Love in the Time of Antibiotic Resistance: How Altruism Might Be Our Best Hope

In Philosophical Issues in Pharmaceutics: Development, Dispensing, and Use. Springer (2017)
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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a serious threat to our health. Our ability to destroy deadly bacteria by using antibiotics have not only improved our lives by curing infections, it also allows us to undertake otherwise dangerous treatments from chemotherapies to invasive surgeries. The emergence of antibiotic resistance, I argue, is a consequence of various iterations of prisoner’s dilemmas. To wit, each participant (from patients to nations) has rational self-interest to pursue a course of action that is suboptimal for all of us. The standard solutions to prisoner’s dilemma look to realign cost-benefit such that individuals’ interests match those of the collective. However, the lack of a global organization to enforce an effective carrot-and-stick system makes it unlikely that we can solve the antibiotic resistance problem this way. I argue that our best chance might be an attempt to teach altruism and convince individuals to act not out of their self-interests.

Author's Profile

Dien Ho
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences


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