Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Would You Take a Pill to Forget Painful Memories?

(cc) Douglas CooteyThe world seems to be on the brink of developing a way of suppressing or removing traumatic memories. On the surface this seems to be a great idea. Why should victims of rape or sexual abuse be forced to live with the horrors in their mind? Wouldn't they be happier if traumatic memories no longer affected their day to day living?

Obviously, this introduces ethical problems. Some would say that removing memories deprives us of the very human experience that forms who we are as individuals. Others would say that anyone who would force a sexually abused child to live with the horror done to them is as abusive as the original perpetrator. I say, can you really trust these guys to effectively erase the correct memories? Would you want to trust a pill to modify your grey matter? Wouldn't you risk losing many precious memories as well? Some would say that forgetting traumatic events would be worth the risk. My personal experience with pills and their side-effects has not been so faith promoting. I'd be more likely to be left without any memories - a veritable vegetable - than have certain ones removed.

According to the article, the drug's effects are mostly useful right after the traumatic event. This means to me that it effectively dampens or wipes out recent memory NON-selectively. Only starry eyed speculators imagine this process can be utilized to treat traumatized individuals years later. I have no such faith in pharmacology. I see it rather being like Roofie on steriods.

Doctor: So, you were pretty traumatized by that C- on your report card 40 years ago?
Patient: Yeah, Daddy was really upset. It cost me a full tuition scholarship and doomed me to flipping burgers ever since.
Doctor: You do realize that we'll effectively be removing 40 years of memories.
Patient: Yeah...
Doctor: That means you'll not remember anyone or anything.
Patient: Sounds good to me...
Doctor: You'll have a 40 year blank in your memory that your tomorrow self might find equally traumatic.
Patient: I don't care...
Doctor: You won't have any job skills. You'll even forget how to flip burgers.
Patient: Really? Give it to me now!

Call me a cynic, but I can only think of the trauma and abuse that this drug will do to people as opposed to saving them. There are some awful memories locked away in my mind. Some are recent, many are in my past. Frankly, I'd rather live with them and become stronger than take the easy way out and try to forget them. I can't imagine how I would be today if I had not lived through those experiences. To risk forgetting my wife, my children, my family and friends, and the triumphs I have experienced over the years just to escape painful memories is not a risk I believe I will be taking anytime soon.

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