Posts Tagged ‘Emotions’

I often see these commercials for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and I find them misleading and unethical. I can’t seem to embed the video, but it can be found at this link. Most of their commercials are all about giving the patient “hope” where there was no hope before. But each commercial also carries a disclaimer: “No case is typical. You should not expect these results.” So the CTCA are suggesting that you should have hope and that they will offer you hope when other MDs fail to do so, but that you should also no have hope that it will work for you (although here “hope” is replaced with “expect”).

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

1. Legal Reasons for Disclaimers in Medical Advertisements

The reason for the disclaimer results from a lawsuit in the 1990s:

Cancer Treatment Centers of America was the subject of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint in 1993. The FTC alleged that CTCA made false claims regarding the success rates of certain cancer treatments in their promotional materials. This claim was settled in March 1996, requiring CTCA to discontinue use of any unsubstantiated claims in their advertising. CTCA is also required to have proven, scientific evidence for all statements regarding the safety, success rates, endorsements, and benefits of their cancer treatments. CTCA was also required to follow various steps in order to report compliance to the FTC per the settlement.

Cancer centers and hospitals in general (including Cancer Treatment Centers of America) have been the subjects of some controversy over their advertising. Many doctors and other observers have noted that many cancer organizations’ advertising are sparsely regulated and, therefore, often contain unsupported and misleading claims as to the efficacy of their cancer treatments.

In 2001, the FDA issued CTCA a Warning Letter concerning three clinical trials that were conducted in violation of FDA requirements. (From Wikipedia)

I understand that there are legal reasons for the disclaimer. Nevertheless, I find it creates an odd message overall. It also illustrates some of the problems with advertising in medicine.


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Happy Pills

Give me some happy pills so that I can be a better person.

On Monday the Guardian ran an article about using drugs to improve moral behaviour. Some drugs affect our emotions, increasing our feelings of trust, social bonding, empathy and lowering our anxiety. Scientists are now discussing the possibility that these drugs might be used to improve our moral behaviour.

The assumption seems to be  that we would be morally better people, if only we could better control our emotional responses.

“Science has ignored the question of moral improvement so far, but it is now becoming a big debate,” he [Guy Kahane] said. “There is already a growing body of research you can describe in these terms. Studies show that certain drugs affect the ways people respond to moral dilemmas by increasing their sense of empathy, group affiliation and by reducing aggression.”

I think this assumption is interesting, because it reflects one strain of Western Philosophy that has a long tradition of being apprehensive about our emotions. Philosophers, dating back to the ancient Greeks, were often suspicious of emotions and sometimes considered them to be an irrational influence that distorted our otherwise praiseworthy rationality. For some philosophers, part of the task of philosophy was to control our emotions so that they cannot distort our moral reasoning. The Stoics, for example, recognized that some emotions (love, a sense of justice) might be thought to have positive value within our moral life, but they noted that each of these emotions also has a negative side: love can turn to murderous jealousy and a sense of justice can lead to destructive outrage. The Stoics argued that one cannot keep the good part of our emotional responses without bringing along the bad parts, and so they suggested that we endeavour to purge all emotions from our souls.

The assumptions about emotions made by Kahane are a little different than the discussion of emotions by the Stoic philosophers, because Kahane seems to believe there is a positive role for emotions in our moral lives and through pharmaceutical manipulation we might be able to harness the positive aspects of moral emotions while leaving behind their bad aspects. Nevertheless, Kahane’s discussion reflects the ancient Greek discussion because there is a suspicion of emotions in their natural state. The view seems to be that emotions can positively contribute to our moral behaviour, but in order to do so they must be “tamed” and manipulated by pharmaceuticals.


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A picture of me dancing in my living room.

Today I finished a decent draft of my dissertation about a relational view of respect. I still have some things to smooth out, but it is now a coherent idea. I feel elated. Perhaps there will be more posts from me in the near future.


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I promised a post about why I do not think crying makes one weak in all cases (see the discussion here), and I said I would write this post before the end of May. Of course that deadline has now passed, but I was having a hard time remembering what I thought about crying because I was feeling unusually happy for a stretch. But now my work-related productivity has slowed a little and I remember the other kinds of feelings that are not related to happiness.

To begin with I want to be clear that I think there are several varieties of crying, and some of these might indeed be an expression of weakness. I do not think this means that all kinds of crying are weak, however. Nor does it mean that forms of crying that do express weakness are only expressing weakness; emotions can express more than one thing at a time, I believe. I have cried out of weakness, and this happens when I am crying out of frustration, because I feel helpless, overwhelmed, or sometimes for no reason that I can discern. But even in those moments there is sometimes some strength in crying because through tears I can ask for help and you have to be brave to ask for help. You have to be willing to make yourself vulnerable to someone else, and that takes a lot of courage. There are also many other times when I have cried and it has not been from weakness, and has not involved an admixture of weakness at all.


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Why Bakka’s River?

When I was a kid I used to cry a lot when I noticed things I thought were unfair. My parents used to tell me I was a Bakka, which I think was supposed to make me feel strong about my tearfulness. In Fremen legend, Bakka is “the weeper who mourns for all” humankind (from Frank Herbert’s Dune).  I have always identified with this legend, and I still feel very moved by what I would now call injustice.

Of course, “cry me a river,” is also a way of dismissing someone who is trying to tell you about the negative thing they have experienced. I wanted to include the tagline “The river that I step in is not the river that I stand in,” as a way of reclaiming the dismissiveness of “cry me a river.” Plato attributes the tagline to Heraclitus, although it is often translated differently.

“You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you” from Wikiquote.

“Heraclitus, you know, says that everything moves on and that nothing is at rest; and, comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says that you could not step into the same river twice,” from this lecture.

The point is that everything changes and nothing stays the same. I am not sure I would go as far as to say that there are no permanent persisting objects, but I think the quote can remind us that “crying a river” can be useful when it helps to move things along.

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