RUN! Giant bacteria just swallowed your car and are now chasing you down the street! This is the end of humanity as we know it! Buildings crumble. Planes fall from the sky. The super bugs are taking over as human blood pours through the streets. DAMN YOU! YOU SHOULD HAVE FINISHED YOUR COURSE OF ANTIBIOTICS! NOW LOOK WHAT HAPPENED! AARARRURGGGGGGG!
Hey, the above is understating the consequences of irresponsible medication. The future of the humanity will look bleak when antibiotics become too complex to produce. Patients failing to finish courses of antibiotics have lead to drug-resistant germs, exemplified by disturbing new forms of tuberculosis. If you don’t knock these microbacteria dead when they’re in your system, they mutate into X-men that grow claws and shoot laser beams out of their nuclei.
The issue comes about, I think, because people assume that when they start to ‘feel fine’ they no longer need to keep taking the prescribed meds. It’s difficult to conceptualise the affects of such actions, hence the lapse in our moral awareness. We don’t see the mutation and subsequent infectious havoc it reaps on others. This results in little intrinsic motivation for us to take moral responsibility.
So let’s try a more visual example. Say your car’s overdue for a service. There is a bit of an oil leak but you manage to sort it out yourself. You decide not to bother getting a full service, despite having the money, because the car ‘drives fine’. Then one day you are cruising down the steep side of Bourke Road and the breaks stop working. In a hideous panic you swerve onto the footpath and clean up a bunch of school kids. Horrible. Yet, just as horrible as what the tuberculosis you didn’t finish treating can do.
I’d like to say there is an easy solution to our natural inaptitude at equating the car scenario to antibiotic misuse. Doctors and pharmacists are required to be explicit in their instructions to patients taking these medications. People are told the right thing to do but many just can't easily conceive the consequences of not doing so. Our brains don’t make it easy to register the greater implications of our actions. So perhaps the answer in this case is not to rely on individuals’ morality, but to set up more practical systems for antibiotic administration. I'm all ears.
In the mean time, get your breaks checked and for goodness sake finish your full course of antibiotics.