The Safety of Incredibly Dangerous Things

Posted on February 6, 2024 By

by Rachel MacNair


A common method used to try to justify violence is to make comparisons to innocent-sounding things, saying that the violence being justified is actually safer than things that people don’t normally fear much. Here are three examples

Nuclear Weapons and Radiation

In my youth, when we were opposing nuclear weapons as mass destruction and nuclear energy as a bad environmental practice, nuclear energy proponents would commonly make the claim that the overall radiation in the area of Denver, Colorado was higher than it was around most nuclear power plants. They claimed this was because Denver was so very high above sea level. So if radiation levels around nuclear power plants were lower than radiation levels caused by higher elevations, they must not be so bad.

They left out a crucial point: near Denver was the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant (since closed). It made nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, something that produces far more radiation than mere energy production would.

Death Penalty and Humane Methods

Lethal injections were supposed to be a more humane way of carrying out executions. It seemed more like a medical procedure, in which drugs are meant to perform a specific task. Yet executions keep being botched, leading to torturous outcomes. As recently as January 25, 2024, an execution by nitrogen hypoxia – which euthanasia proponents have proposed as one method for a gentle way of ending life – lasted 22 minutes and was horrific. Being humane and executing someone don’t make a good match.

Abortion Pills

The claim is made that mifepristone, the first part of the two-part abortion pill regimen, is “safer than Tylenol.” Statistics show that more people have to go to the hospital emergency room because of Tylenol than because of mifepristone. Since Tylenol is well known for its safety, they argue that must make abortion pill awfully safe.

The first thing wrong with that point: way, way more people use Tylenol than mifepristone. So of course more people have problems with what more people use. It’s not the raw numbers, but the rates – how many per 1,000 people that use the drug end up in the hospital – that make an accurate comparison.

The next problem is that the vast majority of people who get into trouble with Tylenol do so because they overdosed. Overdosing is a danger with all drugs – that’s part of what makes them drugs. If there weren’t a danger of overdosing, it would be something other than a drug. Mifepristone, on the other hand, can send you to the hospital when used as prescribed.

But most importantly, any other drug causing miscarriages would have that as a mark against its safety. With mifepristone, a miscarriage is the whole point. Already you have a problem with defining safety in a way that can be compared.

But worse: any other drug that caused days of cramps and bleeding, even if it did so just a small portion of the time, would be taken off the take-at-home market immediately. There are no other legal drugs to compare mifepristone to, because if any of them did a small bit of what mifepristone does regularly, they would be reserved for monitored situations where treating diseases like cancer might be worth the side effects. They wouldn’t be allowed for simple prescription at all, certainly not for taking in unmonitored situations at home.



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