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The Invincibles
04-24-2006
by Randall C. Willis  |  Email the author
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When we were kids, we were invincible—or so we thought. We would climb any tree, jump off any roof, crawl through any space without the slightest concept of the risks we took. As we got older, however, we became a little more cautious, more aware of the hazards around us. Playful gambols were exchanged for careful steps. But no matter how old we get, no matter how cautious, there is always that little part of us that is still wants to let loose and become foolhardy.
 
The last century has seen some amazing achievements in the world of medicine. Nowhere is this truer than in the pharmaceutical industry, where one drug after another has extended human lives and renewed our sense of invulnerability. But there lies the rub. For in providing us with good health in short order, these same drugs may be causing us to lower our guard.
 
I love spicy food. I mean I absolutely love spicy food. But as I get older, my body no longer reacts as well to spice as it once did. Luckily, happiness is an antacid away, and I can enjoy all the spicy food I want.
 
Similarly, I have a family member with serious cardiac disease. Luckily for him, his skilled physicians and their arsenal of pharmaceuticals mean that my relative doesn't have to give up the alcohol and cigarettes that are dearer to him than life itself.
 
A little discomfort? Medicate!
 
Pulse racing? Medicate!
 
A late night in the bar? Medicate!
 
All this to say that in an era of rapid biomedical development and the marketing of miracle panaceas, I worry that we are dulling the effectiveness of the "common sense" gene. Why take care of yourself when modern medicine will do it for you? We really need to ask ourselves if we're not inadvertently building an industry around irrational and unhealthy behavior. Perhaps it is hyperbole on my part, but cure someone, and they don't need you anymore; keep them on life support, and they're yours forever.
 
I am not advocating that we limit medicines to the healthy or those who make an effort to take care of themselves, but I am wondering if we shouldn't perhaps modify the dosing instructions of these wonder drugs. Perhaps the labels should read: "Must be taken with steamed broccoli and cauliflower." Or: "Take twice a day with four glasses of water and a two-mile walk outside in the sunshine."
 
Just a thought.

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