Sunday, October 23, 2005

Blind Eye

John's post Overstepping Bounds describes pharmaceutical companies turning a blind eye to the provenance of clinical data.
Strange as it may seem (in trust terms at any rate if not in commercial terms) authorities in the west readily accept results of tests done in the third world when it comes to licencing drugs. So boundaries become meaningless when the mega rewards of getting a new drug accepted in the west are at stake.
In my SOAPbox blog, I have just commented about the security services approach to Information Sharing, (as described by MI5 chief Dame Manningham-Buller in the House of Lords on Thursday) which involves turning a blind eye to the provenance of intelligence data.
Foreign agencies don't tell us whether detainees have been tortured, and we are too polite to ask.
Manningham Buller argues that:
the desire for context will usually be subservient to the need to take action to establish the facts, in order to protect life
Scribe (of the recently renamed Into The Machine blog) discusses some of the political implications of this statement in a long and insightful post Rhetoric vs Debate: A Truly Public Strategy.
To uphold the image of saintliness, and to admit the realities only internally, behind the scenes, is even more damaging than acknowledging the state of global affairs as it really is.
In the pharmaceutical context, the regulators are faced with real ethical dilemmas - safety versus saving lives, the interests of the trial subjects against the interests of possible beneficiaries of a successful drug. We may observe various kinds of oscillation in regulatory behaviour. (See my previous posts on Drug Regulation and Trust Cycles).

Both in pharma and in security, there are strong indications of double standards here. Certainly not conducive to trust - but that's pretty obvious I guess. And it's not difficult to find hundreds more examples of double standards in public life. The question is a deeper one - how do we tackle double standards from a trust perspective?

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