Side Effects May Vary /

I was listening to a commercial for some breakthrough new drug the other day. You know the drill. After the actor goes on and on about the life altering benefits: I can jog again/ I fall asleep fast and stay asleep/ I’m never hungry/ I’m never tired/ I’m never bloated. Then after that an announcer comes on who must moonlight as an auctioneer and announces at record speed the possible side effects. This particular medication had some strange ones including dark urine and unprovoked rage, but if the benefits warrant… Then at the end of the ad the final side effect: in certain rare occasions “sudden death.”

Sudden death? Are there any of our laundry list of annoying health issues that are so painful or inconvenient that we would risk sudden death. I mean I hate stiff joints and seasonal allergies as much as the next guy, but I’m not gambling with sudden death unless it’s a hockey overtime. And how are they defining sudden? Is it like the plug-pulling scene in The Matrix? Does your heart just stop beating? Or maybe it explodes. Sure I might drop dead in the middle of the food court, but at least I was rested.

Now if the ailment you are trying to remedy could kill you, like smoking, obesity or high cholesterol, is that a different story? Still wouldn’t a long, slow death be preferable? More painful, certainly, but at least you can get through a season of Glee. I try and rationalize—though it’s anything but rational—the “low odds” occurrences, like plane crashes and rare side effects and lightening strikes by telling myself that I never win the lottery, so if none of the good low odds occurrences happen to me then certainly none of the bad ones will. If I win the lottery, then I’ll start worrying.