Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Ethical Drinking Game

Doctor Viagrossi and Senator Novote are two men who have built reputable careers that make their mothers proud, but they turn to Drink if they cannot resolve all the ethical dilemmas that arise in Medicine and Law.

Now, these two high-strung brothers-in-law are eating dinner at a local pub in Hell’s Kitchen while their wives are at The Ballet and the kids are with The Sitter. The men engage in one of their favorite drinking games: they have a talk about some work-related issue that arose that day, and for every ethical dilemma they face and fail to overcome, they agree to take one sip of drink.

“Darkface, my sly man at the Justice Department, told me all about the simulated drowning, head-slapping, and frozen temperatures, but I’ll be damned if I’m taking what I know to the press.” Senator Novote turns the tumbler around on a coaster. “I’m sticking to the official line: the US does not endorse torture.” The good Senator sips his Scotch.

“Today, I refused to sign medical exemptions for parents who felt religiously and philosophically opposed to vaccinating their children. You know, the US is the only country in the world that does not allow parents an informed choice in the matter of how and when to vaccinate their children? Parents have no choice about which vaccinations to give children and which not to give? Still, I am loath to break the law and sign risky medical exemptions. What about my reputation?” The good doctor sips his beer.

“Torture is one thing, and vaccination a completely different thing all together. Mandating certain vaccines before a child can enter school does not qualify as torture.” The Senator thinks the Doctor’s dilemma does not qualify as ethically volatile. “Of course kids need vaccines.”

“There’s no scientific proof they work. It’s all a ruse cooked up by the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. Parents are coerced into vaccinating their children!”

“So. That’s not torture!”

“Perhaps not. But how do you know that the ingredients in certain vaccines are not torturing your child’s immune system or neurological development in the same way a detainee is tortured through waterboarding at the prison in Guantanamo?” The Senator is not sure he understands the Doctor’s analogy, but the Doctor continues growing more passionate, “…vaccines are administered recklessly and have adverse effects that we may not be aware of.”

“What kind of recklessness and adverse effects are you talking about?”

“For instance, the state of New York requires newborn babes to receive the vaccination for Hepatitis B.”

“Well? There must be some scientifically sound reason for it.”

“Nope. Think of this. How does a person acquire the Hepatitis B virus?”

“It’s transmitted through blood…?”

“Here’s how a person gets the Hepatitis B virus: Intravenous drug use. Tattooing. Sex with someone who is infected. Contact with blood of someone who has the virus, particularly among health care professionals.”

“Hmm. Yeah? So?”

“When Tessa and Sylvester were newborns, did they engage in any of those activities?”

“Hah! I see your point.”

“You know the ingredients in the Hepatitis B vaccination?”

“Can’t say I do.”

“Aluminum hydroxide, Thimerosal, yeast. And according to a 2006 physicians desk reference of studies compiled by a former FDA investigator, the ingredient Thimerosal is a ‘recognized developmental toxicant.’ You should see what it does to lab animals.”


“Makes them have small brains and small penises.”

“This is just a load of alarmist crock.” The Senator wants to win this drinking game, but he feels himself on shaky ground. How can he top complicity in the epidemic of shrinking heads and dicks? “Capitalizing on the public’s fear of terror and authorizing secret torture is more worrisome than whatever little damage some chemicals might do to a kid. People are living longer than ever these days. It does no harm to require immunization for school children. It’s the law. Not signing those exemptions, you were just biding by The Law. The Bush administration is acting as though it is above the law.” He knocks back the last drops of his Scotch and waves to the barmaid. Another round.

“Alarmist crock? Well, if terrorists don’t get us first then the next generation of leaders may be autistic, asthmatic, allergic, and ADHD. Future presidential candidates will campaign on issues of whose neurological development is most stunted. Hey, maybe we’ll find a way to turn it into sport.”

When the waitress comes, the doctor orders something much stronger: Vodka, neat. He has a strong feeling he will be out-drinking his brother-in-law tonight.


kathleenmaher said...

I can't remember when I read dialog that both moved this well and actually broached outside issues. At the same time, I'm thoroughly convinced these guys are drunk.

Linda said...

Great story told well and with verve... touched on an issue I'm pretty passionate about - forced medication. Enjoyed your site... I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

Liked the story. Check out some of the stories on Bronsonius Rex and give me some feedback.

Margo Moon said...

You should have heard my inner narrator getting louder with each ramp-up of the exchange.