Save us from the plucky underdogs!

Watching a DVD of ‘The Constant Gardener’ last night, I found myself siding with the drug company rather than the crusading eco-bore.

The story’s the usual corporate skulduggery one, of an evil corporation and the brave underdog trying to expose its dirty dealings. In this case, a drug company rushing a new TB vaccine onto the market. The vaccine works, but in a small fraction of cases has nasty side-effects, i.e death.

The drug company is covering the deaths up, discover Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes. So they try to stop the drug trials, which are happening out of the media gaze in Africa. What heroes! But such ‘heroes’ always seem to miss an important point.

That point: what about the big picture?

What if – as per the story – a new TB epidemic is on its way? And what if this vaccine could save millions of lives, even at the cost of 0.1% of sufferers dying?

If the alternatives are a million slow tortured deaths by TB, or a thousand deaths because the vaccine’s not perfect, then shouldn’t the crusading heroes at least THINK about the ‘least bad’ choice? By interfering in ‘unethical’ but essential trials, they might be delaying the production of the vaccine, making them responsible for a million deaths. When they think, in their goody-goody small-picture worldview, that they’re ‘doing the right thing’.

I’m not claiming it’s right for corporations to act as a law unto themselves. All I’m saying is there may be cases where harassing protesters and covering things up may be ‘ethical’ – if you take the ‘big picture’ view. Perhaps even to the point of bumping them off, as happens in the film.

The world’s too full of little thinkers – people who go for the smug self-satisfaction of the quick win without considering its less personal but far greater global effects. There aren’t enough ‘big picture’ people around who are prepared to take difficult decisions that are for the greater good. And I’m on the side of the big picture.

Pharma companies wishing to offer me a board post can do so through my website 🙂

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