Is Erasing Horror Immoral?

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Research on using the anti-hypertension drug propranolol to lessen the emotional effects of bad memories increasingy looks like it might just work. This is not an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind scenario; the actual memories are not erased. The drug basically lowers the emotional wallop that memories of horrors like murders, rapes, car accidents, war wounds, and so forth carry.

Some bioethicists, like the former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, Leon Kass, are wary of using such drugs. Kass acknowledged, "The impulse is to help people to not fall apart. You don't want to condemn that." However, Kass added, "But that you would treat these things with equanimity, the horrible things of the world, so that they don't disturb you … you'd cease to be a human being." He further warned, "It's the morning-after pill for just about anything that produces regret, remorse, pain, or guilt."

As the AP story reports,

Some critics suggest that rape victims would be less able to testify against attackers if their memories were blunted, or at least that defense attorneys would argue that.

"Medical concerns trump legal concerns. I wouldn't withhold an effective treatment from somebody because of the possibility they may have to go to court a year later and their testimony be challenged. We wouldn't do that in any other area of medicine," [Harvard psychiatric research Roger] Pitman said. "The important thing to know about this drug is it doesn't put a hole in their memory. It doesn't create amnesia."

Pitman's point that we don't oblige stabbing victims to go to court with their gashes still bleeding, so why should we require rape victims to go to court with their psychic wounds untreated, seems reasonable to me. To hold perpetrators responsible, people should remember horror, but they shouldn't have to suffer for it forever if they choose not to.

NEXT: Spirit of the Law

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  1. Eh, the choice issue does trump all - if people want to drug their problems away, they have that right (or they ought to). But I don't think the knife wound/psychotrauma analogy holds water. I don't want to get into an argument about the relative efficacies of the various kinds of treatments but I *do* think there are better ways to treat psychological issues than essentially whitewashing the memories with the aid of psychotropics. Personally I'm a "time heals all wounds" kind of guy, and while I can't ever claim to have experienced a rape, I've had my share of scare.

  2. To hold perpetrators responsible, people should remember horror, but they shouldn't have to suffer for it forever if they choose not to.

    I agree with this, provided the drug truly doesn't "blunt the memories" to the point where events of the attack can not be remembered. My problem with this drug is motivation. Continuing with the rape scenario, when you are raped you feel moral outrage at the event and want to "get justice". What if the drug removes that emotional powerhouse to the point where the victim says, "Eh, it doesn't bother me now, so why worry about it."

    That or I am wrong.

  3. Since the state cannot force rape victims to testify in the first place, why should it have the power to force them to keep their memories intact so they can testify more credibly?

  4. I don't have any problem with this in general. The referenced article does a pretty godd job discussing the issue, but there are still a couple of interesting points. There is a lot of talk about soldiers returning from Iraq, and I guess you check your rights at the door when you join up, but having Uncle Sam force these types of drugs on soldiers doesn't sit right with me.

    Also, it seems the drug must be administered while the memory is still "hardening". I should think that during that window a trauma victim is unlikely to be able to rationally evaluate treatment, leading a concerned and well-intentioned doctor to convince a patient to take the pills when perhaps they don't want to.

    Of course, these aren't objections to the treatment itself and instead of worrying about possible legal and philosophical quandries we should more properly be worried about practical application.

  5. You could call it the day after the wedding pill.

  6. I think the more interesting possibility lies in the opposite of this treatment.

    "It's amazing how a traumatic memory can remain very much alive. It doesn't behave like a regular memory. The memory doesn't decay," Brunet said.

    It would seem that we might be able harness stress hormones for the purpose of positive memory retention.

  7. Some of the arguments against this seem to be variations of "suffering builds character". Do these same people object to the use of painkillers during recovery from dental surgery? This is also a pain that you could bear, but why should you have to? If you have your wisdom teeth removed, and use vicodin to manage the pain, do you "cease to be a human being"?

  8. "It's the morning-after pill for just about anything that produces regret, remorse, pain, or guilt."

    Kass continues to demonstrate himself as someone who should fall down some stairs, break both his legs, and then find absolutely no one willing to set the bones.

    This is for trauma and he brings up guilt, regret, and remorse. What, rape victims and kids who see their parents horribly killed in car accidents just aren't feeling enough, uh guilt? Is that "bioethics"?

  9. Qbryzan, physical and mental suffering are two different animals. I would not try to stop someone from taking these drugs if they wanted to, but I'm getting a queasy "Brave New World" feeling from all of this.

  10. Qbryzan:

    It's more complex than that. For example, would Elie Wiesel have been so dogged in his pursuit of death camp doktors if the emotional trauma from his experiences in the Holocaust had been eliminated or dampened?

    I was almost killed in a head-on collision some 20 years ago. Because it happened on a snowy day, I was terrified of driving in the snow, and for years afterwards whenever the weather turned bad I became an extremely cautious driver because of the traumatic memories. In short, they probably saved my life by forcing me to drive more responsibly in the snow.

    Just because something hurts doesn't mean it's bad for you.

  11. physical and mental suffering are two different animals.

    Sure, but if you start defining humanity by your ability to feel pain, I think those differences become much less important.

    I would not try to stop someone from taking these drugs if they wanted to, but I'm getting a queasy "Brave New World" feeling from all of this.

    I can see where you could be concerned, but as long as this is voluntary, I see no reason to stand in the way of someone who wants to use this.

  12. I'm getting a queasy "Brave New World" feeling from all of this

    Keep in mind that according to Kass, queasy feelings are are an important way to assess morality. (And those darn shameless orphans.)

  13. "But that you would treat these things with equanimity, the horrible things of the world, so that they don't disturb you ... you'd cease to be a human being."

    Not that I would surmise to know firsthand what a rape or some other similar event feels like to undergo, but, Kass seems to be making some leaps here. First, if enduring post-traumatic stress disorder makes one human, then I guess I'm a goddamned robot. Second, as Qbryzan noted, taking pain medication for physical pain doesn't make you less human...and blunting the emotional pain of trauma should be no different. Indeed, after seeing some folks with PTSD, war vets, etc....if THAT is humanity defined, well, that's pretty damned terrifying. One could make the argument that some of those people who are emotionally scarred are pretty far from human, not the other way 'round.

  14. Just because something hurts doesn't mean it's bad for you.

    This is an excellent point. But, shouldn't I be the one to decide whether I should have to hurt?

  15. Just because something hurts doesn't mean it's bad for you.

    And it doesn't mean it's good for you, either.

  16. I think we're feeling the squirrely wrath of the server.

    Maybe if we only had drugs that could ease their trauma-fed rage...

  17. It already is widely used to treat high blood pressure and is being tested for stage fright.

    Being tested? News flash- it's been used for this for decades already. That's a great little drug.

    My wife had a doctor that told her surgeons sometimes take it to keep their hands from shaking if they get nervous.

  18. If you know anyone who has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you can see how there is no downside to this treatment.

    The key is that traumatic memories are not accessed or experienced like normal memories. Normal memories are like books that you pull down off the shelf and can browse for details.

    Traumatic memories can be pulled off the shelf, but they are far more likely to fall off the shelf on top of you. Anything that reminds you of the traumatic event can cause the memory to be accessed. Once they are accessed, they aren't browsed, they are re-experienced.

    It's like throwing the switch on a surround sound home theater system with the volume permanently stuck on 11 and you have no control over when it will stop playing. Throw in the senses of touch, smell, taste, and a visceral replay of your exact emotions at the time of the recording and there you go.

    The other bonus is that the awful re-experiencing of the trauma can be retraumatizing. So, the classic phobia technique of flooding not only doesn't work, but it can make things worse.

    So, putting an untreated PTSD victim on the stand might produce some very moving testimony, but the witness will be inherently hostile to questioning, even despite themselves, and they will have a great deal of difficulty articulating the facts of the crime.

    The goal of this and other therapies is to turn these memories into normal memories of an awful experience, not to make the awfulness go away.

  19. IMHO, the only real objection to something like this would be if, for example, a rape victim, or a mugging victim, would take the drug and blunt the effect to the point where the victim would feel like "hey its no biggie....no need to report this to the cops".

    But even that seems like a weak argument. If the memory is there, even if its less traumatic, it would be hard to believe that most victims would feel so "numb" to the even that they wouldn't report the event.

    You could call it the day after the wedding pill.

    I was thinking the morning after the one-night-stand pill

  20. In short, they probably saved my life by forcing me to drive more responsibly in the snow.

    I suspect that, unless you were a very reckless driver beforehand, you'd probably still be alive anyway.

  21. but I'm getting a queasy "Brave New World" feeling from all of this.

    Jennifer, that was my first instinct too. I thought it sounded quite a bit like Huxley's Soma.

    I can't say I am against it, but it does evoke a mixed reaction inside me. (One that I can't articulate very well)

  22. But I don't think the knife wound/psychotrauma analogy holds water. I don't want to get into an argument about the relative efficacies of the various kinds of treatments but I *do* think there are better ways to treat psychological issues than essentially whitewashing the memories with the aid of psychotropics. Personally I'm a "time heals all wounds" kind of guy, and while I can't ever claim to have experienced a rape, I've had my share of scare.

    It's not "whitewashing" that's being done. Trauma victims have the tendency to relive their past trauma in present-day situations, to the point that it often paralyzes their ability to function like a normal person in their social, intrapersonal, and day-to-day lives. I'm pretty sure this drug just coaxes people into making peace with what are violent, painful memories and being able to step away from them and move on with their lives, rather than continuing to define themselves by a single (or a few) negative incidents that they are currently and repeatedly suffering ill physical and mental effects from. The only person in the article who suggests that the drug might "erase" memories is the author of the article, who might not grasp the science he is writing about. Or worse, perhaps he is using hyperbole to make his article sound more interesting (a horrible crime, IMHO!).

    I'm actually reading (gasp! smacky, reading?) a book about PTSD and effective psychosomatic treatments for it. I haven't finished the book yet (although I actually plan on finishing this one, for once), but the author discusses this other treatment involving Rapid Eye Movements and recollection of the incident, which in effect remove the terror and somatic effects associated with the bad memories. The patient then can still recall the memories, but recognizes them as things of the past and are then able to continue their lives like normal people instead of the hollow existences they are spending time and money seeking treatment for.

    Of couse, any psychologist with fiscal self-interests will tell you that it's important to "talk things through" (at your expense, of course). I'm sure everyone here is by now familiar with the notion of psychological vampires.

  23. What do bioethicists do anyway? If there aren't any "ethicists," why do we need bioethicists? What makes them different from Ann Landers? Has anybody ever heard one say anything the least bit insightful?

  24. Bioethicists are probably people that have nothing better to do than tell other people what's good for them and what will send their soul to a fiery hell.

    Also, I wanted to apologize for the atrocious grammar in my last post. I just don't have enough time these days to be a grammar nanny, unfortunately. And previewing my post would also be much too time-consuming, you understand.

  25. So when will this drug be added our water supply?

  26. Also, the potentially ubiquitous and otherwise mundane nature of the memory triggers can make it almost impossible for PTSD sufferers to be anything but agoraphobes. Imagine if the smell of recently cut grass or the sound of a garbage truck or the sight of a manhole cover triggered you into re-experiencing the most traumatic thing that ever happened to you. Many of them learn to act moderately normal while they go on the automatic rollercoaster ride, but that can be extraordinarily exhausting.

  27. When, Mr. Kahn? heh heh...you mean, you didn't get the memo?

  28. Many of them learn to act moderately normal while they go on the automatic rollercoaster ride, but that can be extraordinarily exhausting.

    Rimfax,

    Exactly. And why should people like this have to go on living their lives at half-speed? I think that anyone who would want a better, productive society would want people at their very best, instead of having a bunch of people who can't keep up with the pace of daily life because of some mentally crippling condition. But as we know, there are a lot of people who love to keep the perceived "competition" crippled instead of happy and functional.

  29. Or people who don't like shameless orphans.

  30. I haven't RTFA, but best I can tell, couldn't this also be used to blunt the mental anguish of something you've done yourself, something BAD done intentionally by yourself? Could this be a reverse Ludovico Treatment for those who would like to commit a crime but not feel guilty about it?

    Naturally I don't think such a possibility should restrict the drug's availability to those who have more sympathetic reasons for using it, especially since few people who know they would feel guilty about committing a particular act would want to do it if only it wouldn't make them feel guilty. Still, the possibility seems intriguing. Surely there must be a science fiction story based on this premise somewhere?

  31. To clarigy: I can see how this would be very useful in cases of PTSD and the like. What worries me is mission creep. We already see kids being drugged for things like, oh, behaving like rambunctious eight-year-olds when they're between the ages of seven and nine; I can easily foresee a time when this pill is used not for extreme trauma but for everything. Boyfriend dumped you? Take a pill. Dog died? Take a pill. Last one picked for gym class? Take a pill.

    Again, I would not stop anyone who wants to from taking this. But I have a very queasy feeling about it.

  32. Shameless orphans? Eric the .5b, I'm not sure what you're getting at; please clarify.

  33. Even if the drug DID cause holes in your memory so that you are not longer suffering PTSD from it, so what? If someone feels that's an effective treatment for their emotional injuries what does Leon Kass have to do with it. fuck him. What an ass.

    nmg

  34. Smacky - please see my first post at 2:36 PM.

  35. smacky,

    You can get info on an EMDR practitioner from emdr.com. I've used it with a certified practitioner (vibrating hand paddles instead of the light bar) with great success.

    Be warned, I've heard of therapists just barrelling into it without establishing any trust or safety. They'll just retraumatize you by having you relive the trauma in front of the light bar until you swear off therapy and then you're screwed all over again. You need to make sure that they are committed to treating you carefully and safely.

    Also, keep in mind that for some reason, EMDR is very tiring. Plan yourself some relaxing down time afterwards even if you are just trying it by yourself.

  36. Eric, thanks for clarifying. Yeah, those shameless rape victims...Oh, bother.

  37. Yes, I can see possible "Brave New World" implications in this. However, I think it would be reckless to condemn this without some evidence that said implications actually occur.
    The point of bioethicists may be to bring up such possibilities so we can be aware of them, but unless one can show a priori that it's a bad thing, I think we have to let these things take their course and find out the consequences as we go along. Then we can take appropriate countermeasures, if need be.

  38. I don't think it's worth worrying about overuse or misuse of this drug. Some percentage of all doctors are lazy and negligent and will prescribe stupidly, and we let them prescribe far worse things than something that reduces the traumatic effect of memories.

    My concern is that the administration will ban it for ideological reasons and prevent people who need it from getting it.

  39. It's an election year.
    I'd like to order a case, please.

  40. fyodor,

    It wouldn't work to "clean away the guilt". For one, victimizers don't get "trapped" memories that autoplay like PTSD sufferers. Those types of memories are created when people feel like they have no control over what is being done to them. For two, even if they did, this would only make the memories "normal" memories instead of memories that ambushed them. They would still feel just as guilty and regretful over what they'd done, they just wouldn't get ambushed by the memories everytime they smelled Chanel No. 5 or saw Dick Clark on tv or whatever they hell their triggers might be.

    There was a Twilight Zone episode, I think, about a laundromat that cleaned away the guilt when they cleaned your shirts. Just as the scumbag go-getter is royally screwing everyone he ever cared about to get ahead, the owner of the laundry wins the lottery and quits. When the dirty shirts pile up, the guilt comes crashing down and scumbag offs himself. The end.

  41. I'm pro-choice on everything.

    Like pretty much everything in life, there is a risk/reward tradeoff, and that tradeoff is different for all of us. The government most definitely has no right or moral authority to create a one-size fits all policy in the name of protecting us from ourselves.

    Whether this drug is generally good or bad is totally besides the point, and is a total distraction.

  42. In this instance, I would be somewhat susceptible to Kass's argument if he were saying, for example, that this treatment might possibly lead to dangerous twilight zone side-effects or whatever and if he were to make a coherent argument based on clinical evidence. But no, with Kass, its always the case that shame and pain are God's gift to humanity and his predictions have a lousy track record. Sorry - still not buying.
    I'd be a bit wary about this if only because of extensive laboratory experience with the use of certain other memory-formation suppressing medication.
    http://www.duke.edu/~amwhite/Blackouts/

  43. someday
    i'm telling you
    they'll make a memory machine to wax our hearts to a blinding sheen
    and wash away the grief

  44. Rimfax,

    Thanks for the feedback. I didn't realize they had lotteries back in Twilight Zone times! 🙂

    happyjuggler0,

    Whether this drug is generally good or bad is totally besides the point, and is a total distraction.

    Absolutely true, regarding the public policy question. Not true at all regarding our discussion, since we have chosen to discuss other aspects of the matter than merely the correct public policy to adopt. Good thing, too, since we pretty much all agree on that part!

  45. Just because something hurts doesn't mean it's bad for you.


    And it doesn't mean it's good for you, either.

    Thus, we can conclude that:

    Just because something hurts, it hurts.

  46. Eric, when Kass says:

    "It's the morning-after pill for just about anything that produces regret, remorse, pain, or guilt."

    ... maybe he means that, in addition to being used to ease traumatic memories, once on the market it also could be abused in a situation like this:

    "Last night I beat up my neighbor, stole his money, schtupped his wife, and kicked his dog. Now my conscience is bothering me. Maybe I should turn myself in. Maybe I should go over there and try to make it right. Maybe I should apologize. Naaah ... I'll just take a pill and forget it."

    There are socially useful functions for regret, remorse and guilt -- they inhibit repititions of antisocial behavior. And sometimes they seem sorely lacking. One trait of the sociopath is the ability to do horrorific things without any apparent feeling of remorse. As a result, they can't be counted on to do them again. It sounds like this pill could potentially enable more people to voluntarily assume this sociopathic trait.

    However, one thing I've learned from the libertarian point of view -- just about anything can be used for good or ill, and just because it might be abused by some people is no reason for banning it.

    (Instead, you try to think of ways to protect people form the potential ill effects -- and then sell it and make a fortune.)

  47. Eric, when Kass says:

    "It's the morning-after pill for just about anything that produces regret, remorse, pain, or guilt."

    ... maybe he means that, in addition to being used to ease traumatic memories, once on the market it also could be abused

    He gives fear of abuse as his primary reaction and he's known for arguing that sick people should suffer or die to stay "human". I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  48. I also question the whole "it'll ease guilt!" line of argument. Where does anyone knowledgeable about the drug say it eases guilt or anything but the effects of extremely emotional, traumatic memories?

  49. Leon Kass is a gel-coated, time-released piece of shit.

    (credit: Evan Williams...and I'd like to thank the Academy).

  50. In ten years, they'll be putting it in the water like Flouride.

  51. Funny. I took propranolol for the better part of 5 years to help with migraines. Worked like a charm, when nothing else could. Now I'm kind of suspicious. Just how much utility can one drug have before the placebo effect becomes a serious question?

  52. Shem,

    If you are helped by a placebo effect, how is this bad? Unless it means that you are spending too much for a drug that does nothing but make you think it works, in which case it is still a good thing.

    fyodor,

    Thanks for pointing out that a debate that assumes legal adult choice is in fact reasonable. I'll admit I didn't follow the discussion closely enough to actually tell there was a consensus here that adults should be free to choose. Ingeneral terms there is more such consensus at H&R than elsewhere about free choice for adults, but not always near unanimity.

  53. Soon you'll have to go see a robot in order to experience any kind of human empathy.

  54. unny. I took propranolol for the better part of 5 years to help with migraines. Worked like a charm, when nothing else could.

    That's right, I forgot about the headaches, my wife has taken it for that as well. Is there anything it can't do?

    And for the people getting all freaked out, I mean, I've used it for stage fright for the last 10 years and it doesn't have really dramatic effects, unless they are talking about doses much higher than what I've ever taken.

  55. Well it seems like propranolol should be an easier sell than another drug that could facilitate recovery from traumatic events, in conjuction with psychotherapy -- that's MDMA.

    http://www.maps.org/mdma/

  56. happyjuggler0-There's nothing wrong with it, but if it is just a placebo then it's not much better than homeopathic medicine, which I've seen people attack on this board in the past.

    dead elvs-How does one go about getting it for the purposes you describe? Seems like it might be a worthwile investment for a guy who still gets sweaty palms when he has to give a speech

  57. Why is there some big brother/animal farm/orwellian fear with every new scientific and technological development? Keep it out of government hands and make it a matter of choice and get on with life.

  58. It's because of the tendency of people everywhere to define "humanity" in a way that omits anyone who is different. The people who don't want the changes are afraid of being declared unnecessary or worse, impediments, and treated as such. Despite the fact that I disagree, given our track record with "human improvement" in the forms of Nazism, Communism and Social Darwinism, I'm not so certain their fears deserve to be dismissed as easily as you seem to think.

  59. I'm getting a queasy "Brave New World" feeling from all of this.

    when ever someone says something like this i get the feeling that they have never even read "a brave new world"

    I mean aside from snobish peer presure it seemed to me the citizens of the brave new world had far more liberty then we have now.

    speaking of sci-fi has any one read "Quarantine" by Greg Egan?

    In that book the protagonist happened to be in a state lacking emotional response due to a mind program he was running as a cop in order to perform better at his job, when he learns of his wifes death (i think she was murderered) and so he desides never to turn the program off thus never feeling the loss of his wife.

    Anyway I just gave away one of the main plot endings of the book so enjoy. 🙂

  60. I mean aside from snobish peer presure it seemed to me the citizens of the brave new world had far more liberty then we have now.

    Well, that and the whole using alcohol and chemicals to reduce the mental capacity of Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. And the elimination of art, poetry, philosophy, literature and family. And the fact that there was no way whatsoever to advance beyond one's class, and nowhere to go even if one somehow gained the ability. And nothing worthwile whatsoever to dedicate their lives and freedom to.

    That sort of society is great for the Alphas, and even the Betas. But everyone else pretty much gets screwed, notwithstanding the fact that they lack the requisite framework or mental acuity to realize it.

  61. How does one go about getting it for the purposes you describe? Seems like it might be a worthwile investment for a guy who still gets sweaty palms when he has to give a speech

    You still get sweaty hands and butterflies in the stomach (if those are things you normally experience), so I'm not sure it would help you. What it does do is keep one from being incapacitated by a panic attack- adrenalin kicking in, heart racing, hands shaking uncontrollably. It doesn't cure normal levels of nervousness, it just helps with that particular problem.

    That said, I think most doctors are willing to prescribe it for that off-label use. But I have it sent occasionally by my in-laws from Central America, where you don't need a prescription for every stupid little thing you need from a pharmacy.

  62. I used to get panic attacks, but actually what stopped that was a healthy dose of MDMA. It had this magic ability to make fear seem managable, at least for me. I still get nervous, but I can do it now.

    Too bad about the propranolol though.

  63. Well, that's cool that MDMA had such an impact. For me, propanalol had the effect of showing me a glimpse of what it was like to be performing in front of people and *not* be totally panicked. Simply having that experience was mind opening. Made me realize just how much brainpower I had been expending on simply calming myself down, and using propanalol allowed me to shift *some* of that brainpower to the task at hand.

  64. The study has a huge problem with sample size.

    Only about 20% of the population is susceptable to long term PTSD (most people get over it). It is possible in a total sample size of 20 that there are no genetically susceptable in the study.

    And even if there were the expected 4 out of 20 the other 16 would add so much noise as to bury the signal.

  65. And suppose the 4 are not evenly distributed among the two groups.

  66. Traumatic memories do decay.

    The rate depends on your genetics.

    Which is why even among heroin addicts - those self medicating for the most severe PTSD - about 5% a year give up use.

  67. KASS: "It's the morning-after pill for just about anything that produces regret, remorse, pain, or guilt."

    KASS Apologist: ... maybe he means that, in addition to being used to ease traumatic memories, once on the market it also could be abused

    HALFBEE: He gives fear of abuse as his primary reaction and he's known for arguing that sick people should suffer or die to stay "human". I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Ok, Halfbee, I'll bite. I am not Leon Kass. I don't think that people should suffer and/or die in order to stay "human." However, I do think a drug that eases shame and pain about things people shouldn't feel so ashamed and pained about could likely lead to people not feeling shame and pain about things they *should* feel shame and pain about. How do you respond this concern now that I have cleared away the stink of the hated Kass?

  68. RIMFAX says: It wouldn't work to "clean away the guilt". For one, victimizers don't get "trapped" memories that autoplay like PTSD sufferers. Those types of memories are created when people feel like they have no control over what is being done to them. For two, even if they did, this would only make the memories "normal" memories instead of memories that ambushed them. They would still feel just as guilty and regretful over what they'd done, they just wouldn't get ambushed by the memories everytime they smelled Chanel No. 5 or saw Dick Clark on tv or whatever they hell their triggers might be.

    This sounds great. Maybe it is true. Maybe it is not. This reply had no link to any studies. Maybe it is wishful thinking on Rimfax's part. Maybe it is Rimfax extrapolating from some anecdotal evidence.

    I think the public policy question is going to be who decides whether each different drug has these bad side effects (that may take a few years to really show up).

    I know Reason and many of its readers have faith in the market to sort this out and maybe they are correct. However, when HnR posters get all denial-tastic about side effects generally, as Rimfax does here, as T. does with high fructose sweetner and the Reason staff does about Vioxx, it drives me the opposite way -- makes me realize why we have an FDA and why it needs to excercise independent judgement. Too many wishful thinkers out there who own stocks (or one day aspire to).

  69. when ever someone says something like this i get the feeling that they have never even read "a brave new world" I mean aside from snobish peer presure it seemed to me the citizens of the brave new world had far more liberty then we have now.

    Wow. Just. . . wow.

    When you read 1984, did you get the impression it was about a wonderful society that had finally figured out how to eradicate the twin problems of homelessness and unemployment?

    Never mind. I'd rather not know.

  70. So I've been thinking here, if ethics is all about value juggling such that libertarians value liberty above all and therefore find ethical weight behind concepts like property, what happens if we medicate away the shock we feel in the face of grossly illiberal acts?

    I find myself thinking that we might all be happier, in the same way that a guy who likes overweight women is happier. As far as Kass's argument goes, I think choice trumps other concerns as far as public policy goes, but I wonder what might be the result of widespread use. There are really only two types of motivators in the world - running from and running toward. If fear of trauma is irrational or unhealthy, aleviating it would be beneficial in that we would be unencumbered to only run toward desired states. To the extent fear is rational, we might be throwing our risk calculators out of whack.

  71. what happens if we medicate away the shock we feel in the face of grossly illiberal acts?

    Good grief. Are any of you guys who are deathly afraid someone might use this drug to be slightly less upset at something you care about willing to actually point to evidence that the drug can be used to accomplish that?

  72. Dave W.,

    It seems that this thread's shelf life is over, but I'll flog the dead horse one more time.

    This sounds great. Maybe it is true. Maybe it is not. This reply had no link to any studies. Maybe it is wishful thinking on Rimfax's part. Maybe it is Rimfax extrapolating from some anecdotal evidence.

    Try the Wikipedia. There you'll find plenty about the flashbacks of PTSD. Regarding my assertions about the action of the drug, RTFA. Despite the author's bias, he does accurately describe the action of the drug on traumatic memories.

    How about a link from you providing even the slightest lick of evidence that the drug might affect memories other than traumatic ones? How about a link from you defining traumatic memories that includes those of guilt-ridden actions?

  73. Silly Rimfax, that will all be sussed out during "discovery."

  74. It wouldn't work to "clean away the guilt".

    The FA doesn't say this. This is what Rimfax says Rimfax. Like I said: maybe you are right; maybe you are wrong. Datawise you got nothing to support this hopeful statement that I hope is ultimately true.

  75. Dave W.,

    From the FA:

    ...a pill that...may make the resulting memories less painful and intense.

    "It's amazing how a traumatic memory can remain very much alive. It doesn't behave like a regular memory. The memory doesn't decay," Brunet said.

    "The important thing to know about this drug is it doesn't put a hole in their memory. It doesn't create amnesia."

    Try again. You've got nothing to support the notion that this drug would have the slightest impact on the guilt of recollection or the guilt-ridden memories of victimizers. The scientific quotes from the article make it clear that the memories will not be erased and that normal emotional response will not be affected.

    To eliminate guilt, you'd need to either erase the memory or to establish a blunted affect. (I've also heard it referred to as a flat affect.) There are already a number of legal prescription-only psychoactive drugs that can produce a blunted affect for the short term. That particular genie hasn't been in the bottle for quite a while.

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