The United States is recognized as a global leader in medical innovation. Yet, are we confined by more than technological limitations? What if a larger force determines our fate? The ominous and greedy “corporation” seems to fit the bill. Is human health to be sacrificed for corporate power? In Oryx and Crake, HelthWyzer’s manipulation of the medical market does just that. Perhaps we are not too far behind. Perhaps we already there.
I think corporate monopolies over the medical market manipulate the public sphere and sacrifice public health. The first example that comes to mind is the Anthrax antibiotic debacle that surfaced in 2001 amidst the 9/11 chaos. Bayer held a monopoly over the drug yet was unable to produce a sufficient supply in such short notice. What if Anthrax did run rampant throughout the US? Would Bayer sacrifice thousands of lives for monetary gain? Where can we draw the ethical line and firmly place the public’s well being above greed driven monetary struggles?
Paranoia and distrust raise further questions. What if a simple cure or vaccine for certain cancers does exist but medical corporations fear the financial loss of unneeded and outdated treatment options like radiation and chemotherapy? Maybe manipulating cures for cancer is too extreme. However, the idea raises questions about medical morality and ethics.
The fictional HelthWyzer scandal appears to mimic reality. Regardless of previous paranoia, disease mongering does exist. Medical technology companies and pharmaceutical giants are in the business for profit. We are always learning about diseases we never thought existed. I am thinking of those medical commercials that list symptoms to an abstract sickness. As the list continues you begin to think, why yes, I am always tired. Yes, I am sometimes restless…am I depressed? Do I need Medication X? Howard Wolinksy writes, “the routine human condition—unhappiness, bone thinning, stomach aches and boredom—is increasingly being re-defined as disease: depression in its milder forms, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome and attention deficit disorder”. People who once thought they were healthy are now first in line at the pharmacy.
While we are undeniably lucky to have such advanced medical technologies and innovations, I cannot help but second guess the integrity of these big industries.