Faculty panel explores medical ethics

In a display of Geneseo's wide range of expertise, professors participated in the Medical Ethics Panel on Wednesday Oct. 30.

Professor of biology Susan Bandoni Muench, associate professor of sociology Elaine Cleeton and Chair and professor of anthropology Rose-Marie Chierici spoke to the globalization of medicine, including the relationship between poverty and the accessibility of health care.

Cleeton began the discussion by explaining her take on the influence that science and medicine have on the construction of the female body type that is deemed to be universal.

“Scientists offer important models for building knowledge, but every model has its flaws,” she said. “The classical medical view portrays the female body as deficient - childbirth is now viewed as a medical emergency, and our menstrual symptoms are seen as 'negative and angry.'”

Cleeton described her academic focus as examining how modern medicine contributes to beliefs that are “stereotypical to women, expecting them to be [submissive] to men.”

Muench's academic focus centers on working with host-parasite relationships in ecology and evolutionary organisms. She also studies trichinosis, which is a little-known disease in which a trichina worm infects the body through an oral cavity. According to Muench, trichinosis is deemed a neglected “tropical disease” because it is associated with poorer countries and sanitation.

The disease is an example of the negative “relationship between poverty and human health,” Muench said. “It is very hard to get funds within the scientific community for diseases that affect other countries than the United States. When you are looking at an infectious disease, it is not solely a concept of disease; there are sociological factors that contribute as well.”

Muench spoke about the neglected tropical diseases and health care in developing countries such as Ghana.

“It is caused by poverty and causes poverty itself … It lowers people's quality of life and limits children's horizons,” she said.

Chierici, the last to speak, is a cultural anthropologist with a specialty in applied medical anthropology. She has experience running a health care-centered nongovernmental organization in Haiti, assisting with the outbreak of cholera after the destructive earthquake of January 2010.

Chierici discussed how health care has become “an industry that helps make health a common good to people … Access to health is one of the questions that we are [mainly] concerned with … Health is no longer an individual experience. If it is a common good, then it should be available to all.”

This panel discussion was the first installment of the Academic Affairs Committee-sponsored Faculty Panel Series.