Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inherent Vice

Years ago my father-in-law purchased a car load of walnuts from Chile. He owned a packaging company that wholesaled to retailers. The walnuts were prepaid. When they arrived and at the time of packaging it was apparent that a hatch of worms had occurred in the bulk walnuts." Inherent vice" would have been the label applied, and neither the carrier or the insurance was liable. My father in law had no knowledge of the term. He just knew he was out a big bundle and had no recourse.! This simple phrase reminds me of the history of joint replacement and implant surgery in general, an activity in which I was immersed for many years. Inherent vice, this strange term, is defined as, "a hidden defect (or the very nature of) a good or property, which of itself is the cause of (or contributes to) it's deterioration, damage or wastage." The evolution of surgical implants are highly dependent on the research capabilities of the bioengineering firms that manufacture the implants. Inherent implant defects were not uncommon in the pioneer attempts to restore joints, immobilize fractures and reconstruct major physical defects. Though careful case selection was undertaken by the surgeons, and product safety was paramount, the test of time is infinite, not finite and so many products, despite best efforts in the early days displayed inherent vice.It was a ethical tightrope to choose. It's a curious thing that until recently ,I had never heard the term,inherent vice, despite my long professional career inserting surgical implants. I only learned of the phrase when, in a literature group, we were reading The Faerie Queene, and encountered the human characters created by the magician, Archimago; faux humans who were really Sprights: a product with inherent vice! It just goes to show, no matter what you know, there is always something to apply to your area when knowledge is cross fertilized!

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