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Narcan and the value of a human life

Nar can and the value of a human life

Nick McCrea has a great story in today’s BDN that highlights some of what’s working in our communities to combat addiction. Bangor PD deserves huge kudos for getting trained in the administration of Narcan. Two lives were saved this past weekend because our first responders have been given access to this important medication.

In my ongoing masochistic approach to reading good journalism, I continue to scan the comments of BDN readers. As I reviewed a linked story on the efforts of Health Equity Alliance to get Nar Can widely distributed to those who can least afford it, this comment jumped out at me:

“Can’t afford medical care…? But can afford a drug habit? Who does this make sense to?”

It makes sense to anyone who understands both health care and addiction.

We live in a world in which the price of Narcan has risen exponentially while the prices of heroin and Fentanyl have plummeted. Both illicit and legal drugs are products of capitalism. It’s all about supply and demand:

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Amphastar is currently the only producer in the U.S. who makes the dosage of naloxone (Narcan) used for intranasal administration. The overwhelming majority of states have taken action to make Narcan widely available and the demand has sent prices soaring.

Many states including Massachusetts have taken action to buy in huge bulk quantities directly from the manufacturer at discounted rates and distribute it as needed to emergency responders. Given Governor LePage’s comments on the value of Narcan, this course of action seems unavailable to Maine currently.

What dollar amount shall we place on rescuing a human life?

Some of the finest people I know are only alive today because someone administered Narcan to them after they had stopped breathing.

I still cannot stop myself. I read further comments that ask:

“Why should we value someone’s life who doesn’t value their own life?”

I hate rhetorical questions – they’re a very passive way of asserting one’s truth. There is nothing that can compel one to value a human life except perhaps: Humanity? Morality? Spirituality? Religion?

The issues and debates over Narcan expose our prejudices and lack of understanding of both addiction and recovery. I cannot think of any other life saving measure whose inherent value has been debated and I refuse to objectify or disparage the value on a human life.

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