Some lives are cheaper than others
The profits of industry are more important than the welfare of people. An editorial in this issue deals with a multi-pronged campaign by drug manufacturers of the West, backed by their governments, to expand the purview of intellectual property rights. The people of the developing world are resisting these attempts that threaten thousands of lives of present and future sufferers of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cancer, and other killer diseases. In the continuing saga of the Bhopal tragedy, a comment exposes the downplaying of the deaths and injuries by the Government of India to help Union Carbide and Dow Chemical get away cheaply from their civil liability for the ongoing disaster. The low value placed on Indian lives is repeated in the arena of clinical trials, with reports coming in of deaths of mainly poor participants in this burgeoning sector. An editorial examines the draft provisions for compensation to clinical trial participants in case of injury or death. An article examines informed consent documents in research. Another reports on a survey of medical students’ awareness of medical ethics, and their views on equity in the doctor-patient communication. The tragedy of the worsening child sex ratio, at a new low of 914 girls per 1,000 boys, underscores the lack of value we place on life. Our girl children are smoothly disposed of using modern technology. A comment studies this trend at national and regional levels. Ultimately, only alertness and public debate can prevent wrongdoing and promote peoples’ welfare, in healthcare or any other field. One of our authors comments on the victory declared in the war against polio. Another examines the outlook reflected in the report of the US presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues. Mental health professionals focus on proposed
amendments to the law, advising caution and constructive discussion before the adoption of innovations like psychiatric advance directives. Finally, to lighten the gloom we have a whodunit in homage to Agatha Christie.
Cover: Original painting ‘Life Forms’ by kind courtesy of the artist, Dr Raman Kutty