Unintended Consequences

Listen 48:59
Image: Krudller/Wikimedia Commons

Image: Krudller/Wikimedia Commons

In science and medicine, we often fail to predict the outcomes of our experiments and actions. The result: unintended consequences. Sometimes the surprise is an interesting success. Other times, it’s a disaster. On this episode of The Pulse, how we handle the things we didn’t see coming.

The hour includes: the Nazi physician trial that helped shape medical ethics; how hospitals are dealing with incessant medical alarms; and the history of Macquarie Island — where the introduction of a few rats, cats, and rabbits triggered a domino effect of ecological disaster.

On the show:

  • Author Dawn Raffel tells us about Dr. Couney — the carnival showman who saved thousands of infants, and helped change the way we care for premature babies. Find info on her new book here.
  • Reporter Jad Sleiman brings us the history of the Doctors’ Trial — the post-WWII prosecution of Nazi physicians for war crimes. The goal was justice, but the trial yielded an unexpected result: standards that continue to shape modern medical ethics.
  • Rotavirus once sent hundreds of thousands of U.S. children to the emergency room every year. Then, in 2006, a new vaccine was released. One of the creators, pediatrician Paul Offit, describes the worries that scientists deal with while they wait to see if their product is a success — and safe.
  • Reporter Katja Ridderbusch explains the unintended consequences of hospital alarms, and how medical centers are tackling the problem.
  • When Marta Rusek dropped 80 pounds in three years, her confidence soared. Then — came the comments. Shai Ben-Yaacov reports.
  • LED streetlights can save cities millions on electric bills. But not everyone’s convinced — including one young activist with some science-based quibbles. Monica Eng from WBEZ’s Curious City addresses his concerns, one by one.
  • Conservation biologist Nick Holmes explains the bizarre history of Macquarie Island, where invasive species have devastated the native ecology.
  • Len Webb talks to Amalgam Comics owner Ariell Johnson about her time spent caring for her mother, and the unexpected gift that led to her new life.

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