A Follow-Up on the Nuances of Consent

Our group blog post discussing consent was one that I considered very fleshed out and thorough, but also lacked an incisive conclusion. I don’t think that is a fault of myself or my group, but instead because, as we had established, it was an idea rooted in such a degree of complexity that it was seemingly impossible to come to a succinct conclusion on what is and isn’t acceptable within the grounds of proper informed consent. There is a strange juxtaposition between aspects that are so obviously black and white, while others fall into a clouded area that is difficult to navigate. I’ve had more time to consider these aspects, and I believe that it is a topic that requires more introspection, especially when it is something that is very prevalent in all of our lives.

I consider the AEC policy and the general rules that doctors need to abide by. When a doctor performs anything in line with their work, it is done so with the understanding that a patient’s best interest will be guiding their processes, such as administering medicine or performing surgery. This brings up the question, at least in my eyes, of plastic and cosmetic surgery, particularly ones that are primarily done for aesthetic purposes. I generally don’t have an issue with cosmetic surgeries; people have the right to do what they want with their bodies. However, is there a point when it infringes on proper ethics? Cosmetic surgeries, like anything else, have the potential to harm someone. Generally that potential for harm is understood, but for a non-cosmetic surgery it is taken into account that the risk for harm is outweighed by the necessity for that surgery. Cosmetic procedures can have the equal risk without the justification that it could potentially save a person’s life. I suppose there is the argument that these surgeries enhance a person’s mental well being, and that once again blurs the line.

Alcohol was another portion that was touched upon in our group post. We addressed that consent is highly debated when alcohol is introduced. This was reintroduced to me when my fraternity attended the school event One Love: a course on seeing signs of unhealthy relationships and how they could be mitigated. We usually participate in the course once a year, but this time we were encouraged to ask questions. The topic of alcohol and consent came up, and it was determined that if either party is intoxicated to any extent any sexual act is deemed not consensual. It was then asked if she (the women hosting) was aware of how often “non-consensual acts” are taking place on this campus considering the party scene at Geneseo, or even at a larger scale how much this occurring nation-wide. She said she does understand that it’s an ongoing issue, but its is obviously very difficult to enforce and it is better in theory than practice. None of these questions were rooted with malicious ideals, but a genuine curiosity for something that is prevalent throughout college campuses. I think it’s important to ask these questions, and I was glad that it had happened, but it didn’t exactly help to have a solidified stance, considering the person teaching us about this struggled herself to come to a solution. 

If it wasn’t blatant before, these are just some of the aspects I thought about that continually add to the nuance of informed consent, and I think it only substantiates the fact that it is important that people do their best to have the clearest understanding of informed consent possible.

When a Body is Valued Over a Person

Perhaps the most interesting reading material in my opinion was “Chapter 12: On The Dissecting Board.” This Chapter tells the Story of Belton, an African American teacher elected to succeed the position of a former teacher who was forced to resign following a law deeming white men teaching black students illegal. His story very much depicted the degree that African Americans were viewed as specimen rather than people. Like many, Belton was the victim of an unfair arrest, after refusing to purchase food at an establishment that wouldn’t let him sit down. The conversation between a doctor and postmaster who saw him was disgusting, with very blatant descriptions about the “specimen” and the things he would do if it meant he would have the ability to dissect him. This eventually came to fruition, with the initiation of a lynching in return for a barrel of whiskey, courtesy of the doctor. In general, this falls in line with the stories and examples found throughout Medical Apartheid, but the manner in which this was written offered a type of story arc that immersed me to a certain extent. Not to say that I have any type of relatability, but even its brevity I found myself invested and empathetic towards Belton’s hardships. Especially when considering that he was ultimately a great person. Teaching is a very noble occupation, even more so during a time period where many sought to silence African Americans and keep them uneducated. That adds to the severity of the fact that he was only looked at as an experiment when he had nothing other than good intentions. He was a person, with values and hopes, and even seeking an occupation was met with hostility because his body was valued over him. Overall I appreciated this material, and considering how much it interested me coupled with the fact that it was (fairly) discussed than some of the longer works, it would be remiss of me to leave it unmentioned.

“Zone One” and Income Inequality

Throughout this course, I have seen many posts comparing the circumstances of “Zone One” to the current landscape of the United States. Emphasis on comparing, there are several arguing that a dystopian zombie infestation is on par with, or even better than, the overall current condition of the country. I am not a proponent of disparaging comments and I do not want to devalue anyone’s opinion, of course everyone is entitled to their own perception of our country. However, I do believe that as a nation, the United States is better off in its current state than it would be if we were dealing with an ongoing zombie issue. 

I am not arguing that the United States is perfect, or ignoring the fact that there are many issues in regards to poverty across the country. The United States, like many other countries, is far from a finished product; we are constantly attempting to implement new systems to be as fair and just as possible. I think to say that something like the Trump Administration is equal to the American Phoenix government is rather extreme.  

Realistically, if the United States were to fall into an apocalypse, than yes the wealthy would have the best chance of survival. I think that contending The Trump Administration or Republicans are the only ones that would act in a matter of self-interest is rather short-sighted. Many popular Democrats are also very wealthy, Bernie Sanders is a great example. I find it hard to believe that in the event of complete nation-wide chaos he would act in a manner unlike that of the elites within the American Phoenix. Although that’s morally questionable, I do believe that is the reality. 

Secondly, we need to look at the current state of our country. Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan’s Washington Post article “The Painful Truth about Teeth” was an example used to promote the idea of income inequality. I don’t disagree that the inability to receive proper dental care is a terrible situation. I personally have great insurance thanks to my father’s profession. I have no way of relating to a person that is struggling to get the help that they desire. But I think to place the blame on the concept of income inequality and the 1% isn’t necessary. The United States is currently doing very well economically. Income inequality is an argument used to basically state that “this person has more than that person.” That is allowed, and it is perfectly understandable that some people would be wealthier than others. Jeff Bezos is constantly ridiculed for reasons I can’t comprehend. He provides services that people want. People value those services higher than the value of the things he needs to live a basic life and continue his business. The result is profit. In my opinion, that isn’t immoral. I don’t think he should be mandated to give up a substantial amount of his wealth because others have less than him. You can be envious of the wealthy and empathetic to the poor, and also be just in your beliefs. You can disagree with that belief, as I am sure many people do, and I don’t think that makes them a bad person. I believe that Socialism-esque tax brackets actually limit mobility. If a business owner is on the cusp of a bracket that would decide whether or not they get taxed 15% or 50%, why would they attempt to inch forward if the result could be detrimental to their business?
I am okay with economic disparity. Personally I don’t see an issue with the rich getting richer; I’m more inclined to be worried about if the poor are getting poorer, and the fact of the matter is they are not. To say that our country parallels that of a dystopian nightmare because there is a person in office that you don’t like is pretty contrived. The gap between the poor and the rich is lessening, and that is because the poor are entering the middle class, not the other way around. Sadly there are people that can’t afford the care they see fit, but our rights that have been outlined to say that you have the freedom to seek any care that you see fit, not that the care will be granted to you. I don’t believe that this country or our government parallels that of the events surrounding “Zone One” at all, and I wouldn’t think that no matter what administration was in office. I’ll make those comparisons around the time that I need to start worrying about zombies.

A Wealth of Knowledge Unshared, and the Need for Discussion

I believe that where this class curriculum excels is in its ability to showcase aspects of American history that would otherwise slip through the cracks of our country’s education system. I think that it’s very easy for us as individuals to say that we have a good understanding of the struggles of African Americans during particularly disappointing time periods in our nation. I know if I were to be asked prior to this course, I most likely would have said I pretty much know what went on. I don’t think that’s necessarily my fault, although it was undoubtedly pretty ignorant of me to believe that I knew the full scope of such things. I think an ongoing issue is the fact that in order to learn about the medical injustices that plagued African Americans, you truly have to seek out information on the topic or be lucky enough to take a class such as this. I suppose there could be an argument made for the specificity of the topic, similar to how an American History class doesn’t cover every battle of every war. However, the battles and wars get mentioned, at least in passing, in order to establish that “yes this happened, we don’t have time to cover it, but just know that is something worth mentioning.” Well, if there was ever a topic about African American history worth mentioning, I’d be hard-pressed to argue anything other than the medical aspect, especially knowing what I know now. I’m not unreasonable; I know that in an ideal scenario the American education system would highlight every injustice, and I also know that is simply an impossibility. My issue stems from the fact that, unlike those wars and battles, I did not know a page worth of information in Medical Apartheid prior to taking this class, and frankly if I hadn’t taken the class I would continue to not know. I believe that’s an injustice to the generations of African Americans whose lives were ruined because of medical practices that completely went against the Hippocratic Oath. I’m a major advocate of the idea that it is better to openly discuss tragedies rather than act as though they never happened. It seems childish to compare, but one of my favorite examples is how Disney addressed the racist depictions in some of their early cartoons. In the Disney animated box set, it begins with Whoopi Goldberg explaining that some of these cartoons have very vulgar and off-putting content, but it is imperative to keep them in the compendium, although they no longer represent the values of Disney. She goes on to say that pretending as if they never happened would be more disrespectful than showing this content. Do I believe that every history teacher I ever had knowingly avoided a discussion about the topics in Medical Apartheid? No, I do not. I do believe however, that there is a severe lack of information being shared. I’m appreciative that I gained insight on this topic, and I hope that the racist medical practices enter the “common knowledge” territory of African American history.

Group Projects and their ability to promote ideas

Along with most people, my relationship with group projects has been very strained. I often found myself either being a sole contributor or having little to offer. My difficulties lay in the uncertainty of thinking that I either know nothing or my respective partners don’t care enough to contribute. Despite these things, I find it exceptionally important to state that the group work done in this class was not only enjoyable, but also beneficial. To be quite frank, I dreaded the thought of a group blog post. I am very stubborn; when I believe something is correct my mind rarely strays from the fact that I’m correct. This is obviously problematic, it certainly doesn’t make my life easier, especially when considering that I’m wrong most of the time (who would’ve thought.) However, when addressing our blog post, I found it particularly easy to discuss our thoughts on the matter. As a group, the issue of consent was ironically not an issue. Our thought processes seemed to coincide, and whenever there was an issue, that issue was resolved by a simple discussion that in no way hindered our ability to be productive. We decided early on that each person would be in charge of a portion of the blog post, and we then discussed how we wanted to address each portion. The end result was what I consider to be one of the best group projects that I had ever been a part of. Not only did I maintain an interest in the topic, I felt like I had contributed in a meaningful way, and I was appreciative of the insight that my group had given. Overall, that exercise was an example of when group projects are productive. It seems basic, but there is often a degree of difficulty when it comes to sharing one’s ideas with a group of people who may not necessarily agree. Was it perfect? Of course not. There will never be perfection when performing the balancing act that is many different ideas in a conclusive essay. Despite this, I have a newfound appreciation for group projects, especially when it means everyone in said project gets to showcase their strengths.

Untold Stories and Closure

People enjoy stories. The stories themselves don’t have to necessarily be very interesting, or thought-provoking, but there is a certain aesthetic pleasure that is associated with the conclusiveness of a story. Beginning, middle, and end: this commanding structure allows for people to have a sense of closure, a resolution to an issue or event. This is no different when considering relationships between people and their ancestry. Not only is it intriguing, but there is an importance in understanding the lives of the people who came before you. It is quite truly a story, a story that hopefully is easily traceable and offers a conclusion, regardless of what that conclusion is. 

In Nina Golgowski’s Huffington Post article, she explains that as many as 7000 bodies had been found underneath the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The medical center was built on the land that was once property of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum. This asylum hosted 80 years worth of patients, many of which died during their stay, resulted in some being buried in the asylum’s cemetery. This ultimately lead to a substantial amount of uncertainty surrounding what had happened to their ancestors. This provoked many people to ask about asylum records, and the discovery of this burial ground is extremely helpful in garnering more information about their family. This should be a relief for all those who struggled with the lack of knowledge about their family history.

Although quite expensive at $21 million, exhuming and testing these newfound bodies is deemed a necessity considering the amount of ancestors that were never granted the proper closure that they deserve. Why is closure important? At its core, people like knowing things. An undeniably simple statement, but true nonetheless. For some, the uncertainty of what occured to a person of relation is more difficult to deal with than the occurrence itself. In “Zone One” when Mim had gone missing, the group dealt with the added stress of wondering what could have happened to her. Although knowing and witnessing if something had happened to her would’ve been difficult, even that pales in comparison to the hopefulness one has to maintain. 

I agree with the fact that cost is not a factor when dealing with these bodies. These bodies are not just bodies, they are people, with ancestors that care about who they were. To do anything else other than treat them with care would be disrespectful to not only the bodies themselves but also their families. Their story remains unfinished, and held within a burial site. To knowingly ignore the closure that could be attained would be akin to ripping out the last chapter of a novel.