Congratulations to Matthew McConaughey for winning the best actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club! The film and his fine performance highlight a simple, fundamental moral principle that is being lost in America: It’s your life.
The film centers on a man who is diagnosed with AIDS and who is looking for ways to save his own life. The medical treatments offered him don’t look good, so he begins to research other pharmaceutical options. But in a conversation with a health care provider he’s told that those alternatives are not approved by the FDA. He responds that very soon he will be DOA.
The story then focuses on his attempts to get around government regulations so he and others afflicted with AIDS can take their fates into their own hands and have a fighting chance to live rather than to passively lie down and die.
The Food and Drug Administration is charged with certifying the safety and efficacy of drugs and medical devices. But while a company can rather quickly confirm the safety of products, government standards for proving effiicacy add years and millions of dollars to the approval process. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans suffer for want of those products and thousands die whose lives might have been saved with quicker access to medicines that are often available in other industrialized countries.
Further, in recent decades the FDA has interpreted “efficacy” in ways that bear no relationship to actually protecting individuals from ineffective products. For example, it recently barred the company 23andMe from offering individuals genetic testing concerning their propensity for certain illness not because of problems with the testing. Rather, the agency argued that individuals are too stupid to know what actions they should take to ensure their own health based on test results.
This brings us to the principle so well dramatized in Dallas Buyers Club. Your life belongs to you . It’s yours. It does not belong to the government or some collection of federal bureaucrats. You should not need their permission or anyone’s to act as you see fit to preserve your life.
Yes, there are quack treatments being peddled by the stupid and the malicious. The classic example is the archetypical snake oil salesman who travels from town to town selling a magic potion while a shill in the audience hypes the false benefits of the wonder elixir.
But ultimately, choices about our lives and wellbeing must be made by us as individuals in open markets for both products and information. Of course, we best ensure our survival and happiness by making our choices based on reason and by cultivating in ourselves sound intellectual habits and independent judgment. Yet these are virtues that we will not acquire if we allow power-hungry government regulators to run our lives!
Aaron Day is CEO of The Atlas Society and founder of Tangerine Wellness.
Edward Hudgins, “ FDA Stopping The Genetics Revolution .” December 11, 2013.