I just remembered

District 9
District 9

I just remembered why it is that I posted my review of District 9 under bioethics.

[There is a medium-grade spoiler in this post, so if you want to know nothing about the film before you see it, stop reading.]

I realised while watching the movie that my bioethical training has been having an effect on me. There is a scene toward the beginning of the film, where the main character is about to be cut up and his organs harvested for scientific experiments, against his will, while he is still conscious. When I saw that, I was struck with the horror of the idea of that happening to someone, but in my mind, all my objections were couched in the language of academic bioethics:

“He has not given informed consent for this research!”

“They are breaking the Dead Donor Rule!”

“That action is contrary to all four of Beauchamp and Childress’s principles of medical ethics!”

If you can name all four of Beauchamp and Childress’s principles, then you get 8 points. Two for each one.

Grr …

I did some research for my final paper in my bioethical theory course recently. I was going to write a paper defending the disaggregation of death. It turns out that Halevy and Brody (1993) already wrote the paper that I meant to, and did a better job than I would have.

I think I was able to salvage it, though. I’m writing a paper that uses the Halevy and Brody as a source, but takes up a different question, namely, When is it appropriate to bring in organ donation policy considerations when justifying a definition of death?

I’m actually feeling happier about this paper topic than the last one, anyway. I have more to say about this topic, and I think my abstract is ready for Wednesday!

It was much better than I thought it would be

District 9 Poster
District 9 Poster

District 9 was a very good movie. I was surprised. I didn’t think that I would like it, but Pickles and I went to see it and it was certainly worth our time.

There is certainly violence in this movie, but the violence wasn’t gratuitous—it always serves the storyline.

The story itself is engaging and I found the characters convincing. The story also serves to make a commentary on human nature, generally.

This is very grown-up sci-fi, in that the aliens are not there just because it’s cool to put funny make-up on people. (To be honest, I think they were computer-generated anyway.) The way that they look is an essential part of the telling of the story. One immediately has a gut reaction against the “prawns,” due to their physical appearance. The way that one comes around to see things from the perspective of the aliens by the end of the film is a very clever bit of storytelling, and it’s worth the time to watch it.

I liked the way that it ended, with a bit of mystery. As much as I liked this film, I don’t think I would want to see it again, though. It was really quite graphic.

The Bioethics Unit party

My classmates at Vendome station after the Bioethics Unit party
My classmates at Vendome station after the Bioethics Unit party

Today was the Bioethics Unit party, held at the beautiful home of the director of the Bioethics Unit. I finally got a bunch of long-awaited details on exactly how the programme works.

We discussed supervisors, length of thesis (no more than 100 pages – darn :P) and details regarding the practicum that will be happening in the Winter term. The majority of the evening was spent getting to know my classmates and other members of the Unit.

It was both a “Welcome to the Bioethics Unit” party and a “Happy Retirement” party for one of the profs who will be stepping down as the Unit director.

Pictured to the right are two of my four classmates at Vendome station. They were headed in the opposite direction from where I was going, so I took the opportunity to photograph them from the opposite platform.

The Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill

This is the building for the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill
This is the building for the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill

Here is the building for the Biomedical Ethics Unit. It is an extremely impressive structure. Just look at it! On the first floor, there are seminar rooms, and a fancy-looking foyer, and there are offices all through the other floors.

After my meeting with the philosophy department, it was recommended to me that I speak with the Biomedical Ethics Unit, to discuss my course choices, and to see what courses they could offer me for the autumn term.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the unit’s administrative coordinator, asking if I was their long-lost bioethicist.

“I might be …” I answered, not entirely sure. Apparently they were wondering when I was going to drop by or contact them. I had been doing most of my communication with the Department of Philosophy, but my programme is very much inter-disciplinary, and so I had neglected to communicate much with the Bioethics side.

We figured everything out and chose the remaining course that I will take this term, and I wandered off and took some pictures of the interior of the building, which is beautiful.

This is the interior of the Biomedical Ethics Unit Building
This is the interior of the Biomedical Ethics Unit Building

Here is a photograph of the sitting area that you’ll see when you first enter the building. Doesn’t it just look warm and inviting? Of course it does.

When I was talking to the director of the Bioethics programme, I finally got to ask about how big my class is. Ready for this? It turns out that there’s four new students in Bioethics this year. Four. Usually it’s a two-year degree, but of course there’s always a few hangers-on, and so there’s about 16 people in the programme, in total.

That’s a small class!

I remember back at Western, in second year, my professor proudly announced that at the time, my Orgo class was the single largest chemistry course ever taught at the undergraduate level, at 1600 students.

Mind you, I’m sure that there will be more than four people in my classes, but still: Four.

Here is a photograph of the door to the Unit, which is also beautiful. I’m going to enjoy studying here. :)

This is the front door to the Biomedical Ethics Unit Building
This is the front door to the Biomedical Ethics Unit Building

The Leacock Building

Here is the Leacock Building. The Department of Philosophy is on the 9th floor.
Here is the Leacock Building. The Department of Philosophy is on the 9th floor.

The Leacock Building is not very beautiful to look at, admittedly, but that is where I had my advising appointment with three faculty members in the philosophy department, which is on the 9th floor. Finally, I got some concrete answers with regard to what my courses would be, how to choose them and what to expect for the next two years.

I was given a sheet at this meeting that outlined the requirements for graduation. It was the first time I had ever seen it. When I brought it to the Bioethics Unit office, it was the first time they had seen it, too.

There, I met the prof for whom I will be a TA this year. I also met another Bioethics student, who will be the other TA. Also, the view of the city from the 9th floor was pretty good, but I was busy having a meeting, so I didn’t take any photographs. I’ll try to do that later.

Skill-testing question: In what short work of Stephen Leacock’s is the punch line, “It was a toothpick” ? If you can answer, I will give you 3 points, plus an extra 4 points because it is mine and my mother’s birthday today, and because it’s a pretty hard question, too. Unless you’ve read much Leacock, in which case you’ll probably love that short story as much as I do, and possibly have it memorised.

The job interview

St Mary's hospital, where I had my job interview
St Mary's hospital, where I had my job interview

On the first full day that I was in Montréal after moving here, I had a job interview. I joked that it was a shocking thing that I actually had an interview for a job in my field, since I am a philosophy major.

Actually, this job is even more specific to my area of study, since it is a job in the field of bioethics and I am studying bioethics.

The job is for a part-time position, co-ordinating a study in a hospital very near my house. The hours are flexible and it seemed perfect. I enjoyed speaking to the man and the woman who conducted the interview, and I think I would be a good candidate for the position.

Over the weeks since then, I occasionally got word from people that I had asked to be my references, saying that they had been contacted by a professor at McGill. That was an encouraging sign.

On Wednesday the 12th, I heard back from them by email. I had forgotten to tell them that my phone number changed. Oops! They told me to give them a call on Thursday. When I called on Thursday, I found out that I was not offered the job, but that they might have work for me at another time. The man who called me stressed that when he said that he might have work for me later, he didn’t mean that in the dissmissive or condescending way that it is usually meant when potential employers have to reject applicants. He actually seemed serious about it.

I don’t feel too bad about the fact that I didn’t get the job. The guy who was offered the job was finishing his PhD, and so he was super-qualified for the position. At any rate, it might be for the best, since I got a TA-ship, and I don’t know how heavy the work-load is.

Bad day

Here is what a passenger-side window looks like when it's broken
Here is what a passenger-side window looks like when it's broken

Sunday was, without qualification, a bad day.

For a few days in a row this week, Pickles has been waking up with a fever, which goes away by the afternoon. It got as high as 104.7ºF on Saturday and so that night, we decided that if she had a fever the next morning, we would skip church and go to the Emergency Room at Montréal General Hospital instead.

When we first arrived at the Emergency room on Sunday morning around 9h30, it wasn’t too busy, but after a few hours, there were a few more people there to wait along with us. The nurses took some of Pickles’ blood, and put an IV in her with saline. Then when that was empty, another nurse eventually changed the bag for one with some sugar in it. A doctor came to see her, and ordered a CT scan of her bowels, to see what’s going on in there.

While we were waiting, I periodically went out to the car to put more money into the parking meter. I was parked right outside the hospital, within view of the hospital doors. Sometime between 14h15 and 15h35 someone came and smashed the passenger-side window, rifled through our glove compartment, and took our GPS. I know it happened during that time because the parking meter prints out tickets that indicate when exactly you pay and how long it lasts for.

Back in the hospital, a doctor finally came to see Pickles again, to follow up her CT scan. I guess they forgot to call Pickles for her CT scan, or perhaps they didn’t tell the CT scan people about it, because Pickles hadn’t had one yet, which was surprising for the doctor. Pickles went to radiology, where I found her, and told her about the car.

I called the police, who told me to take the van into the police station. This was something of an adventure, as we had become very reliant on the GPS to tell us how to get anywhere. Fortunately, the thief hadn’t stolen our trusty map of Montréal. I only went the wrong way on a one-way street for about thirty seconds. After filling out a report, I went home and vacuumed the shards of glass out of the passenger seat, making it much safer even for me to drive in. This way, I don’t have to worry about pieces of glass going flying every time I make a turn or stop too quickly.

Pickles' elbow, after a long day at the hospital
Pickles' elbow, after a long day at the hospital

Pickles phoned me to tell me that they wanted her to stay overnight. “For observation,” they told us. What that means is that she had to stay in the hospital, and they took her temperature in the morning. I packed a backpack with a blanket, her toothbrush and some clothes for Monday morning and brought it to her. A GI doctor came by in the morning when I came to pick her up.

The only thing that gave the doctor any hesitation about releasing Pickles was that he said they really ought to have done some blood cultures, considering that she came in complaining about a fever. What was strange about that is that the nurse did take Pickles’ blood for a blood culture earlier. As proof, Pickles pulled up the sleeve of her shirt and described the pop-bottle shaped vials that they put her blood into when they took her blood.

The doctor went to a computer to try to find out where the blood went, to no avail. It’s still a mystery, but fortunately the doctor let us go anyway. After a 25-hour visit to the hospital, I took Pickles home and we had a nap for much of the morning. Sunday had been an extremely stressful day.

On the upside, while we were waiting in the Emergency Room, I got to re-read the first 130 pages of Hursthouse’s On Virtue Ethics, which is helping me to clarify my thoughts on some of the bioethical issues that I expect to face this year.