Towards an ethics of enchantment for experimental medicine

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Presented by Dr Courtney Addison

Lectures, talks and seminars

SACS Research Seminar Series

17th Apr 2019 12:00pm to 17th Apr 2019 1:00pm

MY305 (Murphy Building Level 3)

This paper brings writing on the dis/enchantments of modernity into conversation with a hospital ethnography, in which young children with lethal diseases take part in experimental genetic research.

Dr Courtney Addison is interested in the work of research ethics in this context. A paper scaffold of documents and signatures structures the systems that inform and consent patients and parents. These processes, carefully mediated by clinical staff, are designed to produce the ‘informed patient’—an archetype of contemporary medicine.

By performing understanding and submitting to the informatic logics of the research ethics system, patients become valid experimental subjects, exemplifying the disenchantment of clinical research. However, this disenchantment is both incomplete and, in some cases, potentially undesirable. Where young children are enrolled into risky medical efforts, a more complex terrain of knowing, disclosing, and pretending takes form, subsuming the logics of disenchantment and suggesting the possibility of an ethics of enchantment, instead.

For more information contact: Gill Blomgren

Speaker Bios

Courtney Addison is an anthropologist of science and medicine, and lecturer in VUW’s Centre for Science in Society. Her research explores genetics in medical and environmental contexts, with projects focussing on experimental genetic medicine in the UK, and conservation science for Aotearoa’s native birds. She is interested in ethics, knowledge production, and the social organisation of science. Her work has been published in Biosocieties, New Genetics and Society, Medical Anthropology, and Science.