It is probably true that corporate America has become substantially more concerned with consumer health and safety over the past half century. It is also undeniable that personal injury attorneys and the exponential growth of law firms which specialize in class actions, not to mention the growing army of entrepreneurial ambulance chasers, have combined to force producers, sellers, and operators to insulate themselves from any real or imagined potential liability.
There is no industry where this is more evident than with drug companies, who today spend 10 seconds extolling virtues of their wildly overpriced products, and 50 seconds warning of every conceivable side effect possible in achieving a cure.
Until recently was ignorant of RLS - restless leg syndrome. It must be a fairly widespread problem, as the makers of Mirapex have been flooding the airwaves with a barrage of TV spots which explain the symptoms of RLS and promise immediate relief. They then detail a laundry list of side effects and warnings from the routine dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, to liver, heart, and respiratory problems. They suggest no alcohol and conclude with instructions to contact a physician if experiencing unnatural urges for sexual activity or gambling.
All ED remedies warn against priapism, so there must be a significant number of users who experience erections lasting more than four hours-a problem for some, an opportunity for others.
It transcends believability, however, that a large enough test could be done on enough people seeking a cure for RLS to reveal a direct correlation to compulsive gambling. Never thought it was possible to define an unnatural urge for sex beyond deviant or criminal activity. As in America one can sue anyone for anything, there are no doubt lawyers eager to go after the maker of Mirapex on behalf of assorted sex fiends and compulsive gamblers.
After 100 years of fighting the facts, tobacco companies now print on their packages that their products cause cancer and death. This has done little to inhibit the nicotine addicted user and nothing to lessen the volume or awards in tobacco litigation.
Medical malpractice insurance is any physician’s largest expense. By definition, people who cut, probe, and suture, no matter how skilled or competent make errors which can potentially hurt those they are trying to help. Any surgery requires reams of patient signed waivers, hold harmless agreements, and an encyclopedia of dire consequences which should protect the Doctor if the process goes awry. It doesn’t.
As we all ultimately die of heart failure I believe all human activity from eating, drinking, fornicating, running, driving, arguing, flying, swimming, masturbating, protesting, cycling, exercising, and even praying has the potential to trigger a cardiac malfunction.
For six years I, along with millions of others, benefited from a remarkable little pill, Vioxx - which taken once a day significantly reduces lower back pain, and in my case pain from arthritic shoulders. It was the largest and most profitable part of Merck’s business for over a decade. It was subsequently discovered that a very few Vioxx users who suffered from pre-existing heart problems may have been adversely affected by the drug. It was removed from the market and the company teetered on the brink of insolvency as a result of massive legal action.
Car companies recall millions of vehicles because a defect might cause a single accident. Perhaps we should hold the car companies responsible for all high speed traffic fatalities because they make cars which will go considerably faster than the law allows. As obesity affects 30% of the population in Mississippi, legislation was recently introduced making it a crime for restaurants to serve the fat.
Industry invests as much, or more, time and effort in anticipating and defining side effects then in enhancing the intended performance of their product. Reduce cholesterol, create liver problems; light a candle, set fire to your home; throw a pool party, drown a neighbor’s kid. Only in America are there thousands of successful lawsuits brought by people who slip and fall on wet or icy walks and driveways. While the plaintiff ultimately lost on appeal, a jury did award millions to a McDonald’s customer who got burned on what was alleged to be too hot coffee.
While there clearly must be consumer remedies for negligence and incompetence on the providers of goods and services, it’s a real stretch to try and hold the food companies, let alone restaurants, responsible for obesity, or the spirit makers for addiction. One chip, nut, piece of pizza, candy, cake, ounce of liquor, bottle of Coke have virtually no negative side effects.
If, however, the average man attempts to emulate the great Kobayashi and ingest 60 plus Nathan’s foot long dogs in 10 minutes, death is not out of the question.
Is it really necessary to warn non-swimmers that if they jump off the dock they may drown, that battery acid doesn’t work as bubble bath, and kissing king cobras is a zero sum game?
Should soup makers warn a spill may not only burn your privates but stain your pants? Should olive oil contain a warning that if one drinks the entire bottle it might be fatal?
All people who operate machines, be they cars, trucks, trains, planes, cranes Ferris wheels, ski lifts, roller coasters or ships at sea, have the potential to make errors in judgment, or encounter situations impossible to anticipate. All machines no matter how carefully constructed sometimes fail.
For everything we ingest, no matter how healthy and wholesome, there is someone, somewhere, who will experience an allergic reaction. Too much of almost anything can be fatal.
Perhaps as we age and enter the Flomax, Cialis, Lipitor, Celebrex, Mirapex arena, and become acutely aware of walkers, Amigos, and life alert devises, the obsession to avoid the ultimate side effect becomes all consuming.