Busted Halo
feature: moral dilemmas
November 9th, 2010

Moral Dilemma #3: The Drummer and the Drug Rep



Few of us are ever faced with making the sort of life-or-death decisions we routinely hear about in the news. Fortunately, most of us are spared from navigating the complex ethical terrain that headline-making cases sometime raise. And yet there are decisions we face everyday that — whether we realize it or not — have very real moral implications.

In Busted Halo’s Moral Dilemmas feature, we hope not only to raise some of these issues for our readers, but also to engage you in helping to resolve them. After going through the story that follows, please tell us through a one-question quiz, linked to at the bottom of the page, what you think is the “right thing to do.”

Already taken the quiz for part 1? Move on to the next step: “The Wrinkle” to our Moral Dilemma.

The Dilemma

After struggling to put herself through college, Kara landed a good job as a drug representative for a large pharmaceutical company. The job required her to travel to doctor’s offices throughout her “territory” in the northeastern part of Washington State and remind physicians about the various medications her company makes and how they benefit patients. Because most of the doctors she deals with are very busy, her visits usually entail a quick hello to the doctor to drop off a few samples of the prescription medications she represents.

Her company built its reputation on a number of very successful drugs used in the fight against AIDS; but recently much of Kara’s job has involved educating doctors on a new antidepressant her company has developed called Serotonix. The drug is very similar to existing medications like Prozac and Zoloft in that it is effective in treating depression and anxiety and it is not addictive. It differs from its competition in that unlike the other drugs in its class, which take four to six weeks to reach full effectiveness, Serotonix works in approximately one week. Of course, like most of the drugs it is similar to, Serotonix is expensive, costing up to $3 per 50mg pill.

The drug has begun to make a huge splash in the marketplace and nearly every doctor she visits asks questions about it and requests samples. The company she works for is more than happy to oblige and reps like Kara are always sent out with more than enough promotional packages of Serotonix to give out to physicians as they see fit.

Different Circles

The last time she saw him, Robert confided that he had struggled with depression for the past few years and had even tried to commit suicide a few times.

On a recent January afternoon, Kara was feeling particularly tired and stopped to get a cup of coffee at a roadside restaurant near the town where she grew up. She saw a familiar face in a booth and recognized that it was Robert, an old acquaintance she hadn’t seen since high school. Back then they ran in different circles; Kara was a good student involved with student council while Robert had played in the school’s drum and bugle corps and generally seemed to hang out with a small group of friends who liked to party a lot. Robert seemed happy to see her and invited Kara to sit down with him for a little while.

They caught each other up on the eight years since they had last seen each other — Robert seemed very impressed by what Kara had accomplished. He told her that he’d dropped out of college after two years to play drums for a Seattle band that seemed poised for big things. They’d had some small success but failed to really take off. After the band broke up two years ago, Robert moved back to their hometown. He had been trying to find another group to latch on to and was working at a Starbucks in the strip mall down the road to make ends meet. They spoke for 30 minutes before Kara had to leave, but she promised to stop in soon to see Robert during one of his shifts.

Make your choice here.
What’s the right thing to do?

Click here to take the quiz.

  • Tell Robert that she could get fired for giving him samples of a prescription medication.
  • Go be with him to make sure he doesn’t try to hurt himself.
  • Offer to drive him to a nearby emergency room and try to get him some help.
  • Cross professional boundaries and ask a doctor she calls on in her job to see Robert for free and perhaps prescribe some medication.
  • Give Robert a few weeks worth of Serotonix samples and see how he reacts.

None of these sound right to you? Want to qualify one of the above answers?

Time for you to decide. What’s the right thing for Kara to do?

Read the results so far.

Coffee Talk

Three days later Kara showed up at the Starbucks and sat with Robert while he was on a break. She was surprised at how excited she was to see him again and loved to hear him talk passionately about music.

Over the next two weeks she visited Robert three more times but while she loved spending time with him, it was also becoming clear to her that he had some real struggles in his life. Other than an older, married sister in Portland, Robert had no family to speak of. He was living hand to mouth and was frustrated at how his life was turning out. The last time she saw him, Robert confided that he had struggled with depression for the past few years and had even tried to commit suicide a few times. It broke her heart to hear him talk about it.

Hanging on the Telephone

The next day Kara picked up the phone and heard Robert crying on the other end. He told her that he felt hopeless and didn’t believe his life would ever get better. Kara tried to calm him down and told him there was help available for what he was going through but Robert said he hadn’t been able to afford health insurance for years and that expensive drugs were out of the question — he could barely pay his rent.

Kara closed her eyes and listened quietly while Robert wept. After a few moments he gathered himself and asked “Do you think those samples you carry in your trunk would do me any good?”

Time for you to decide. What’s the right thing for Kara to do?

Already taken the quiz for part 1? Move on to the next step: “The Wrinkle” to our Moral Dilemma.

Pages: 1 2 3

The Author : Bill McGarvey
Bill McGarvey is co-author of Busted Halo’s Freshman Survival Guide. Bill was editor-in-chief of Busted Halo for six year. In addition to having written extensively on the topics of culture and faith for NPR, Commonweal, America, The Tablet (in London), Factual (Spain), Time Out New York, and Book magazine, McGarvey is a singer/songwriter whose music has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Billboard and Performing Songwriter. You can follow him at his website billmcgarvey.com or on Facebook.com/billmcgarvey
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • http://www.apple.com/iPhone/specs.HTML RockyMissouri

    She should never have divulged that she carries pills of any sort. She should be a friend and take him to an emergency room…find a list of support groups who meet and share their progress and advice – all through proper auspices- be quite careful NOT to substitute religion for an opiate… instead, opt for healthier avenues: information- information- information is key to a healthy psyche.

  • Wayne Cox

    Let me say first. That I am not telling anyone to not seek professional help. However I suffered greatly from depression. Was put on antidepressants. Spent time in a mental health ward. This may well have stopped me from commiting suicide. But little else in actually curing me.
    After losing my job and insurance. I went to work for my sister. I was just existing. Not much ambition or interest in life. While flipping through channels I would come across Christian channels and stop and listen for awhile. I did not really care for much of what they said. I won’t go into details it’s not important. What I did do is get a Bible and started to read, to see if I saw what I heard these TV preachers saying. I didn’t read much of the old testament and skipped to the new testament. After reading the Gospels I told my sister that there was alot in the Gospels that did not jive with what I heard Christians saying. What I did learn has turned my life around. First of all I try to live every moment of life by the Two Greatest Commandments. LOVE! Unconditional univerisal LOVE! LOVE as I did as a child. I no longer worry about others love for me. Thats not what I,ve been commanded to do. I work hard at not judging others. It helps me not to judge others when I remember what I did and went through to get to the point where Jesus could teach me. So when I see someone who I know is harming themselves, and others, through their behavior I know at some point they may sink low enough to be teachable. I can’t describe the freedom this has given me. I live in the moment not worrying about the past or future. Only trying to do Gods will at this moment. LOVE is magical the more you give it away the more you get. LOVE is what has curred my depression. The more I LOVE the better I feel. Even if you’re not depressed, try it, the magic is there for everyone of us. Forgive me for not answering the question. I believe that only we can decide if we are going to be happy or not. I do believe that everyone is effected when spending time with a truly loving person. May more of us become so, we can cure the world with LOVE!

  • Meg

    Robert needs people in his life that care about him, but if he feels like he might hurt himself he needs to be in the care of medical professionals who can give him te best help he can get. While she might want to try and take care of him herself, she can’t know if it’s simply a temorary condition that will easy with time and maybe therapy, or if its clinical depression, in which case medication would help him cope. In the end, meds aren’t the answer, he needs help, love, support, and God. Therefore, she should go with #3. If he fears injuring himself, offer to take him to get hepol to prevent it; it shows she truly cares about him and his wellbeing. Then be there for him as a friend and pray for him. But she should NEVER try to take the situation into her own hands, instead offer to help him find pepople who are trained to hepl in situations like this. And most of all, never give up on him.

  • Matt

    If he’s going to be taking drugs, he needs a doctor to supervise that, not a marketing department rep. She might want to give him the number of one of the doctors that she personally knows for an absolute fact to have free samples of her company’s drug, but her primary role in his life is that of a friend.

    Go with answer #2. Be his friend. Help him stay connected to the human race. If he has that, it might turn out he doesn’t even need the drugs. As long as he lacks it, the drugs will (at best) mask the real problem.

    I’m not a drummer, but otherwise I’ve been where Robert is. He might or might not benefit from pills, but what he really desperately and urgently needs…what he’ll die from the lack of, if not remedied soon, is friends who care enough not to fob him off on a third party or a pill bottle.

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