Medical imagery – an ethical question?

On Ethics

Medical-ethical issues are media-ethical concerns – (van Dijck, 2005:14)

Alongside writing my critical review and working on my parallel project informed by my own MRI scan in 2018 and the obtained medical imagery footage. I was concerned about ethical questions and the purpose us those medical images. Images of media culture and evidence as trophy? Would I not put myself into those habits of collecting images as iconic sign?

How do and for what purpose do I want to use medical imagery? It raises ethical and morale questions, questions of ethical permissibility and educational value as explored by van Dijck (van Dijck, 2005). Aesthetically appealing images do attract the public and e overrule a ‘pure’ medical meaning and concerns

What about using my own imagery from the MRI scans? And to make them public through ‘works of art’? Would this change of how it is perceived versus using imagery from others? Foucault asks questions of morale considering a dislocation and removal of the direct gaze.

Instrumental mediation outside the body authorises a withdrawal that measures the morale distance involved the prohibition of physical contact makes it possible to fix the virtual image of what is occult well below the visible area…What one cannot see is shown in the distance from what one must not see – (Foucault, 1994:164)

The moral question relates to the dominant sign of the visible leading to difficult choices and dilemmas. ‘Seeing is intervening’ – as Ian Hacking explained the biased dynamic of how it impacts our conceptualisation and representation of the body (van Dijck, 2005:7-8). Examples as Bodyworlds (Institut für Plastination e.K, 2019) or the Visual Human Project® (National Library of Medicine, 2019) challenge us to reconsider status and nature of the body, and challenging epistemological categories guiding us in making ethical distinctions (van Dijck, 2005:62).

The way of seeing is not restricted to medical imagery, it extends all imagery in media culture where what is seen and what is perceived is subject to the viewer’s interpretation. Attached informative texts may play a guiding role, nevertheless, the dominant role of the visual has its own dynamic:

The significant role of images and imagination in the construction of corporeality is one of the prime motivations for cultural critics to analyze and theorise medical imaging. – (van Dijck, 2005:12-13)

The human body would turn away from being an object of surveillance under the medical gaze towards a posthuman cultural ‘fashion accessories’, not any longer ‘of being’ but rather ‘of having’, as Katherine Hayles describes the shift in perception (Hayles, 1999:5). The image by Juan Valverde de Amusco, 1566 does remind us of that as a pre-modern reflection on anatomy practice as this time (The University of Cambridge, 1566).

In summary, I tend to use my own MRI footages with care. My practice is a visual reflection on what the imagery are doing with me and how I response to that visual ‘evidence’. The process of remembering my experience inside the machine as well as my reflection in the aftermath are opening up new explorations of materiality and transformation.

 


Image:

  • featured image: Schaffeld, SJ (2019) digital composite of painting and screenshot of spectrum from music created by Vicki Downey

Reference:

  • Foucault, M. (1994) The Birth of the Clinic : An Archaeology of Medical Perception, Routledge classics, Reprinted ed. New York: VIntage Books, A division of Random House, Inc.
  • Hayles, N. K. (1999) How we became posthuman : Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Pres.
  • Institut für Plastination e.K (2019) Bodyworlds – Körperwelten,  At: https://bodyworlds.com/  (Accessed  10 Jul 2019). Heidelberg:
  • National Library of Medicine (2019) The Visible Human Project®,  At: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/visible/visible_human.html  (Accessed  02 May 2019).
  • The University of Cambridge (1566) ‘Juan Valverde de Amusco (ca. 1525–ca. 1588), Vivae imagines partium corporis humani aereis formis expressae. Book 2, plate 1’, in Juan Valverde de Amusco (ca. 1525–ca. 1588), V. i. p. c. h. a. f. e. B., plate 1, ed., Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, print.
  • van Dijck, J. (2005) Transparent Body : A Cultural Analysis of Medical Imaging. Seattle, WA; London: University of Washington Press.
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