Shame on Chris Collins

I take more things personally since my diagnosis.

One such thing is the story of Chris Collins, a Republican congressman from New York, who finally resigned today and is expected to plead guilty tomorrow to charges of insider trading. He and his son along with other family members were investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian company, where the congressman also held a seat on the board of directors.

Already a millionaire, Collins was a believer in the massive financial gains he expected to receive from a treatment for multiple sclerosis being developed by Innate.  He was so sure of its future success that he encouraged some of his congressional colleagues to invest as well.

When he learned that the drug had failed, Collins is accused of telling his son and other family members to drop their shares before the news hit the market. They did just that, though Collins held onto his own shares, presumably for plausible deniability. When he was indicted, Collins denied all of the charges and while under investigation was even re-elected to his congressional seat, the GOP continuing to back him.

Chris Collins is disgusting. His family members who sought to profit from this terrible disease and then used insider information to dump stock when the drug failed are disgusting. Whatever their punishment, it won’t be enough. There won’t be justice because powerful people get to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us do.

They are fully to blame for their actions, for their greed. But there are so many more Chris Collinses out there, and part of the problem is the potential for massive profits in the MS drug market. In the United States, treatments cost at least tens of thousands of dollars if not hundreds of thousands of dollars each year per person. The same treatments are offered at reasonable rates in other countries. Our healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are cozy bedfellows when it comes to taking from us all that they can in America. Both industries play nicely with Congress to ensure their profit margins.

This reminds me of when AIDS patients were selling their life insurance policies for half or even just a quarter of their value to have cash on hand for medical and living expenses at the end of their lives. These viatical settlements are still a big business today, taking advantage of desperate people with terminal diseases. But in the 1980s and early 1990s, gay men were dying at alarming rates because of AIDS, and they presented a unique opportunity for people who didn’t get hung up on the ethics of profiting from another person’s death. Both big investors and normal people—everyday, normal people—bought out the policies, sure that their investments would double quickly upon the person’s imminent death. But when AIDS treatments began offering patients the hope of living long lives, investors had the nerve to complain about not getting their money back along with profits as expected, to complain about the possibility of actually losing money, now in the position of having to wait decades for the insurance payouts.

Disgusting.

So yes, I take what Chris Collins did personally. And if you believe that profiting excessively off of other people’s misfortune represents the worst of us, you should take it personally, too.

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