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Human Review

By UTKARSH MISHRA
Last updated on: January 14, 2022 17:35 IST
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Human presents an ugly truth -- that some people need to die a painful death in order to facilitate the process of finding a cure for deadly diseases, observes Utkarsh Mishra.

Drugs, vaccines, clinical trials. Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 trial data. Emergency approval.

Many such phases entered our lexicon like never before in after the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.

The controversies surrounding the human trials of vaccines and drugs, the perils of over-medication, the importance of going by the book even while urgency is mounting and all such issues have never acquired such broad space in public discourse.

So, if a Web series on unethical drug trials and their consequences on human lives is released at such a time, it genuinely piques interest. It is perhaps the first time that this issue is being explored in this manner.

 

The story of Human revolves around an unethical human trial of a drug and three lead characters whose lives are connected to it.

The story seems superficial for a couple of episodes, but it grips you subsequently and becomes very interesting by Episode 8.

But the end was a little disappointing and could have been different in a better way.

The three lead characters are Dr Gauri Nath, played by Shefali Shah, an influential doctor who had a traumatic childhood and also suffered a major heartbreak in her later life. This turned her into a certain kind of obsessive sociopath. And her obsession to forget her pain and trauma is at the centre of this nasty plot.

The second is Dr Saira Sabharwal, played by Kirti Kulhari, a junior doctor who also suffers from childhood trauma, but that has to do with her struggle with her sexuality and with her parents who remain in a great denial about it, forcing her to be rebellious.

And the third is a slum boy named Mangu, played by Vishal Jethwa, whose sole aim is to earn a lot of money and take his family out of the slum.

Their respective interests and obsessions connect them to this trial, which is primarily a desperate attempt of the owner of a major pharmaceutical company to boost its dwindling finances.

Apart from its attempts to uncover the dark underbelly of the biopharma industry, the story also presents an ugly truth, that some people need to die a painful death in order to facilitate the process of finding a cure for deadly diseases and health conditions.

A drug, a vaccine will have to be tried on someone before others can benefit by it.

The question is, how far should this process be corporatised to make it a profit and loss business and thereby allowing corruption to creep in and break all the norms and standards.

At a time when even non-peer-reviewed preliminary data has started making its way to news reports in order to build a brand value of a certain drug or vaccine among the people at a subconscious level, this question becomes all the more important.

One may also question the impact this series will have on the minds of people while multiple efforts are being made to dispel fears about vaccines, drugs and medical procedures.

But another way to look at it is that bringing all these issues into the public discourse will make the people more informed and they can demand more accountability and transparency in these processes, making it difficult for vested interests to exploit common people.

Moreover, it also shows that corruption and violations at this level in such sensitive issues never goes unnoticed. It cannot be completely covered-up despite the best of efforts of the most powerful authorities.

It only takes one careful observer with a conscience, one whistleblower, one victim with a will to fight back and one act of courage to bring down the whole edifice of corruption and manipulation.

Coming back to the point that how the end could have been better.

The story was going on very well, but then comes the climax where Mangu, who is shown rather helpless all along and who definitely has no money in his pocket, manages to pull off a major sabotage at the workshop of a pharmaceutical giant.

Yes, David does win against Goliath, but in a series like this, this victory could have been more realistic.

The story drives home the fact that healthcare should not be corporatised; it is one of those sectors whose primary motive should always be welfare. This is not too much to ask for in a post-COVID world.

Human is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.

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UTKARSH MISHRA / Rediff.com