We have all accepted uncritically a vast legion of the assumptions of contemporary medicine. One that particularly intrigues me is the notion that medication for pain relief is automatically justified whenever there is pain… but this is actually a rather odd state of affairs. To learn to bear pain is to have the virtue of endurance – we may not desire this virtue in ourselves, but we still admire it in (for instance) athletes and dancers.
Painkiller cyborgs (and I include myself here) are susceptible to what might be called cyber-frailty. If we are unwilling or unable to endure pain, if we reach for the over-the-counter pills at the first sign of discomfort, do we not rob ourselves of the chance to learn to endure? Set aside the extreme counter examples (i.e. burn victims, morphine drips for terminal patients) and focus solely on the trivial cases, those where over-the-counter pharmaceuticals like paracetamol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen are taken for ailments like headaches and scratches. To depend upon drugs in such cases is to remove even the possibility of self-improvement or self-mastery from the situations where our pain tolerance is tested. Although I habitually turn to the medicine cupboard at the first sign of discomfort, I am increasingly conflicted about it.
Should I really prop up pharmaceutical companies profits rather than learning how to endure pain?
A Hundred Cyborgs, #19