Ethical principles are the basis for ethical decision making. Principles like beneficence, reparation, nonmalefience, mercy, patient autonomy, veracity, justice and fidelity are the backbone of making good ethical decisions. Throughout the movie there are two main characters that represent ethical and unethical acts and/or decisions.
“And The Band Played On” is an example of this continual struggle. This occurs on both ends of the ethics spectrum. Dr. Robert Gallo, Alan Alda, and Dr. Don Francis, Matthew Modine, are the focus of his struggle between ethical and unethical decision making, respectively. This is a never-ending fight that, in the end, no one side seems to win at the cost of hundreds of lives.
Gallo and Francis do battle throughout the entire movie. Their conflict is Gallo wanting personal achievement and Francis wanting nothing more than justice. Gallo cares only about his fame and internationally acclaimed reputation. Francis, on the other end of the spectrum, is simply trying to fight the virus. Francis, working for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), dedicates himself to identifying and isolating the disease that is tearing through the gay community across the country. Desperate to locate the unknown disease, Francis works alongside the French doctors and scientists, who are also trying to understand, identify and isolate the unknown disease. Gallo losses his patience and refuses to work with Francis because Francis chooses to help and assist in the efforts of the successful French.
Dr. Robert Gallo, a pompous ass, continually seeks out public recognition for his medical efforts while working at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. It is a fact that Gallo is a doctor that is well respected and of high esteem. His inability to act ethically brings him constant tension and into conflict with the medical community. Gallo takes all the credit for discovering the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Because of this, a once moral fight turns into a legal fight that Gallo escapes on a legal technicality.
Dr. Don Francis must face multiple fights at one time. One of his toughest battles is between his memories while working on the Ebola Virus in Africa and his efforts on tackling the AIDS virus. The viruses seem to be very similar and cause him to lose hope and feel helpless. Francis feels he has lost control of the situation and that the virus has taken complete control. He has seen the effects that an infectious and unidentifiable disease can have on a group of people not willing to respect the deadly power of the virus.
The United States makes no effort to admit that there is a great danger with this unknown disease. Even after the virus is located the government continues to refuse to accept it and basically turns the other way. Because of this the majority of the public is completely unaware of the killing potential of the chemical makeup AIDS. Francis realizes he can’t take on an entire country and that he must learn to work the system regardless of how frustrating and uncooperative that system is. The political and bureaucratic red tape creates a vacuum strangling all the efforts of those trying to isolate the virus.
Throughout the film, the red tape constantly ruins any of the efforts to bring the medical field
closer to isolating the virus. Francis has to sit back and watch as members of the bureaucracy, Dr.Jim Curran, continue to make the findings sound more appealing and less deadly. He watches as new diseases arise in the U.S. giving him an understanding that funding for research and medical treatment will not be provided. This lack of funding makes it impossible to get microscopes and other medical equipment needed to research this deadly virus. Francis can’t understand why the red-tape bureaucrats will spend money on lawsuits rather than on research to save lives.
It is at this point in the movie we realize that AIDS could have been prevented if not in the very least controlled. Because of this lack of ethics,on behalf of the government and some arrogant members of the medical field, the virus was able to take millions of lives. Even after blood banks were made aware they were infecting thousands of people they refused to use the Hepatitis B test, which was found to be 88% effective in identifying the AIDS virus.
AIDS in 1993 was still considered to be a deadly virus. Today that is no longer the case. Technology and funding have given people hope. Patients, mothers, fathers, children, famous athletes and others can now live with this disease without feeling hopeless. The famous with the AIDS virus are now out starting foundations to raise funds to fight this deadly disease. People finally understand that with the vast improvements in AIDS research we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
In conclusion, we, as medical professionals must always look to what is ethical. Our prejudices,egos and personal gratification cannot impact our moral decision making. Do you want to be remembered as a Dr. Gallo or a Dr. Francis? What kind of an impact can you have on an individual’s health by your decisions? Always keep in mind the ethical principles I mentioned above when choosing your course of action in a patient’s future.