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Home / FOOD FOR THOUGHT! Ramah McKay on "Formally Ethical: The Politics and Practice of Experimental Medicine."

FOOD FOR THOUGHT! Ramah McKay on "Formally Ethical: The Politics and Practice of Experimental Medicine."

When May 21, 2010
from 01:30 PM to 03:00 PM
Where 224 Young Hall (Department of Anthropology)
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Over the course of my fieldwork, I was struck by the recurrence – across different groups of informants – of discourses of experimentation. Although evocative of sensationalistic accounts of medical experimentation in Africa, these comments referred to mundane practices. They referred, on the one hand, to patients’ improvisational, and multi-directional choices of how and when to assume different treatment regimes and, on the other hand, to the ways in which global health programs themselves ‘experimented’ with a range of strategies (managerial, therapeutic, logistical and epistemological) for intervening in Mozambican health care.  In this chapter, I argue that these two levels of ‘experimentation’ were mutually imbricated. Patients’ sense of their own manipulated position within a global public health industry that profits some at the expense of others both constituted and emerged out of experimental treatment and managerial practices in a context where biomedical diagnoses, health systems, and development strategies were often unstable. Medical interventions aimed at providing testing, treatment, laboratories and social benefits experimented with managerial practices, treatment strategies, and welfare policies. The perception of Mozambique as a blank slate on which new strategies and practices could be implemented contributed to the sense of experimentation with which NGOs were able to approach their work, even as it contributed to the improvisational and experimental attitude that patients took towards their own medical strategies. In the precarious emotional and social terrain in which patients often found themselves, the need to work creatively with the medical choices available to them became ever more pressing.  

Questions from Ramah:

I chose to send this piece because (1) the final section throws some people for a loop and I wanted more feedback; (2) in general, I cut out a bunch of stuff and can't tell if it makes sense as it is or whether it really needs more background. So feedback on that would be helpful. (3) I would really like to think about doing something else with it, like maybe turning it into an article, but would probably do a MAJOR rewriting -- I think it could do something much different with it than I'm doing right now. And (4) as it is, it probably needs a lot more lit/theoretical grounding.

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