Drug to Increase Survival Despite Trauma

A new drug being researched by scientists is hoping to increase the survival rates of many soldiers on the battlefield who have been exposed to traumatic injuries far greater than anything some would have been able to survive before.  The drug is expected to save many lives, but also raises a serious ethical questions about our own mortality.

If trial runs are as successful in humans as they were in test animals, then a drug designed to allow for recovery from massive injuries may be someday in the foreseeable future on the battlefield.  The drug, a chemical that  disallows some parts of the brain and body from “giving up,” is getting quite a bit of notice as doctors review the initial tests on pigs that resulted in far increased survivability when injured.  Long term effects in humans are unknown.

The HDAC being administered in tests is called Valporic Acid, and studies of its use have revealed that it worked almost as well as an immediate blood transfusion.  Those who were given Valporic Acid had an 86% survivability rate over the 25% who receive the current emergency system – intravenous saline solution.

The system is expected to be a replacement for blood transfusions in the absence of such a system, as blood must be stored under very specific circumstances and requires refrigeration and preservation.  This pill hopes to stop the systems that would die off from trauma and blood loss, or rather stave them off until a patient could get to the hospital.  Of course an injection form is also in development, as pills are often too difficult to swallow for those undergoing massive amounts of trauma.

This drug is being researched even after a major breakthrough in plastic-like blood was in development by scientists earlier this year.  The hopes are that the two systems could work in conjunction or independently, and save many lives both on and off the battlefield.

But some researchers are raising the ethical question, “at what cost are they being saved?”  In addition to the ethical implications of using a drug that could have long lasting health effects on patients, there are some serious quality of life issues that are also being raised.  Though it’s easy to look into the face of death with scientific scrutiny when it’s not your own, some scientists are saying it’s still not worth it to live under some circumstances.  Others are saying low quality life is worth more than no life at all.  It’s an ethical question where opinions vary widely among doctors and patients.  And it’s not rare for the opinion of much scientific research that things be tested and developed regardless of whether or not it has the potential for misuse in the future.  Of course the system works on principles that are present in certain people already, and was inspired by the idea that some injured patients survive almost identical wounds to others who die from them.