Science and Problem Solving Techniques
Radium: Narrative of a Moral Dilemma
We are all faced on occasion with a hard choice in life. Telling
a narrative about a conflict in which you have had to make a difficult
decision contributes to your personal growth. This assignment
is about becoming a character in an ethical real life dilemma
faced by medical researchers and patients whenever there is a
breakthrough in the development of a procedure or drug to cure
a disease. Take the time to explore how you might feel if you
were the patient. I plan to explore these ideas in other assignments
throughout the year. Hopefully, science will become more relevant
as you are given an opportunity to examine your own values.
- Also, be certain to read the Introduction
After you have read the following directions, you may see me if
you have personal knowledge of a similar dilemma that you
would be willing to share with just me. I will allow you to substitute
your personal narrative for this assignment IF WE HAVE DISCUSSED
THE IDEA THOROUGHLY FIRST AND I HAVE GIVEN YOU CLEAR WRITTEN DIRECTIONS
ABOUT YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES.
Read the following article: "Radium Time Bomb" from
the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, August 14, 1994. Your
narrative must contain very specific information about Radium
and its discovery in addition to the creation of a fictional character
whose feelings, behavior and responses you must describe as if
they were your own.
Background Information: You may combine the answers to questions
in a paragraph, but include the requested information.
- What are the chemical properties of the element, Radium? Where
did the name of this element come from?
- Briefly describe the life of Marie Curie. Was she always a
scientist or did she have other occupations? Be sure to include
when and how she discovered Radium. What are the theories about
how she died? What was unusual about her life as a scientist?
- What knowledge was available about the hazards of Radium exposure
prior to 1940?
You have been notified that old medical records, thought long
lost by the military, have been located in an old basement. These
records show that you were treated on four occasions with Radium
by placing a capsule in your nose to treat chronic nose bleeds
that you experienced when you were a soldier (male or female)
in World War II during 1943. You were told at the time when you
received the 2 hour exposures that the treatment was safe and
that you were also a part of a group of military personnel who
were undergoing the experimental use of Radium to control superficial
bleeding vessels. You considered the treatment very successful,
having been freed from what had become an unpleasant and dangerous
For the past several years you have been facing chronic sinus
infections and pain. A recent x-ray of your skull has revealed
some abnormal bone growth in the area of you nasal passages, but
there is no evidence of cancer. You are also experiencing gum
disease and having some trouble with your teeth becoming loose
from the bone tissue. It is now 1994 and you are trying to assess
the impact on your life.
Some personal information: You were born in 1924, and are currently
married with three adult children, one of whom is mentally challenged,
still lives at home and is financially dependent. You are receiving
a veteran's pension with medical coverage for yourself but the
money does not take care of the expenses of your dependent 45
year old son, who has a heart defect. A reporter has approached
you for a magazine article about how this medical news might affect
you and your family.
Be creative and invent some dialogue to respond to the questions
asked by the reporter. You are considering your options with the
Army, who is denying responsibility, and are interested in having
the truth told. Weave a story in first person incorporating some
of the ideas below. I encourage you to create your own questions
too. It is important that what you have your character say is
believable and consistent with common sense and medical knowledge.
You might need to look at information about sinuses, gum disease
and birth defects associated with Radium if that is part of your
Provide an introductory statement which includes a physical description
and the sex (the person may be either male or female) of your
character. Any comments to the following reporter's questions
should be gender consistent. At some point in the essay clearly
state the moral dilemma) that you think your character is facing.
- What caused you to seek the assistance of the Army doctors?
How much was explained to you in 1943 about your treatment? Did
the Army doctors give you any information about the side effects
of Radium exposure? What did they tell you? Did you know Radium
was inside the capsule?
- How did you feel physically after the treatments? Were they
painful? Did you feel ill afterwards? Did they fix your problem?
- When did you find out that there may be some long term problems
associated with the treatments? Has the Army notified you of any
potential problems yet? Are you part of a group of people being
watched now for complications? Do you have any current health
complaints? Do you think any of your complaints are related to
your old exposure?
- Can you share with me what went through your mind when you
first read the article after you found out about your old records?
How did this affect you? How did this affect your family?
- Are you worried about having any complications now? Do you
think your sinus or dental problems are related to the Radium
treatments? What do your current doctors or dentists say?
- What do you think the Army should have done differently in
1943? Do you think it was a mistake for you to participate in
- What do you think the Army should do now about the 80,000
documented Radium exposures to military personnel and their families?
The Army's official position is that Radium was and is a safe
treatment for certain types of medical problems. Do you think
the Army should be responsible for long term care of victims?
What types of conditions do you think the Army should be responsible
- Has any one suggested that your son's problems might have
been related to your Radium? Have you asked the Army doctors for
additional help in this area? What were their responses?
- What are your plans for the future? What would you like to
THIS ASSIGNMENT IS DUE: ______________________________
THE GRADE VALUE OF THIS ASSIGNMENT IS __________ POINTS POSSIBLE.
Your grade will be based on the following specific criteria:
a. The story is neatly typed/written and sufficient in length
to write at least a one page magazine article from the information
provided. This represents about 1,000 words.
b. Spelling and grammar have been checked. There are no sentence
fragments, run-ons or paragraphs which lack good construction.
- The story line is believable and contains sufficient facts
to demonstrate that you have researched the required areas. Some
of the material maybe fiction, but must be consistent with known
- The character is developed in a compassionate fashion so that
the reader (me) could easily feel the position of the character
- The story clearly describes at least two ethical dilemmas and
offers insight into the feelings of the individuals involved and
potential plans of action.