Harvest v. Humanity: Can We Move Past the Desire for Profit? In the development of drugs and scientific ways to improve the lives of the general public there is the constant struggle in society to make money, grow companies and make new products to stay competitive in a growing field. What isn’t often considered, however, is how companies stay on top of their competition and whether their motives involve helping people, or making money.
In Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood highlights this ethical issue through the lives of characters directly involved in this business to show that companies both in he novel and in todays society use poor and desperate people to further their businesses and turn a profit. Atwood’s novel focuses on a community dominated by bio engineering and genetic sciences in a time where restrictions on what companies could do with technology are limited.
The main character Jimmy and the important figures in his life (his parents, Crake, Oryx, etc) live in a society where their comfortable lifestyles are only possible through the revenue they make off of the biomedicine developments they make. Atwood uses the desires of people like Jimmy who live in the engineering compounds, and the desperate onditions of the poor inhabitants in the slums, known as the pleeblands. At the end of the novel, Atwood creates a catastrophic apocalypse stemming directly from a disease created by a company distributed to the plebes, who were eager to receive what they thought was a life changing medicine.
Atwood uses this to illustrate issues that are prevalent in modern society. In both modern times and in Atwood’s novel the upper-class takes advantage of the lower-class’ desperation for a better lifestyle to make a profit and continue to live their lives comfortably at the expense of others. Atwood uses the way companies in the ovel manipulate and take advantage of the lower-class to draw a parallel to todays society. In the novel the first example shown of economic manipulation is through an argument Jimmy s parents have over the ethics of the recent breakthrough in drug advancements.
In this excerpt, Jimmy’s father comes home celebrating advancements in genetic engineering at his company, but his mother refuses to celebrate as she sees this as “yet another way to rip off a bunch of desperate people. “(Atwood 26) As the argument progresses Jimmys father maintains the argument that the new technology being created gives people hope a. Jimmy’s mother relays that it gives hope “At NooSkins’ prices it is. You hype your wares and take all their money and then they run out of cash, and it’s no more treatments for them. They can rot as far as you and your pals are concerned… make] life better for people – not just people with money” (26). In this passage Atwood uses JimmVs parents and the false hope companies’ products like “NooSkins” give to represent companies and people, profit and generosity and the struggle between making money and helping others. This reveals an issue that concerns not only the characters in the novel, but also people today. The way companies rip off “a bunch of desperate people” is seen today with businesses that take their drugs overseas to take advantage of desperate people in need of a miracle, and instead test their products on them for half the cost and little consequence.
In an article called “Drug Testing Goes Offshore” in Fortune Magazine, Abrahm Lustgarten states that “nearly 40% of all clinical trials are now conducted in poorer countries such as Russia and India, where costs are lower and patients more vulnerable. “(Fortune) This parallels the disparity shown in the novel where Jimmy s father and the company he orks for uses the poorer people in the “pleeblands” to test their products on to do the same principles of low cost and vulnerability.
Additionally the article reveals that “The very business model that summons drug companies to those places also risks exploiting the vulnerability of foreign patients”they are eager to sign up because they lack a viable alternative and tend to have blind faith in medicine,” (Fortune) showing how truly desperate the patients are and easily companies in both the novel and todays society are able to take advantage of that as a business opportunity rather than a chance to help others.
The article also shows how the companies make individual profit by explaining that “trials investigators in Russia can make ten times his salary by recruiting his patients into studies,” (Fortune) and also tells how “Patients in St. Petersburg told stories about bribing doctors, passing on a few dollars to ensure they would get a repeat visit or admission to a clinic” (Fortune). Atwood uses products like “NooSkins” and the arguments Jimmys parents make to represent the same involvement companies in modern society use the same form of manipulation to make money instead of helping the people they deceive to grow financially.
Atwood also shows another side to the companys forms of manipulation through a controversial statement Jimmy’s friend Crake makes about how companies are always able to create new drugs for a seemingly increasing amount of new diseases. In this passages Jimmy asks “But don’t they keep discovering new diseases? “(Atwood 126) In which Crake replies “Not discovering, they’re creating them… [they insert] a hostile bioform started in the pleeb population… and] it more or less runs itself. Naturally they develop the antidotes at the same time as they’re customizing the bugs, but they hold those in reserve, hey practice the economics of scarcity, so they’re guaranteed high profits” (Atwood 126). This radical business concept mirrors the same tactics of manipulation seen previously with deception of the “pleebs” and the immediate advantage taken in finding a way to make money off of them.
But even in the novel this concept seems to manipulative and far-fetched to be believable, or relatable to modern society. However the concept of “disease mongering’ or the creation of diseases to convince people to buy products to cure them is more prevalent in society than expected. In the British Journal of Nursing and article alled “Marketing disease: is osteoporosis an example of ‘disease mongering’? ” this concept is explored in a disease that is more or less excepted as an accurate condition that people need drugs for.
In the article it explains that: “Osteoporosis is often described as a disease, yet the symptoms are imperceptible and reliable diagnostic criteria have not been formulated the manufacture of ‘lifestyle’ drugs has been costly without significant improvement in mortality or morbidity. The influence of the medical profession and large drug manufacturers is [and] the manufacture of illness is [shows] there may be ignificant risks attached to treating non-existent diseases” (BJN).
This shows that not are there diseases that are believed to be problematic and prevalent, but that companies are in fact making them up and furthermore using them to make money by selling treatments that could even be harmful to the consumer. This was shown as the case with “hormone replacement therapy, which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of women,” (BJN) revealing that as long as there are people desperate enough to seek relief to their ailments, companies will take advantage of that for personal gain whether it leads to hurting people nd in this previous case, even death.
Here Atwood shows that the evil and deceitful actions taken by the fictional characters in the novel share a striking parallel with the companies in todays drug market. Although it is easy to take away from these examples that there are manipulative people in todays society as well as in Atwood’s novel, Atwood encourages that a further step is taken with this. These examples of disparity in the ethics of drug companies not only reflects the looming threat of big scary companies always out to get people, but reflects how as a population, people are eady to throw themselves at whatever drug comes their way as their miracle.
Atwood pushes the realization that people aren’t safe just because theyre not impoverished or seeking free medical care, but that even the wealthy and the everyday individual in modern society are vulnerable to this manipulation. It is unfortunate that today the dream of living a life with good health and medical protection for families is used to support an already wealthy society that continues to flourish while the poor are left to depravity.
Although companies use the lure of low prices and free trials to continue their lives of leisure, the ictims pay an even larger price than anticipated. A shown in the novel and the articles, many pay with being worse off than before and even death. The price people pay for these “miracle pills” and a chance to enjoy a better way of life can’t be valued, however companies still make a profit off of the hardships of the destitute and despairing.