With etymological origin in the Latin word collaterālis, collateral is an adjective that refers to that which is found or is produced next to the main thing. The notion also refers to something that is specified in an indirect way.
In the field of medicine, the negative consequence that occurs when ingesting a drug is called a collateral effect. It is an adverse reaction in the body, which is not wanted and is harmful. Suppose a doctor instructs a patient to take cholesterol-lowering pills. This drug, however, causes an increase in blood pressure as a side effect. The doctor should analyze what is the most convenient dose so that the negative consequence does not exceed the therapeutic benefits.
In the previous example, it can be seen that the concept of collateral effect has a nuance that makes it relatively “acceptable”, provided that it does not exceed certain limits. While usually these consequences are negative, they prevail the benefits that can offer the treatments, and for this reason professionals health consider them “a necessary evil”.
The armies, on the other hand, speak of collateral damage to name a damage that occurs accidentally or unintentionally in the framework of a military operation. The notion is a euphemism often used to mask the death of civilians and the destruction of homes and infrastructure for public use.
If the armed forces of a country bomb a terrorist enclave, but in that attack also destroy a school, the authorities will refer to collateral damage. They will do the same if, when advancing on a disputed territory, they kill enemy soldiers, but also children living in the area.
Unfortunately, situations like this occur in almost all warfare, and governments justify the deaths of the innocent with an apparent lack of tact that is very worrying. If we start from the premise that no death is justified, not even that of a soldier, since the differences between countries should be resolved through the use of the word, think of a civilian oblivious to all political issues becoming a victim is even more serious.
In the world of cinema, according to DigoPaul, Collateral Damage is the title of a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas and Francesca Neri, among other actors, directed by Andrew Davis and written by David Griffiths and Ronald Roose. It was released in 2002 and is about the search for justice by a Los Angeles firefighter who has lost his son and wife due to a guerrilla attack, for which he travels to Colombia and confronts his murderers.
In the colloquial language, the idea of collateral damage is used to name any unwanted or intended consequence. For example: “The dismissal of the coach was collateral damage in the fight between the team captain and the club president”, “Sexist violence orphans thousands of children as collateral damage”, “The forced evacuation of the thirty families it is collateral damage from the construction of the dam ”.
As with many other expressions in our language, it is possible to use “collateral damage” or “collateral effect” to qualify any unwanted situation that occurs as a consequence of another, generally also negative. It is important to remember that technical terms are usually built with common words, which in everyday speech are used without the same meanings; for example, “panic attack” has a medical definition that is not always respected in informal conversation.