittedly serving my own selfish short-term interests in earning money for it?
I know of many people who regularly smoke, take multitudes of drugs (recreational or medicinal or both), do not exercise, eat disgusting amounts of fast food (especially here in Scotland with their even proud application of the deep frier to almost any food imaginable, including mars bars, burgers and pizzas!), etc. - and spend lots of money doing so - who would be repulsed by the idea of participating in such a study because of the risks to their health. I also know of many people who, for instance, drive recklessly, have expensive cosmetic surgeries, get surburnt, and listen to music too loud because it is not in their immediate interest to consider the negative possibilities or ramifications, yet would still object to a medical trial.
I agree that volunteering your body to science is somewhat stigmatised and considered a bit crazy, but considering the other foolish, senseless and downright stupid (coincidentally, also a definition of "crazy") things that we do, is it really that bad?