In light of the upcoming field trip to go see the film “Side Effects” as a class, I decided to look up a plot summary. I mean, I vaguely knew what it was about, there’s a woman who gets prescribed some psychotherapeutic medications, Channing Tatum is her husband, there’s a murder somewhere along the line, but most of the details are kept under wraps. In the plot summary I found, I discovered that the main character, Emily, is prescribed a new drugs designed to treat anxiety that ends up having some very serious, very unexpected side effects. We’ve talked so much in class about the scary ethical dilemmas that we expect to face in the future (mostly about a future race of super humans genetically engineered to be “perfect”), but I feel that we are often forgetting about the scary ethical dilemmas we’re facing right now. I think that “Side Effects” serves as an excellent example of some current concerns.
For example, how many times have you been enjoying some down time watching bad television when a commercial comes on describing the newest drug on the market that ends with a list of potential side effects a mile long? Yes, reducing hypertension or preventing pregnancy is great, but maybe not when taking the drug also runs the risk of developing dangerous blood clots or having a heart attack. Is it truly ethical to prescribe these drugs to patients when we know the risks? Furthermore, many drug side effects don’t appear until the person have been on the drug for months, so it is a very real possibility for unexpected complications to arise, especially if the individual is on other medications at the same time.
Bringing the topic back to neuroscience, since every individual’s connectome is unique, it’s possible that we may never be 100% accurate in predicting how a drug will interact with their brain. Is it ethical, then, to prescribe a person a certain drug when we can’t be certain it will solve the problem, especially when the drug comes with the risk of serious side effects?