Through A Narrow Chink An Ethical Dilemma

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Through A Narrow Chink: An Ethical Dilemma Essay, Research Paper Through A Narrow Chink: An Ethical Dilemma by Pablo Baez Chemistry 104 Prof. Holme In 1951 Carl Djerassi, with the Mexican pharmaceutical company Syntex, developed the first oral contraceptive by synthesizing and altering the natural hormone Progesterone into a superpotent, highly effective oral progestational hormone called “norethindrone”. Admittedly, the dynamics and importance of this find were astounding, since before this the only means of contraception was abortion, and even that was not legalized at the time. The race to produce this synthetic agent was highly competitive, being sought after by many pharmaceuticals throughout the world, and for a small fledgling company in Mexico of all places to

find it first only added to the excitement of the achievement. Yet aside from all this excitement and competitive fervor something great and disturbing was being bypassed. Science, in my view had done something great without looking into the possibilities of where this would lead. I believe Djerassi, similar to most scientists of his day, was so entranced by the excitement of synthesizing his product and achieving his goal that he did not stop to think of the ramifications of his accomplishment. The ethical dilemma was not explored before hand, and this to me is the great tragedy of most scientific discovery, since I firmly believe each scientist is responsible for that which he creates. Djerassi does confront a few questions of ethics and morality after the fact. On page 61, in

chapter 6, he reflects on the argument of the use of poor Mexican and Puertorrican women for preliminary experiments. Is this just another manifestation of exploitation of the poor? Djerassi says absolutely not. Yes, the poor our the initial guinea pigs for research but this is no different from what dentists, barbers, and young surgeons do. All of these groups use the poor to hone their skills, not because of the poor women’s ignorance but because middle class, suburbanite, white women are unlikely to volunteer their services for the sake of science. My main problem with this is that he claims they will not “volunteer” their services. Of course not, they are aware of the possible detrimental effects of such experimentation. This is obviously because they are probably more

highly educated the poor Hispanic women. Poverty often precludes a lack of good schooling and education. Thus the awareness of such a group to scientific studies will most likely be much lower. They probably knew nothing of scientific research at all, let alone how to read a consent form that leaves them without legal recourse. Djerassi mentions this as well, the idea that he can not offer them consent forms because they can’t read. That seems preposterous to me! If he can not inform his patients of the possible side effects then what chance do they have at justice if some carelessly administered drug causes them harm? Coming back to his original argument, he claimed suburbanites were not likely to volunteer their services for the sake of scientific study, but I dare argue the

poor women most likely did not volunteer but were asked. Did he ask the suburbanites? I highly doubt it was even proposed. In chapter 9 Djerassi addresses another question he was often confronted with. “How do you feel about the social outcome of the work?”. He answered this with a shrug of his shoulders and a simple, “I couldn’t have changed things”. Again, I am disturbed by the flippant manner of his response. Yes, he acknowledged the impact the Pill had on the sexual revolution, but fails to see beyond what has already occurred, claiming powerlessness against the pace of science. Let me say that he is most likely partially correct. There is very little to be done when science determines to do something and the race begins toward that goal. But to claim oneself unable