In the The Constant Gardener movie, a global pharmaceutical company is conducting experimental drug testing on unsuspecting, poverty stricken Africans (Kenyans in particular). The pharmaceutical company is conducting tests for a new tuberculosis drug called Dypraxa. Breach of medical ethics in using human subjects for the drug trials is fuelled by high level of corruption between Kenyan government officials and the pharmaceutical company executives. In the movie, Tessa is a political activist who does medical outreach work in Kibera, the largest slum in Sub- Saharan Africa. While in hospital, pregnant Tessa befriends a girl whose health is deteriorating courtesy of being a human subject in the drug trials. After being released from hospital, Tessa starts to investigate the study being done on the Africans with regard to the new tuberculosis drug. Tessa is raped and murdered after she starts to investigate what she suspects is a dangerous drug study that has potential cause death. After Tessas death, Justin, Tessas boyfriend becomes interested in Tessas drug trials investigations. Justin is murdered in the course of his investigations. Some human subjects die during the drug trials (Meirelles et al., 2006).
Shah asserts that it is morally wrong for large pharmaceutical companies to conduct most of their drug trials in developing counties. Shah asserts that pharmaceutical companies are successfully conducting their drug trials in developing countries because sick people in those countries are abundant, desperate and trust medical professionals. The aforementioned traits exhibited by sick people in developing countries make them ideal human subjects for pharmaceutical companies drug trials. Shah states that one executive involved in carrying out drug trials in Asia once said that sick people in developing countries are more than willing to be subjects in experimental drug studies because they are sick and highly trust medical professionals (Shah, 2005).
Kants theory states that morality should be the supreme principle that guides human actions and behavior (Sullivan, 1989). Is it morally right to conduct drug trials on unsuspecting, desperate human subjects at the expense of human dignity? The answers is no! Irrespective of the fact that the subjects are desperate, poverty stricken and most of them illiterate; they should be treated with respect. Why dont pharmaceutical companies from developed countries conduct most of their drug trials in their countries of origin? This is because citizens of developed countries are seen to be superior to those of developing countries. Citizens of developed countries are more educated, informed and are less likely to take part in suspicious drug trials and medical research. Citizens of developed countries are less likely to be manipulated into taking part in suspicious drug trials. Given the difficulties associated with using citizens of developed countries as human subjects for drug trials and medical research, most pharmaceutical companies have made a footing in developing countries using human beings who can easily be manipulated in their research. Kants theory states that use of this unsuspecting and easy to manipulate human subjects is morally wrong irrespective of the positive results that may come from the drug trials. Kants theory asks the question if individuals who are conducting the drug trials will be comfortable if they swapped positions with the human subjects. Individuals conducting the drug trials will never want to take the position of unsuspecting human subjects. Why? Because they know the dangers involved with being human subjects for the drug trials. Individuals conducting the drug trials know the potential health risks of being human subjects for drug trials. Kant would ask- why then expose another human being to health risks that you are afraid of? Kants theory asserts that human actions should respect human dignity rather than using human beings to meet certain purposes. In The Constant Gardener movie, the dignity of human beings being used as subjects for drug trials is not respected. Shah states that most human subjects used in drug trials are often misinformed. Misinforming human subjects is a breach of ethical guidelines and principles with regard to medical research. Astonishingly, despite the fact that many drug trials are being done in developing countries, citizens of developing countries rarely enjoy benefits that come from those studies. Most of the drugs are often irrelevant to developing countries citizens because they are meant to address developed countries health problems. Prices of those drugs are also often expensive and out of reach to most developing countries citizens.
Utilitarian theory would argue that there is no problem in conducting drug trials that pose health risks to unsuspecting human subjects from developing countries as long as it leads to improvement of global health status. Utilitarian theory suggests that as long as a course of action produces maximum benefits for the general population, there is no problem in using manipulation or lies to achieve that objective (Sheng & Ginsberg, 1998). Utilitarianism is in agreement with the pharmaceutical companies conducting drug trials on human subjects from developing countries. Utilitarianism encourages use of manipulation and lies in conducting the drug trials. A subscriber of utilitarianism school of thought would argue that the drug trials will in the long run improve health of humanity and therefore, there is no problem of sacrificing some human lives for the greater good of humanity.
Meirelles, F., Channing-Williams, S., Caine, J., Fiennes, R., Weisz, R., Postlethwaite, P., Kounde, H., ... Universal Studios Home Entertainment (Firm). (2006). The constant gardener. Universal City, Calif: Focus Features.
Shah, S. (2005). The Constant Gardener': What the Movie Missed. The Nation. Retrieved on November 15, 2016 from https://www.thenation.com/article/constant-gardener-what-movie-missed/Sheng, C. L., & Ginsberg, R. (1998). Utilitarian general theory of value. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Editions Rodopi BV.
Sullivan, R. J. (1989). Immanuel Kant's moral theory. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press.
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