Good people in medicine and the disconnect

[This is the tenth post in a series highlighting a public dialogue held at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, titled The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life. The dialogue was sponsored by the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living. For further context, please see the introductory post in the series, which can be found here.]

Here Michael Shaw draws on his dual experience as a child in a medical family and as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, and as a parent advocate working with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society to ask a question about how doctors and others often fail to connect with the concerns of parents of children with disabilities. The video is in two parts; Part 2 beneath the fold, with transcripts for both videos there (thanks to Jackie Ostrem!). A response from Dick in Part 1, and responses from Sam and Wendy in Part 2. If you have trouble listening to or viewing the videos here, you can also listen to or view them directly at Youtube: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Living with Trisomy 13, Part 2: The Monitor

[This is the fourth post in a series highlighting a public dialogue held at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, titled The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life. It is also the second part of a description of events given by Sam Sansalone. The first part can be found here. The dialogue was sponsored by the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living. This series will bring forward the videos made of this event twice a week, roughly every Wednesday and Saturday. For further context, please see the introductory post in the series, which can be found here; we’ll string together all posts in this series when we have most / all of them up.]

In this video (followed by a transcript) Sam Sansalone continues to describe his experiences trying to keep his daughter, Katya, alive. This part of the story is focused around a monitor necessary to keep Katya alive. The hospital staff clearly recognize that this piece of equipment is needed but seem somewhat reluctant to allow Katya to use the monitor, possibly even arranging a situation where a less medically savvy couple than Sam and his wife would choose to give up the monitor without realizing the consequences (ie. their child quietly choking to death while they slept). Fortunately, the missing monitor is caught and Katya is able to continue living.

As far as we know Katya is the oldest surviving child in Canada to have received a Trisomy 13 diagnosis and Sam closes by sharing his thoughts about why this may be the case.

Watch the video and answer the accompanying poll: Continue reading

Living with Trisomy 13, Part 1: Stereotype Propagation and the Illusion of Choice

[This is the third post in a series highlighting a public dialogue held at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, titled The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life. The dialogue was sponsored by the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living. This series will bring forward the videos made of this event twice a week, roughly every Wednesday and Saturday. For further context, please see the introductory post in the series, which can be found here; we’ll string together all posts in this series when we have most / all of them up.]

In the following video clip (with transcript) Sam Sansalone begins to share his experiences fighting to save his daughter, Katya, who was born with Full Trisomy 13 (a condition where the child has an extra chromosome 13, for more information see www.livingwithtrisomy13.org). I think you will find this story interesting for two points that Sam shares. First, there is the issue of medical personnel intentionally withholding information about the quality of life that children with Trisomy 13 can expect; an act of deliberately propagating a stereotype. The exact reason for sharing this behaviour is unclear but it is likely at best a form of misplaced paternalism and at worst a set-up for point two.

Point two is Sam’s experience with the illusion of choice that can so often exist in our society, whether inside the medical community or not. In such situations people are initially presented with the opportunity to make their own choice about a difficult decision (and typically information to sway them to a particular side, the tie-in to point one). If the choice falls inline with what is expected then all is well, there may be a few tears and some whispered “I know it’s hard, but you’ve done the right thing”s, but life goes on. BUT if the choice falls outside of what is expected, then you are clearly not in your right mind, your response is rejected, and authority for the decision is assumed by whomever gave you the illusion of choice in the first place.

When the bioethics community steps in Continue reading

My doctor, my child: The response of the medical community to a mother who chooses to have a child who might be born with a disability

[This is the second post in a series highlighting a public dialogue heald at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, titled The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection: Defining Who is Worthy of Life. The dialogue was sponsored by the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living. This series will bring forward the videos made of this event twice a week, roughly every Wednesday and Saturday. For further context, please see the introductory post in the series, which can be found here.]

The story you are about to hear you may find surprising in a number of ways; I know that I certainly did when I heard it on the night it was recorded. The contrast between the adversity faced by Wendy MacDonald and her family from the medical community upon making the decision to keep her baby early in the pregnancy and the support they received once it was finally time for Kyle to be delivered struck me as a very unfortunate demonstration of the power of linguistic framing. The shift in language from “miscarriage” to “premature birth” is a small one (the addition of one word, one syllable, and three letters), but it made all the difference for this family and the ability of the medical personnel involved to support them. I also found the adamant stance of her family doctor a bit perplexing, the sort of chilling paternalism that so often arises out of a misplaced belief that we alone have access to the knowledge of what is best for others. Perhaps even more than this I was surprised that this story had, and continues to have, a happy ending. For every Wendy MacDonald I am sure that there are many, many women who would be mothers and men who would be fathers that are bullied into conforming with the system because the system “knows best.”

Perhaps this video will make you a little angry, but it should also give you a little hope. Enjoy. Transcript of the clip beneath the fold. Continue reading

The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection

On October 23rd last year, the What Sorts Network, in conjunction with the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Alberta Association for Community Living, sponsored a public dialogue at the University of Alberta called

The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection
Defining Who is Worthy of Life

The event began with a panel of people who talked about their experiences with children, doctors, families, and disability. There were then several short commentaries, followed by some open discussion. The event was free and open to the public, and we have videocasts of all parts of the event to share.

Over the next month or so, we will put the videos of the public dialogue up on the What Sorts blog; each runs for 5-10 minutes or so. Today Continue reading