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Scientific Research Funding
Instant Event Idea
And the Band Played On
"...Randy Shilts's chronicle detailing the emergence of AIDS
in America and the fight against bureaucracy and society for a cure
is a taut, outrageous, and affecting true-life drama. Matthew Modine
(Birdy, Married to the Mob) is featured as a doctor with the Centers
for Disease Control at the time when the first reports of a disease
plaguing the gay community were heard. Modine and his colleagues
embark on an investigation that resembles a compelling detective
story as they try to track the source of the disease and discover
a cure. Their efforts are thwarted by an ambivalent government and
a turf war between French physicians and a celebrated American researcher
(Alan Alda) who seems to place his own glory above the dead and
the dying. Featuring heartfelt performances from a stellar cast
including Richard Gere, Glenne Headly, Anjelica Huston, Steve Martin,
Ian McKellen, Saul Rubinek, and Lily Tomlin, this impassioned film
stands as an impressive and important document of one of the darkest
eras in modern human history, and a tribute to the spirit of those
who sought to save lives."
--Robert Lane, review from www.amazon.com
Suggested Ethical Questions for Discussion:
1. The outbreak of AIDS in the United States was worsened by the
responses from virtually everyone from the Reagan White House to
the gay community in San Francisco. What do you think could have
been done from the governmental end of the response in order to
more quickly identify and contain the disease?
2. How do you think the CDC acted in its reporting of the outbreak?
Was it unbiased and purely scientific? Should it have been?
3. How did the movie change your beliefs on the interaction between
scientists working to solve the same problem? Were you surprised
by Dr. Gallo's actions in working with (or against) the French?
4. Matthew Modine's character seems to be very critical of
everyone else involved in the process and offers little leeway to
anybody who does not share his opinions. Do you think he acted in
a scientifically responsible way? If he was in charge of the US
response (from funding on down) do you think the outcome would have
been better? Why or why not?
5. How did the movie affect your opinion of government funding and
bureaucracy when it comes to scientific research?
6. What part of the blame do you think lies with President Reagan's
decision to basically ignore the outbreak of AIDS? Is it realistic
to propose that he would have acted differently had it not been
seen as a "gay cancer" initially?
7. What impact do you think the fact that virtually only gays were
infected at the start of the outbreak had on the research and resolution
of the problem?
8. The photo-mirage at the end of the movie shows famous people
who contracted AIDS. Arthur Ashe died of AIDS after he had received
the disease through a blood transfusion. Magic Johnson continues
to live with HIV, although it is in remission and almost undetectable
in his body. What impact do you think the celebrity community has
had on AIDS research and opinions about AIDS in mainstream America?
Do you think their impact has been greater than the impact of 195,000
people who died of AIDS in the first 10 years of its existence in
the United States? What are the implications of that for scientific
research/funding when it comes to medical needs?
9. Do you think the reaction of the blood banks was appropriate?
How should it have been different? Is a different reaction a realistic
possibility given the dire state of funding in many organizations
who collect blood?
10. Do you think the United States would respond in a more effective
way if a new disease (similar in its effects to AIDS) were found
now? Has the government's response to scientific issues changed
in the last 25 years due to AIDS?
11. There are groups today who believe that the US government should
not fund AIDS research and should instead concentrate its money
elsewhere in order to benefit a greater number of Americans. What
do you think the impact of that would be on AIDS research and the
public's attitude toward AIDS?