Judge and Jury   Leave a comment

“[T]echnology appears to take over not only seeing but judging as well.  The evidence no longer presents itself nor is received as data to be interpreted but as veridictory statements about the organization of the world.”  (Pg 125, Joseph Dumit, Picturing Personhood)

     When I was a case study this past summer, the doctors decided they would do a SPECT scan on me to measure the metabolites in my brain.  The main focus was to look at my brain choline levels since my blood choline levels were so incredibly low.  The one doctor said something to the effect that they didn’t really know what the SPECT scan would mean, the technology was still fairly new, but it might provide some data regarding the metabolites in my brain.  They said that a computerized graph would chart the levels of each metabolite, of course stimulated via some sort of chemical they put in me intravenously.  So I said sure, I was game.  What was interesting is after the scan I was told my brain metabolites looked good and there was no need to worry.  Now I’m not sitting in a panic by any means, but after last week’s presentation and reading Dumit I have to say:  “Just what exactly did they or didn’t they find out with my SPECT scan?  Was it at all productive?  And what are the consequences should they dismiss my brain chemistry as ‘normal’ due to the SPECT scan?  —or any ‘POTS’ patient for that matter?”  The scan now seems highly arbitrary and ridiculous, and my only real worry is that they will make judgments based on the scan that aren’t necessarily accurate or true.  And I have to wonder just how much their reasoning changed before versus after the scan.  After seeing the actual computerized images were they more convinced of one thing or another, than before they went into the scan with open minds?  Did the colors in the graph persuade their views?  Who exactly determined what the SPECT meant for that matter?  Who got to view the scan?  Why even do the scan?  Were the doctors trying to find solid proof for the memory loss, word retrieval problems, and ‘brain fog’ that I had described to them?  What judgments were made on me the patient and the validity of my narrative based on the scan?  Was I determined more of a drama queen about my symptomology if my brain scans didn’t turn out exceptionally strange to them?

“Expert brain images come to be seen as making the facts visible and being the only objective ‘proof’ that grounds rather than supplements the expert’s truth.  Semiotically, we can see that rather than there being a need for agreement on the chain of representations before logic and rationality can be secured, the rationality and logic of the digital images are being invoked to secure agreement.”  (pg 120, Dumit)

In Picturing Personhood, we are told a story of a judge who chooses to let brain scan images be displayed, but far enough from the jury that they can barely see them, relying mainly on the testimony of experts instead of letting the jurors make judgments on the images themselves.  But for me, as just a patient in general, who exactly are my judge and jury?  And how do scans affect the validity of my patient narrative?  Does a doctor’s empathy or sympathy level change by how abnormal or normal a scan is perceived?



Posted November 9, 2010 by gentyrrell in Uncategorized

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