Ethics, Antibiotics, and Public Policy
Antibiotics make modern medicine possible, but the more we use them the less effective they become. When appropriately prescribed, the visible effects of antibiotics are that they cure bacterial infections that our immune system struggles with, and they enable us to undergo complex surgeries that would otherwise kill us by exposing our internal organs to a bacterial world they are unprepared for. Yet the unseen effects on our microbial environment make our choice to use antibiotics a morally weighty one. The more we use antibiotics the more likely we are to turn ourselves into vectors for antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are difficult or impossible to treat.