Tag Archives: medical rhetoric

Discourses of Health and Medicine

Really had a spectacular time at the Discourses of Health and Medicine Symposium this week. I was impressed by the organization of the event and the friendly atmosphere; it was a great chance to meet lots of smart folks.

The symposium left me pondering some big-picture things. (Which surprised me–I had sort of expected to leave there thinking about smaller issues, like new collaborations and such). This is perhaps because the last session was a discussion of if we (attendees and others who do related work) are an organization, and if so, what we might call ourselves. Unsurprisingly, such a major rhetorical task was impossible to accomplish in a short time frame. However, I did feel that I got a chance to hear a lot about how others situate themselves in relation to some of this sub-field’s key terms. Lots of people seem to identify with the terms “health” and “communication”–but definitely not everyone. There was a definite opinion in the room that the terms “rhetorical” and “critical” affect our work, but that they were not the best choices for explaining ourselves to layperson audiences. A lot of folks seemed to like the suggestion of a working group, and most people seemed to agree that the title should include a focus on “research” or “study of” in order to emphasize that we are mostly working on, rather than creating, medical/health/wellness communication/rhetoric/discourses.

I really look forward to seeing (and, I hope, participating in) some of the discussions and decisions that come out of that discussion and others at the symposium!

Arkansas abortion law

The following is pulled directly from a breaking New York Times story. Notice that ultrasound–a medical digital imaging process that pro-lifers often try to frame as objective–features prominently in the lede. 

“Arkansas adopted what is by far the country’s most restrictive ban on abortion on Wednesday — at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound.

The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who called it “blatantly unconstitutional.” The State Senate voted Tuesday to override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority.

The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick lawsuit to block it.”

Read the whole story.

The Right to Choose

I just spotted this headline on CNN.com: “Surrogate mother had right to choose.” (If you need the background for this short opinion piece, go here. The short version, though, is that a surrogate mother refused to abort her pregnancy when the parents asked her to.) While I certainly don’t agree with everything Dan O’Connor has to say about this issue, I do think he introduces some smart nuances to this debate.

The most interesting to me is this: “The problem stems from our conflicted understanding of what we mean when we say a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body.” While this is very smart it come ways, it also underscores a really problematic assumption. O’Connor–like most people–seems to assume that a woman in the modern U.S. does indeed HAVE choices about her body. This is something Rickie Solinger‘s politics of choice thoroughly refutes. Women may have “choices,” but they are severely limited and influenced by oppressive systemic forces of law, politics, social pressures, and economics.

This politics of choice is also something that O’Connor gets at in a roundabout way. Consider this quotation: “Like most surrogates, [Kelley] is not financially well-off; note the distinct lack of fully employed, millionaire surrogate mothers.” Here, O’Connor gets it exactly right. Kelley may have “chosen” to be a surrogate, but that was a choice that was heavily influenced by her economic circumstances. One might consider a poor woman’s decision to become a surrogate less a choice than an act of survival or desperation.

Continue reading

In honor of Election Day …

In honor of Election Day tomorrow, I’m posting a fascinating campaign aid which I would argue is a great example of apparent feminism. In this ad, Butler makes visibly obvious the results of a law her opponent supported. (The law is North Carolina’s Woman’s Right to Know Act, formerly HB 854.)  Interestingly, she is rather careful not to explicitly name the instrument she’s holding. This is a fascinating rhetorical choice, and one that I think reflects the difficulty and discomfort of apparency projects. Check it out:

CT scans

This just broke today: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/18/health/18radiation.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2

I think this has connections to medical rhetoric, risk communication, and technical communication, among other things.

What I find most interesting is that the lede focuses on exposure to radiation, while there are only a few sentences about this in the story:

“Double scans expose patients to extra radiation while heaping millions of dollars in extra costs on an already overburdened Medicare program. A single CT scan of the chest is equal to about 350 standard chest X-rays, so two scans are twice that amount.

‘The primary concern relates to radiation exposure,’ said Dr. James A. Brink, chief of diagnostic radiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where double scans accounted for only a fraction of 1 percent of cases. He added: ‘It is incumbent upon all of us to limit it to the amount needed to make a diagnosis.'”

More than that, we’re not really given any indications of the specific health consequences of this level of radiation. What are they, at these levels? Is this kind of concern over radiation really warranted, or is this actually about money??