Author Archives: Robel Betre

The Sufferings of Patient Zero

As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, people around the globe were forced indoors and behind screens, creating an influx of social media participation. Along with the positives that quarantine may have brought in areas of time and leisure, it has also brought along various alterations to the life we have lived thus far. It is natural for people to want to attribute these sudden changes of isolation to someone, or something, but in certain cases, this attribution cannot be justified as nature. In Max’s article, “The Public Shaming Pandemic,” he tells the tale of the public shaming of a Polish gynecologist by the name of Dr. Rokita. Between the period of testing and receiving his results, Dr. Rokita did not preemptively quarantine, which I can personally understand, as it is logical to believe that it’s likely you wouldn’t be patient zero. In the face of a new style of life, it is unclear what measures of protection to take, and to expect someone to take the highest precaution without a clear understanding of the disease’s implications is excessive. When his results arrived, he volunteered to quarantine in a hospital setting to mitigate the effect he will have on his family. This act did not rectify his prior mistake of not quarantining in the period which he hadn’t received his results, and the surrounding polish community was unforgiving. Dr. Rokita committed suicide as a result of the communications he received. It’s unlikely that the mass hatred he received was not directly tied to personal motivations to make him more virtuous. It was preferred to offer blame than to centralize around recovery and progression from the outbreak. No one is more afflicted by the implications of the virus than he who first contracted it, and I perceive it as extremely irrational to virtually stone this man. I’d like to make the assumption that the level participation in this shaming has much to do with it being virtual, as the communications made do not have any immediately tangible consequences or implications.

Conceptualized Freedom and the mismanagement of Covid 19

In the reading we were afforded the interesting perspective of Mr. Peter Hessler, who served as a teacher in the pandemic. Through his article, “How china controlled the coronavirus”, we got to see the management of the virus by the Chinese government. This point of view brings his American readership less biased insight to the way that the novel pandemic has been controlled in china. China’s actions in response to the spread of the pandemic was considerably stricter and more serious than that of the United States. In his article, he cites one of his students saying that the Chinese prioritize life over freedom. I found this statement intriguing, because in my mind, I do not see lock down and quarantine measures as an attack on my freedom. The concept of freedom is per individual interpretation, and is largely influenced by the society which one grows in. In America, the conceptuality of basic inalienable rights is carried by most of its constituents. We saw that in response to covid regulations, many Americans had issues with a mask mandate, business closing, and other implications of the lockdown. I believe this to be centered in a sense of individuality over unity that coincides with the spirit of free market capitalism. From my understanding, the prioritization of self over the communal health and well being of Americans is the root cause behind the conflict associated with mask wearing and quarantine advisories. Personally, I view these perspectives as a warped sense of freedom and have qualms with the mentality of self-interest over the health and wellness of the whole. We see the same trends translate over into the Governing of our nation, with many governing officials downplaying the effects, range, and legitimacy of concerns regarding the corona virus. It is the job of the governing body to enact plans to protect its citizenship, but at the same time, to preserve the livelihood of its people. In America, we see how the priority of the nation is much different from a country like china, who deployed many resources to condense and converge on the pandemic’s spread. Conceptualized freedom has much to do with the pushback associated with the arrangements made to battle the pandemic in this country. It brings into question the legitimacy of an American Paternalist government

Utilitarianism, capitalist hierarchy, and vaccine distribution

In late July, Sarah Zhang published an article on The Atlanticthat detailed the many infrastructural shortcomings of the United States’ handling of the novel Corona Virus. Simple preventative measures, like mask wearing and social distancing, have been met with strong pushback from particular groups, claiming that these preventative measures are an attack on their liberties. We observe much of the mishandling through the lens of media platforms, but many of the negative implications of the virus fall into the complex web of institutional misprioritization of American lives. These misgivings in the hierarchal prioritization of handling the virus are well explained in Zhang’s article. As the attention of the general public is directed toward a vaccine as a solution to the pandemic, conversations of ethical distribution must be had to ensure the welfare of the American people. Personally, I would take on the framework of distribution through a utilitarian lens. Utilitarianism seeks the greatest benefit for the most amount of people, which, to me, serves as a good ethical base point to maneuver the intricate complications associated with the virus. Testing and vaccination should be provided at a rate conditional with the amount of exposure and cases that populations face, to ensure the greatest level of care. Underfunded communities with inevitably more potential contact points with the virus should be accommodated for. Currently, we observe affluence and access to capital to be a contributing factor to access to testing and care, which inherently takes resources away from many of the groups that need them the most. In the distribution of the vaccine, I suggest that we must insure a proportionally and equitably sound approach, so that the most people can benefit from the potential cure to the pandemic. At-risk groups, like healthcare and essential workers, should be afforded the vaccine at a prioritized rate, so as to slow the overall spread of the virus while maintaining the businesses that keep us fed and healthy. What we’ve seen in the past in access to testing, and even through the evaluation of previous diseases, is that the best care is afforded to affluent groups. Groups who exist on the wealthier side of the socio-economic infrastructure have had better access to care and preventative measures than those in low income communities. From a utilitarian perspective, the trope of allocating the best resources and prioritizing vaccination for these groups is seen as unethical, and something we should push back against if and when it comes to be the case. 

The lack of consent and it’s political intersections: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

Upon reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, as a black person in America, I had my own set of realizations and ideations regarding the experience and misfortune that Ms. Lacks faced. It moved me beyond the parameters of philosophical ethicality, and into a medium of observation that felt so much more real. As a result of the color of her skin, Lacks was utilized in a tool like fashion for the perceived benefit of science regarding the development of a polio vaccine and a lead on the mystery of cancer. At face value, one may understand these goals to be noble and justify the actions of the doctor who navigated his research without seeking any measure of consent from Ms. Lacks. It is crucial to understand here that the intersections that existed, and still currently exist, between racial societal dynamics, the subsequent power structures in place, and the course of action taken in John’s Hopkins hospital in 1951 largely influence and play into the functionality of informed consent in our healthcare system. The harvesting of Lacks’ cancer cells was done without caution and rudimentary hospital procedure by Dr. Howard Jones and Dr. Greg Gey. The unsolicited removal of her cancer cells and her consequently worsening condition buries its roots not only in the doctors’ infatuation with a scientific breakthrough, but is paired along with a societal paradigm that cemented a racial hierarchy into its structure. The fact that Ms. Lacks was a Black woman adds layers of contextual data to the overall history of the events that transpired the manifestation of the HeLa cells. Even beyond her death, the family of Ms. Lacks has seen no benefit for the complete exploitation of Ms. Lacks’ condition. The constituent conversations about the lack of ethicality and moral righteousness should not fail to include an analysis of the racial and socio-political system that existed in the 1950’s. The mirroring socio-political framework that we maintain today has its own implications when it comes to the informed consent of patients who come from minority backgrounds. The likelihood of receiving additional testing and proper follow up care is very diminished in groups that exist on the lower end of the racial hierarchy in America, and identifying the connection between the historical precedent that exists within The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lackswas nothing short of riveting.

Analysis of Buchanan’s Position.

Buchanan defines his position on the conversation of seeking a decent minimum form of healthcare as one that identifies the concept of a decent minimum as morally and ethically correct, but not obligatory on its own. The topic provides additional insight and philosophical precedent to the current conversations being had in our nation regarding access and availability of healthcare and insurance. There have been many efforts in the past to build a system that bolsters the current minimum, seeing that America ranks far behind its competing nations, despite proportionally spending the most on healthcare in comparison with other industrialized nations. Buchanan asks a powerful question in the beginning portions of his writing, seeking to highlight the ambiguity buried in the right to a decent minimum form of healthcare. He mandates that, before one can continue onward towards the conversation of whether or not a decent minimum of healthcare is a right, one must complete a preliminary analysis of what exactly that decent minimum entails. Buchanan solicits the example of servicing descendants of Chattel Slavery with recuperative healthcare strategies in response to the epigenetic trauma and disposition they have been caused. He views this application of the decent minimum as acceptable, as it helps to level the playing field for a disenfranchised demographic. He validates equivalent acts as potentially applicable forms of the decent minimum. Holistically, Buchanan points out the difficulties in identifying the concept of a decent minimum of healthcare as a right, and does well to explain how an ideology can exist as something that is beneficial to the masses and in the best interest of the nation or presiding body, but still not meet the criteria to be considered a right. He clearly evaluates the complications with establishing a comprehensive framework for a decent minimum of healthcare, as there are many variables that come into play that can affect the level of care one may be provided, which in turn makes it more and more impossible to uphold that established decent minimum. 

A commentary on Dworkin’s Paternalism

Gerald Dworkin, a philosophical pioneer of the idea of paternalism, argues that there may exist parameters where a person, in present time, may not want to partake in a particular action, but at another time, may understand the positives of said action and agree to others paternalistically forcing them to commit said action. This avenue of thought paves way for paternalistic legislation and governance, which pervades common contemporary society. Laws and rules are put in place for the benefit of all whom reside within the law’s jurisdiction. Seeking out every citizen’s approval before instating society-wide limitations or practices, like taxes or drug illicitation, is near impossible in growing societies, which begins a path of instability for Dworkin’s framework of paternalistic governing. This framework proves potentially unethical to assuage a platform of limitation to the masses without formally taking into account the value prioritization of those who are being affected on a constant and rolling basis. Paternalism would then only be validated in scenarios which there is no class or hierarchy system associated with the beneficiaries of any said law or restriction. Dworkin defines this subsidiary of paternalism as Pure paternalism. In the same vein of thought, Dworkin would argue that patients who provide consent to treatment in the beginning stages of treatment, are powerless to refuse or halt care if the practicing physician deems the patient to have lost rationality in the process. There is no certainty within that assumption, which provides more room for grey area in the conversation of the morality of medical paternalism. How can one be certain that a doctor, who is getting paid for performing any said procedure or treatment, has no implicit or explicit biases that influence their decision of continuing on with a patient’s care. An alternative process that should be considered for evaluative and medical ethicality is one where the patient is provided with many opportunities to express their distaste in continuing treatment, upon which ethical conclusions may be drawn as to what next steps to take, as opposed to forcing the patient to assimilate with whatever the physician decides as best.