Author Archives: Muhammad Mukarram

Social Media Shaming and COVID-19

In this article by D.T. Max, the effects of social media on the lives and mental health of people in their real lives are detailed. With so many people being stuck at home with nothing but technology as their outlet, this article is extremely relevant. Technology has given people a source of entertainment, through increased shows to stream, and more connection to world news. That said, technology has also created an avenue for others to key-in on the lives of certain people, especially those in the public eye. This has proven to be more negative than positive due to social media users critiquing every detail in posts and actions of said people. Furthermore, critiquing such people during this pandemic makes no sense, because like everyone else, they are new to our new way of life, and learn about, COVID little-by-little, like every day. Max gives a great example of this when he talks about Dr. Rokita, a Polish physician who committed suicide because of public scrutiny regarding his actions, before even knowing he had the coronnavirus.

As Max details, the coronavirus was new to the world, and there were no cases in Poland. Upon getting tested for the virus, Dr. Rokita continued to engage in his routine activities because, like many people, he didn’t know much about it, and since there were no cases in Poland, he didn’t think he had it. Unfortunately, Dr. Rokita did have it, and he received extreme scrutiny from the public because of his “negligent” actions. When all was said and done, Dr. Rokita committed suicide because he could no longer bare the horrific treatment he and his family were receiving.

From this story, I believe that readers should take heed and when browsing through social media, be a little more forgiving for mistakes. People aren’t perfect, even when they’re trying to paint their lives as such on social media and everyone has to remember that in order to avoid overly shaming people for their mistakes, ESPECIALLY during this pandemic where people are still acclimating to our new way of life.

How Paternalism Has Currently Proven Effective Outside of the U.S.

Peter Hessler’s recent article shined a light on the global differences in response to the coronavirus. Throughout the article Peter details the strikingly innovative approach taken by China, to combat the virus. The first eye-opening innovation mentioned was the completely robotic package delivery service put in place, on the streets, by the Chinese government. The robot is so COVID-19-specific, that it requires owners of the packages to have on masks in order to retrieve their goods. This is an example of the first major point Peter makes in his article-the Chinese government did not only enact rules and regulations, they enforced them, and also facilitated the transition into citizens following said rules and regulations

Although the Chinese government did a great job of helping citizens understand that the old way of life would not be sustainable for a period of time, it would be unfair to not mention the moments of extreme enforcement of those same rules and regulations. One way in which the paternalistic approach was negative, according to Peter, is how aggressively the Chinese government eradicated contractees of the coronavirus from their homes and the ways in which others were trapped in their homes for weeks. Aside from these issues, the Chinese government did something that could never happen in the U.S. However, it would also be inaccurate to not give recognition to the Chinese citizens who skeptically accepted the new way of life taught to them.

This acceptance of the “new normal” was highlighted throughout the article, from picking up packages to having to record and report one’s child’s temperature every single day before sending them off to school. Having a population that is willing to work together and make sacrifices is essential for paternalism to work during times like these. The people have to be able to trust the government while giving up certain freedoms. Once again, this is something that I doubt could ever occur in the U.S., due to its deep roots of defying orders and living freely. It doesn’t help that the leadership during the beginning of the pandemic to this very day, has put so much emphasis on avoiding the footsteps of the Chinese government. The effects of that can be seen in the strikingly different number of cases between the two countries.

Furthermore, due to how commonsensical the innovations of the Chinese government were, I’m beginning to wonder if the U.S. simply wasn’t thinking hard enough about stopping the spread of the virus. With every protocol listed in the article, the answer to that question is affirmed more and more. It seems that while China and other countries were working amongst themselves to educate and stop the spread of coronavirus, our country was focused on suppressing the understanding of the virus, which has caused division among our people. Division is equal to picking sides, and picking the side that supports not wearing a mask and showing up to every party has pushed us further and further away from the models that have proven to be effective.

The Politics of COVID-19 and the Race for a Vaccine

Earlier this summer, when the coronavirus was finally being accepted as our new reality, and media politicians and prominent government figures were attempting to debunk the seriousness of the virus, an article by Sarah Zhang, entitled “A Vaccine Reality Check” was published in the Atlantic. Within this article, Zhang describes the then current climate of COVID-19 and the responses it was garnering from all sides. Most importantly, she dove into the ethical issues that these sides were battling with and gave her perspective on the matter.

Furthermore, Zhang begins by telling readers the reality-a COVID-19 vaccine will not be arriving soon, especially not in October, which was predicted. This destruction of false hope is essential in all crisis scenarios because although it may decrease one’s will, it is an opportunity to help someone realize the reality of a situation and prepare for it. The fact of the matter is that the world has never seen anything like COVID-19. In addition, since every science laboratory in the world is working on a vaccine, resources are already scarce, and the competition to monetize this vaccine is unprecedented.

However, regardless of these harsh realities, what matters most is that a vaccine is being developed around the world. Yet, one of the other issues highlighted by Chang is the prioritization of vaccination. Zhang recalls the protocol used back in 2009 when the H1N1 vaccine was being developed and was rolling out. It was essential that people received the vaccine in waves since they were not all in the same risk-of-contraction category. This is also true for the rolling out of the the COVID-19 vaccine since, as we’ve seen for months, the virus attacks people differently due to their age and health history.

Lastly, the political aspect of COVID-19 is discussed in every paragraph of this op-ed, and with every month since its release, it is clear that politics have played a major role in the reception of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Although Zhang spoke on the terrible deceptions presented by President Trump, it is important to note what she said about the CDC being awfully quiet during these times. This was notable to be because in another class we learned about the CDC’s political affiliations and how those have influenced their decisions to talk about the virus and the cases associated with it. All in all, this virus is starting to expose the U.S, of not actually being 100% about the people, but more so about the people with much more power above and their financial interests. Essentially, these times have been a reminder that “cash rules everything around us” and propaganda is willing to be spewed in order to protect the flow of cash throughout the economy and so much more. This brings us back full-circle to the questions raised in Zhang’s article, who will get to control the COVID-19 vaccine? Will it be affordable and readily available? Why is such an important vaccine for the world being valued more for its monetary benefits compared to its health benefits for the globe? These are questions that make us question the intentions of those in power around the world.

Henrietta’s Glorius Life (After Death)

In Part II of the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Skoot dives into the “immortal” aspect of Henrietta’s life by commencing with her death and continuing with the prosperous life of her cells. Once again, we are reminded of the completely unethical practices performed on her to obtain said cells, and the continuous disrespect of her humanity. In fact, Mary, the lab assistant who actually cultured Henrietta’s cells, said that she never even considered Henrietta to be “human”, which begs the question, what did she consider Henrietta?

“When I saw those toenails,” Mary told me years later, “I nearly fainted. I thought, Oh jeez, she’s a real person. I started imagining her sitting in her bathroom painting those toenails, and it hit me for the first time that those cells we’d been working with all this time and sending all over the world, they came from a live woman. I’d never thought of it that way.”

Obviously this caries a racial undertone, that is heavily present throughout the duration of the book. This can be vastly contrasted with the glorious life that lives on beyond her death through her HeLa cells. Moreover, although her cells are treated like royalty, as Skoot describes in her book, Henrietta’s family continued to suffer from poverty, disrespect, mental and health issues. Although Henrietta had unintentionally contributed to science today, she received no benefits, recognition, or benefits to her and her family’s legacy.

The HeLa cells, that live on until today, were/have been viewed as the property of science. From a Utilitarian perspective, this is completely fine because although Henrietta’s life was lost, her cells have benefitted millions of people around the world through their paving of the way for advancements in cell culturing-a field I’ve worked in for multiple years. However, this is where the Utilitarianism’s paradoxical nature becomes apparent in that its aim is to benefit the most people possible, even at the expense of other’s lives, therefore still hurting others. Once again, this contrast can be seen in the abandonment of Henrietta and her family while many others benefitted. All in all, this shows how although philosophers attempt to deeply understand humans and their lives, some things, like morality and emotions, are not easily qualifiable.

Buchanan: Just Because Something is “Good” Doesn’t Mean That it is Obligatory

This excerpt from Buchanan’s article delivers his arguments against the notion for a universal right to a decent minimum of healthcare. Aside from giving a thorough explannation of what is meant by a decent minimum of care, Buchanan provides details on how such a notion was created and why it has been viewed as favorable. For one, such a notion for a universal right to decent minimum helthcare feels more socially moral, and as Buchanan mentions, disagreeing with this universal right is forwned upon by the masses. In addition to that,

In my opinion, the most interesting argument presented by Buchanan, and that relates the most to what we have been learning throughout this course, is his explanation of what a “right” is in philosophy (its definition is heavily disputed) and that just because he’s arguing that there isn’t a right to a universal minimum of healthcare, doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be minimal healthcare and that that would likely be great for the world. Buchanan asserts that just because universal decent minimal healthcare would be great for society, doesn’t automatically mean that everyone has a right to it. This is a perspective that I never considered, however it is reasonable and logical, while also easing the guilt/burden of those who do wish there was universal decent minimal healthcare, but know deep down that is isn’t feasible at this day and age.

One obvious issue with this proposed universal right highlighted by Buchanan is the determination of what is “decent minimum healthcare”. s we’ve studied throughout this philosophy class, such a theoretical distinction is too ambiguous to apply to real life. How can we determine what is minimum healthcare, Buchanan asks. How do we decide who gets what care, especially since different groups (around the world) likely face different health issues and therefore require special treatments? Fortunately Buchanan does focus on this issue as he explains that is special healthcare was given, it would have to target individual groups and circumstance. An example he gave is special healthcare for African-Americans who are the descendants of former slaves. He says that if (but there’s no “if”) descendent of slaves are negatively impacted by their people’s past oppression, they should be given more healthcare opportunities-in this case, that would be completely fair since this group of people was set back in this country compared to their non-black counterparts. He also gives a similar example pertaining to Native Americans.

All in all, Buchanan provides detailed, logical, assertions that counteract the notion for the right to a universal decent minimal right to healthcare founded in the view that such a notion should not be viewed as a “right” just because it would be beneficial for many people, and that even if it were a “right” it would be nearly impossible to achieve in today’s world.

Goldman’s Argument to Reduce the Presence of Paternalism

In “The Refutation of Medical Paternalism”, Goldman makes his case for why paternalism is often incorrect in the medical field, when dealing with patients. In addition, Goldman dives into the various arguments promoting Paternalism, their fundamental roots of understanding, and uses that to extract various counterarguments that disprove said advocations for paternalism in the medical field.

Goldman’s argument against paternalsim starts with the understanding that every individual has their own set of values that are often ranked differently compared to the next person. Not every person will value health over all other “priorities”. Many, as seen in case studies, will value their religious practices over their health, if the two contradict. That said, giving a physician, nurse, or any healthcare delivery professional the right to override their (aware/functioning) patient’s desires-whether disclosed by the patient or not-would be a complete violation of thier autonomy. This leans on the principle explained by Goldman, that in order for a medical professional to make such a decision, they would have to have a full psychological analysis of the patient, and a deep understanding of the patient’s values, which is nowhere near possible to do consistently and efficiently.

That said, Goldman’s passion is expressing the seriousness of not assuming what is best for the patient is a critical part of his argument against paternalism. Goldman suggests that although a medical professional may know what is medically best for a patient, opposing the patient’s wishes would be even more harmful to the patient because, in that moment, the patient knows what’s best for them. However, when patients are suffering and struggling with their illness, Goldman explains that if lying to the patient would help ease some of the patient’s mental suffering, it can be done, but cautiously and when with a thorough psychological evaluation of the patient, while being able to maintain the lie. This could be another method of protecting the interest of the patient since Goldman’s objective is essentially to do that.