Author Archives: Kat Bagger

Cyberbullying and Covid

The public shaming of others has been going on for at least a hundred years or more in a variety of different outlets. Today the biggest outlet of shaming is via social media. Analyzing the article it is clear that over time if someone (especially if well known) makes a mistake during a pandemic outsiders looking in take small pieces of information without the full story and run with it. This form of shaming is simply unethical and uncalled for. Everyone is human, we all make simple mistakes and there is no reason to ostracize an individual because of that mistake. In regards to the pandemic, it also seems very unethical due to the timeline and original misunderstandings of the virus. When the pandemic first began many professionals were unaware that it could be carried without the individual’s knowledge and that it could also be transmitted in the same way. Today there are multiple symptoms that surround the virus that are similar to the common cold. Based on this information alone the public backlash that these individuals face for simply not feeling sick, feeling like it’s the allergies, or the common cold seems unnecessary. For individuals like Rokita, Nga, and Nhung their intentions were neither cruel or in malice. These people were simply living their lives with no idea that they could have caught the virus. As I continue to buy groceries, go to work, and appointments while also maintaining COVID guidelines, I can’t help but wonder how outsiders assume they know the daily occurrences in these people’s lives. For Rokita he was simply running an errand that no one else could, for the sisters, they were just trying to earn a wage and continue to live their lives safely. Instead of ostracizing these individuals, they should be able rest and take care of themselves and family in peace without the stress and anger of the public breathing down their necks.  

Utilitarianism and Trust

The lens in which we Americans view China stems from anti-communist sentiments that can be traced all the way back to the 1940’s during WW2. We actively depict China as a ruthless nation that sacrifices its citizens for monetary gain just shy of slavery. A hypocritical evaluation on America’s behalf to say the very least. Communist governments are consistently grouped with Nazi Germany or North Korea – never taking into account the benefits of a system that consistently prioritizes the good of the majority, a whopping 1.4 billion people for China. And while the country does have its flaws, most notably the infamous Tiananmen Square protests and the restriction of family planning, their utilitarian attitude towards this virus was incredibly effective.

The story of Liu stood out as exceptionally utilitarian. He was forced to endure complete isolation for 65 days resulting in a clear disruption of his psychological health, but his sacrifice diminished the worries of an entire community – a community that worked incredibly hard to achieve control of the illness. The mental wellness of many exceeded the mental wellness of the individual (he was never physically sick!) and it resulted in something amazing: a near elimination of the virus in their area and a reopening within 11 weeks. This scenario absolutely would not happen in America without uproar. We don’t even keep our most lethal inmates under solitary confinement for more than 30 days. Equally so, America is likely to suffer through the new year with January marking our 11th month of quarantine. Utilitarianism simply fails to apply in America due to the divided nature of the country. There is no unified community to do good for. From the very inception of this country, communities were created out of the need to separate themselves from their oppressors – Native Americans, African Americans, and even Mexican Americans can attest to this seemingly voluntary yet necessary segregation. In America, Liu isn’t one person but instead a conglomerate of minority communities being psychologically and physically tormented at the hands of white greed and privilege. Can it be considered good for “most” if half of the country is suffering?

What struck me the most was Chinese citizens reporting a heightened trust in their government – a shocking contrast to American citizens’ current opinions on the state of our country. Racial tensions have resurfaced from viral documentation of police brutality, the BLM movement, and the rise of white nationalists. Simultaneously, an entire section of the country, unfortunately including our most powerful leaders, denies the very existence of science and insist on sickness being their American right. Our political system hasn’t been this openly polarized since the civil war and it’s become difficult to trust our neighbors let alone our government. So to see China find unity in the midst of America’s domestic crisis is jarring.

The truth is that America doesn’t trust itself. We don’t trust our government, we don’t trust each other, and we don’t trust ourselves to make the change we want to see. It feels like a lost cause but the diseased state of our country is curable with the vaccine of trust. When we dedicate ourselves to rebuilding trust in our communities we focus on creating a government and most importantly a country we can be proud of.

CoVid Vaccine: Ethical dilemmas at every step

It’s surreal reading Sarah Zhang’s article on CoVid from 3 months ago – you can feel the frustration and angst in her tone , which is a reflection of how most Americans were feeling at the time. As we approach November, ushering us into the ninth month of the ongoing pandemic, there’s much less hope despite the prospect of a vaccine. The CDC is absent. Federal and state administrations are persistently inept – the upcoming election only exacerbates this fact. There’s just an overarching sense of somber acceptance that to outlast the pandemic, we must accept ethical compromises and I doubt vaccine distribution will be the exception to these sentiments.

Much like the approval of early faulty Covid testing material (resulting in a significant amount of false negatives and thus continued spread of the virus), rushing the process of medical equipment like a vaccine through the Trail 3 phase has a high chance of bringing as much harm as good, our best-case scenario is to have the vaccine be effective in merely 50% of those it is given to, but we as a country have made the ethical compromise to prioritize immediate chance over gradual certainty.

In prioritizing chance we have decided we need tens of thousands of research volunteers to create this vaccine. This presents one of the most challenging ethical dilemmas of all: selecting individuals who are likely to be exposed to and heavily affected by the virus. Many of these individuals are essential workers that work lower-wage jobs (delivery persons, grocery clerks, teachers, restaurant servers) who have continued to work through the pandemic as a means to stay financially afloat and individuals who are at high risks such as elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions. To even obtain a vaccine, we are essentially asking the most vulnerable populations to “take one for the team” and risk their lives for the betterment of the majority healthy and financially stable population. It’s especially heinous that many studies are targeting lower-income areas with the incentive of financial compensation, creating the equivalent of an economic Covid research draft.

And so we find ourselves at the most recent prompt of ethical compromise: who gets the vaccine and when? Since these communities are the ones being targeted, do they not deserve first priority when a vaccine is approved as reparation for their continued sacrifices throughout the pandemic? Were these not the citizens that helped the US function while the rest of us patiently waited safely inside our homes – how can they be “at-risk” enough to be guinea pigs but not “at risk” enough to be taken care of?

Zhang points out that providing vaccines to these communities has been an idea spread amongst professionals but that confusion of authority has delayed any sort of substantial distribution plans. I have to agree with her that the “vaccination program is likely to take place against a backdrop of partisanship and misinformation” and that’s a prediction from months ago. Resources are finite and its well known that the vaccine distribution will receive critique from every angle but in my opinion, and perhaps because I am partial towards the ethics of care and considering how this virus has disproportionately effected various communities, we should be prioritizing those that have been caring for us for the past nine months. We may not fully know who will get it right at the beginning but its very clear who should be recieving it last: all of us sitting at home waiting for a solution.

Gold, HeLa, and Glory: Medical Paternalism as a means to colonize the Medical field

In the second portion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, we see the very worst sides of medical paternalism to the point where doctors and scientists truly believed their desires surpassed the human rights of their patients and that requiring them to act ethically was an infringement upon their rights as professionals to perform their jobs. To them, patients and research subjects were all disposable vessels used in the name of science and discarded for the sake of glory amongst their peers. Gey,Wilbur, and Southam exist as the noticeable culprits of this offense but the entire medical and research community is to blame.

I need to clarify that Henrietta’s cells were not simply “taken” or “used”, these words wrongfully sugar coat the offense: her body was stolen and sold by a white man who intentionally ignored a black woman’s humanity. Dr.Gey’s obsession with being the first researcher to grow human cells in a lab trumped Henrietta’s human right to possess and control the contents of her body – it was never about science, it was about recognition. Even after death, Henrietta was unable to rest as Hopkins pushed her husband to release her body for research even though her husband said no. It was only when Day was fraudulently coerced into believing his children would benefit from the procedures that he gave permission. Coercion is not consent and Dr.Wilbur knew this but he wanted Henrietta’s cells and he knew he had the power to take them simply because of his title. As Day put it, “…they is the doctor, and you go to go by what they say” (p.165).

It’s also absolutely necessary to point out how their position as white men in society contributes to the validation of their use of medical paternalism as a weapon against ethical practice. It took three Jewish doctors to confront and hold accountable one white researcher. A claim was even made against them that they were being too sensitive about their Jewish culture! As Skloot pointed out, Southam wasn’t even a doctor and thus wasn’t withholding information for the sake of any patients but was rather blatantly using deceit for his own personal gain. Here we see once again the lust of one outweighs the lives of many in the name of (faux) medical paternalism. Why were their wants more valuable than the need for consent? Was their research ever truly about the advancement of science or was it all for self-gratification?

Buchannan’s arguments to replace the “universal” right to a decent minimum of healthcare

In “The right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care”, Buchannan breaks down the controversial topic of the “universal right” approach to implementing healthcare. According to Buchannan, this notion of a universal right to a decent minimum is popular for three main reasons: the allowance of societal-relativity, the avoidance of strong equal access, and the attraction of the most basic services. Societal-relativity speaks on the direct, as opposed to inverse, the relationship between the amount of resources and standards of services. As more resources become available the standards of our healthcare services should rise. Strong equal access has its flaws in its stringency, either we all have very low healthcare for everyone or high standard healthcare despite the depletion of resources. It’s an unrealistic expectation that seems reasonable to want to avoid. Finally, the idea that we could achieve within our limits very basic services of healthcare for all people does become somewhat undesirable when its goals are “tolerable living”. I would have to interject for this last notion due to the fact that there is socioeconomic inequality throughout this country and “tolerable” for some may be miraculous for others so to assume “tolerable” as a description is inadequate is rather narrow-minded.

But what Buchannan wants to stress is that these factors are not enough to justify enforcing a decent minimum and he proposes new supporting evidence towards the idea. He believes his supporting arguments,  Special Rights, Harm prevention, and Prudential arguments, create a more adequate supporting theory in explaining why and also how we could achieve a decent minimum. Special rights involves specializing services for those who may have faced past institutional injustices in the healthcare realm, those who have been unjustly exposed to health risk, and those who have gone through major sacrificial instances such as service in the military. It makes sense to provide extra or possibly just more appropriate care to these protected classes. He then pushes the generally accepted idea of harm prevention, giving the examples of mass sanitation and vaccine, as a different way of achieving a decent minimum. He lastly brings forth the lesser morally cushioned idea that rides off the back of capitalism and that concerns keeping a work and defense force healthy enough to keep the economy and protection of this country stable. It’s a benefit that can be quantitatively measured and is hard to refute by those who don’t value health safety or empathetic reasoning quite as much. So his arguments overall make perfect sense.

However, I can’t say that his arguments are any more thorough in the fight for good healthcare. He combines his methods without putting an official name for them but they essentially support the same things as the declared universal right to a decent minimum. Even the point concerning specialized care is some form of the universal right to a decent minimum just simply with a prescribed context: all military participants need this all-encompassing specialized care. So, while I agree with his theories I support them as a supplement in addition to the current goals of a decent minimum.

Dworkin’s justification for Paternalistic measures

In “Paternalism”, Gerald Dworkin brings to light inconsistencies found within Mill’s “one very simple principle” against the application of paternalism. He uses logical blind spots found within Mill’s argument to support his notion that there are such occasions in which interfering with a person’s liberty for the sake of his own good can be justified. He structures his argument around the two largest fallacies he sees in Mill’s work. The first being Mill’s assumption around impeccable adult psychology and thus unchallenged self-interest, an assumption Dworkin deems as “fairly weak” when taking into account the short-comings of ignorance, irrationality, and stupidity found within even the most reasonable adult. The second being Mill’s exception to intervene in the case that an individual makes a decision that will ultimately restrict his future freedoms.

Dworkin presents his argument with real-life scenarios in which people are understood to act in non-rational fashions using himself as an example when he reflects on failing to put on a seatbelt. His lack of emotional awareness for the potential consequences, one of those being actual death, is commonplace since few of us persistently act in our best interest all the time. In this non-rational framework, he includes decisions that are made under extreme psychological and sociological pressures as well as decisions that are made with incorrect proportions of considerations/values. As most adults would agree, these self-destructive manners are not irregularities but instead quite normal within our daily behaviour, thus Dworkin suggest paternalistic measures have the potential to serve as “social insurance policies” in which a fully rational individual is protected against his/her/their own deficiencies.

He expands this concept of insurance policy towards Mill’s second exception in which case the current decision of the individual inhibits their future autonomy and freedom. Both Mill and Dworkin agree that the objective of paternalism in such a case is to ensure the absolute value of choice itself and thus is justified.  Overall, Dworkin ends his argument with what I would consider two reasonable principles in justification of some extent of paternalism: that there must be a seriously clear burden of proof on the authorities to demonstrate the nature of the harmful effects to the individual and the principle of the least restrictive alternative that prioritizes a path that does not restrict liberty and achieves the desired end. There is a trade-off but Dworkin’s argument does hold validity.