Saving What We Love at Any Cost: The Rhetoric of Heroic Medicine as Diversion
Journal of Medical Humanities 2002 Spring; 23(1): 73-86
Discussion of the worldwide corporate development of biotechnologies is sometimes diverted through the introduction of images of heroic medical intervention, exemplified by the statement, "I would do anything to save my daughter." Such heroic images seem to justify virtually any deployment of resources and nearly any health or environmental risk. But it is instructive for future public discussions to examine the use of such images, and to note that those advocating a prominent role for biotechnologies in an expanding global economy welcome such diversionary patterns. Our responsibility to do our own thinking is beset by conditions that may lead us astray. In a time burdened by profound worry -- crushing inequalities among the world's peoples, an ecological crisis, and threat of nuclear war -- it is tempting to avert our eyes when we are faced with grave new dangers. Moreover, in our increasingly visual culture, images have come to function as a facsimile of an substitute for real thinking. If we are to have significant discussions about the potential of biotechnology, we must not only be wary of promises of economic growth but must also be mindful of sources of diversion and the appeals of image- thinking. We should strive to become more critical of our own ways of thinking, thus opening the discussion to a fuller consideration of what needs to be saved.
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