Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Michael Specter’s “Partial Recall”


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

By Rae'Jean Spears

Michael Specter’s article “Partial Recall” deals with scientific discovery meant to have the ability to rewrite a person’s memory. Specter highlights several scientists along the journey with one goal in mind: providing help to those with traumatic memories. Ultimately, scientists felt that providing a drug that allowed individuals to remember trauma, without having to relive the actual experience each time, would be beneficial in the healing process.

Specter’s discussion of the ethical complexity of this issue is quite fascinating. Specter gives a scientist’s account of this issue in writing, “We are talking about helping people who have been severely traumatized, and in many cases they are unable to function” (256). This point indicates that the treatment is only intended for those with severe traumatic experiences.

After reading various scenarios in Specter’s article, do you feel this drug would be ethical? How did that scenario influence your opinion? Please provide a page number citation.

42 comments:

Mackenzie Cohoon said...

I feel as if this drug would be ethical, because as the article pointed out, our memory is constantly being tampered with anyway, even without the help of drugs, we just aren't exactly conscious of it. If the drug was implemented,i don't think anything ethical would be in question because it really wouldn't be much different than what we do now,it would just be as if we had a little help. In these regards, I agree with the Schiller, when in thee article she stated that "memory is what you are now,not what you think you were in the past. When you change the story you created, you change your life" (259). If the drug would help people realize who they are,then I don't think any ethical issues should be in question.

Kalonji Rumph said...

In Michael Specter's article, "Partial Recall" the idea of rewriting a person's memory as a means of treatment fir those who have suffered traumatic experiences was entertained. At first something about the prospect of tampering with somebody's memory seemed off to me. There was something dishonest and unnatural about it. The memories that we acquire over time, good or bad are what makes us who we are. On page 257, they discussed how every event, advertisement, therapy session, or day in school was done in an effort to create or modify memory. "If we take a more realistic view of just how much we mess with memory, the dampening of memories that produce emotional responses in traumatized individuals might be less malevolent" (257). This was actually a pretty eye opening point. When weighed on a Libra scale, I would hard pressed deem such a drug as unethical.

Kalonji Rumph said...

In Michael Specter's article, "Partial Recall" the idea of rewriting a person's memory as a means of treatment for those who have suffered traumatic experiences was entertained. At first something about the prospect of tampering with somebody's memory seemed off to me. There was something dishonest and unnatural about it. The memories that we acquire over time, good or bad are what makes us who we are. On page 257, they discussed how every event, advertisement, therapy session, or day in school was done in an effort to create or modify memory. "If we take a more realistic view of just how much we mess with memory, the dampening of memories that produce emotional responses in traumatized individuals might be less malevolent" (257). This was actually a pretty eye-opening point. When weighed on a Libra scale, I would be hard pressed deem such a drug as unethical.

Christine Sheriff said...

In the piece written by Michael Specter's, "Partial Recall," the concept of rewriting a person's memory to aid in the treatment of those who have suffered from traumatic experiences. The idea of changing one's memory does sound a bit strange, however, if these memories are impacting the person in such a way that they cannot bear to live, I think with the person's approval this would be ethical. This is kind of like the situation in which some with terminal illnesses decide that they would like the hospital to terminate their life because they can no longer bear to live in such agony. "We are nothing without our memories..." (256). While this is true, I think that is certain circumstances, if the person wanted something done then this would be for them.

Argos 1756 said...

Daeja Daniels

In our lives we go through many things. Some of those good and others not so much. In, Micheal Specter's article, " Partial Recall" they talk about rewriting a persons memory due to trauma. In the passage he says" We are nothing without our memories.."(256). Rewriting someone's memory is essentially creating a new person entirely. Being someone who is very interested in science this peaks my interest. However, the idea of rewriting a persons memory in my opinion can be a very slippery slope. Once something such as this is created it can be used for either good or bad. The initial use of the drug may be used in an ethical manor but, once its out there it can be used unethically. Because of this I would say that a drug such as this would be unethical.

Alliyah M. said...

After reading the scenarios discussed in the article, I viewed the drug discussed to change memories as more unnecessary than unethical. I think the article provided many examples of how people can possibly overcome fears without the drug, such as by discussing the event if they suffer from PTSD or the use of memory reconsolidation. Also, Specter discussed how Schiller stated "We need fear memories to survive"(245). So, if people were to completely erase a person's fear associated with a particular event, how will this affect their awareness to the dangers of the event?

Another reason is that memories not only affect yourself, but you don't know the impact it can have on others. For instance, Schiller stated when reacting to her father's account of the Holocaust, "My memory has been updated. I have spent much of my life trying to find a way to to reconsildate my father's memories, and ended up reconsolidating my own"(260). If we start to tamper with people's memories, we have to consider how this could affect other people's lives and their memories of the person.

Chidera Onyeizeh said...

I don’t think the drug is unethical. I mean it’s purpose is to help those that can function because of the trauma they experience. Page 257 talks about how our memories are manipulated and changed a lot for example going to school, so this drug isn’t unethical.

Chidera Onyeizeh

Shaina Falkner said...

After reading Specter's article, I believe that the drug is ethical. The drug is very useful and can be important for people's mental health. In page 248, Specter explains Elizabeth Loftus's experiment that showed people claiming to remember an event happening during their childhood even though the event was made up and it never happened.

On page 247, it reads, "Until memories are fixed, they are fragile and easily destroyed." Over time our memories fade away and sometimes they are unconsciously manipulated and are not true as suggested by Loftus's experiment. Since this drug can help the true memories come up and remain a true memory, I think the drug can be important and necessary, and, therefore, ethical to those who really need it.

Youssef Hassan said...

After reading Partial Recall by Michael Specter, I was still wrapping my head around the possibility that it is possible to specifically or precisely, manipulate someones memory with or without a drug. Luckily the reading gave me a more simple scenario by talking about the experiment conducted by Daniela Schiller (p. 253). I understand that right now a lot of research is being done bu their is still some uncertainties when it comes to addictions or side effects.

Lena Searcy said...

I think this drug brings up a few ethical problems. I thought it was funny that the idea was formed from Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, which seemed to outline how even bad memories are important and help you grow as a person. Even trauma can can make you a stronger person or at least can help you learn about yourself or the world, "You would still have the memory but the overwhelming fear would not be attached to it." (246). This would not be the best way to live life, memories can be a part of who you are and the emotions that come from it make you human. If memories are painful there are options like therapy or coping strategies that help people live productive lives.

Ivyanne B. said...

After reading this article I don't think that the drug is unethical. The drug is meant to help people who suffer from PTSD. I think that trying to help someone not be afraid of something that they were afraid of is spectacular. This gives people who duffer from PTSD to live a life where they aren't constantly reminded of what has happened to them in the past. They don't want to take away the memory they want to take away the pain associated with that memory. "But she never dealt with it, and that is why she had PTSD" (pg. 256). She talks about blaming herself and never asking herself what really happened and ended up with PTSD. This drug can help take away the fear that she is experiencing with the PTSD.
Ivyanne B.

Jasmyn Kloster said...

In Michael Specter's article, "Partial Recall" the idea of rewriting a persons memories to help with PTSD was introduced. On page 257, he talked about how every situation was created to serve as a memory. "If we take a more realistic view of just how much we mess with memory, the dampening of memories that produce emotional responses in traumatized individuals might be less malevolent" (257). This is an interesting statement because if people began tampering with memories, it could change a person for good and they will not be the same person they were. This to me seems unethical.

Joke Adanri said...

I don't think this drug would be unethical at all because it would cause more harm than hurt. Page 246 Elizabeth Phelps describes the effects of this drug as something that would "disentangle painful emotion from the memory it is a associated with". This would help those who have PTSD to live without the fear caused by certain memories and could be greatly beneficial in how much easier their lives could be.

Raillane Kamdem said...

I feel as though this drug would be ethical seeing as if “you would still have the memory” just not “the overwhelming fear attached to it” (256). In my opinion that seems completely harmless, since they really would not be tampering with any of your memories. If they did that, that would be unethical for me.

Desmond Crumer said...

After reading this article, I wholeheartedly agree that this drug is ethical. I have individuals in my family traumatized by wars many years ago. Those that suffer from PTSD have a blocker on their quality of life. Something as small as a squeak in the floor can trigger an episode. That why when on page 257 it mentioned "The dampening of memories... in traumatized individual might be less malevolent" it impressed me that it is not entirely getting rid of these memories, it is only making them more bearable helping the individual and those around them that care.

Rodney Clark said...

"Partial Recall", written by Michael Specter, is all about the brain and the trauma contained within it. In events of high stress people will develop strong emotions, based around a memory, such as fear. As we can see from the examples such as the holocaust survivor, it ca be very debilitating to people. To combat this, scientist and psychiatrist, wish to develop a drug that will separate the fear attached to traumatic memories. To test this a drug was used upon lab rats. I feel as if this drug is ethical but like all other drugs it shouldn't be used without the person's consent. If someone wants to hold on to their fear, then you may as well let them.

-Rodney Clark

Kelsey McNeil said...

I found this reading to be very interesting. One part that really stood out to me was when they were talking about how Elizabeth Loftus did a research study in which she had real people recall events or memories and then she added in a fake one. The real memories were sort of combined with the old ones and people were getting mixed up (248).

I don't think that this method of trying to change someone's original memories after experiencing a very traumatic situation is a wrong thing. I think that in the long run it could help a lot of people. I find it to be very interesting how the brain works and how memories work as well. On page 254 it says: "It didn't take long to realize that nearly every time a blue sphere appeared a shock would follow; by the time I felt the voltage, my pulse and heart rate had already spiked in anticipation" (254). After this they explain that most people would forget about the shock and wouldn't associated a blue sphere with it but sometimes the memory can be overwhelming and that is why they are trying to help people with PTSD to try to get those bad memories to be lessened.

Kameryn Sabino said...

In Partial Recall the drug could be ethical, but messing with someones memories is just unnatural. I'm all for helping people, but I don't believe tampering with someones memories is a good idea. On page 250-251, the experiments that they conducted on rats seemed a little off.

-Kameryn Sabino

Stella Nguepnang said...

After reading Michael Specter's article , "Partial Recall" and finding out about the various scenarios, I think the drug is ethical. So many people suffer, and even more family and friend members suffer because of the trauma someone has endured. I don't think erasing any memory of things we are scared of would help society at all because it helps us protect ourselves and survive. I also strongly believe that the person should go through testing and wait a while before doing it. There needs to be extensive regulations to make sure people do not take advantage of this because so easily it can go too far. That is what I truly fear about it.

Jada Baker said...

In Michael Specter's article "Partial Recall" he talks about helping those with PTSD by essentially rewriting their memories. He writes, "If we take a more realistic view of just how much we mess with memory, the dampening of memories that produce emotional responses in traumatized individuals might be less malevolent" (257)." I believe that this wouldn't be unethical because though they are tampering with peoples memories, I believe that it will helps those that can't seem to escape the past.

Kamela Cross said...

I can not see Micheal Specter's treatment as anything other than unethical. In the article, he talks about reviving people's traumatic experiences to help them get better. However from the experiment on page 253, it is seen that their drug has a time limit that can not guarantee that everyone will be cured of their fear. There is also no guarantee that the drug will even work on every patient they try it on. This drug could cause people to become more traumatized instead of cured, by having their memories revived. That is why this drug is unethical.

Kendall Clark said...

As a person who is very interested in the advancement of medicine, I am almost always in favor of any method that seeks to help people, even if there are risks that have to be taken. That being said, I'm not sure that this method is ethical. On page 248, author Michael Spector discusses how easy it is for memories to be tampered with and made to be either "inaccurate or completely false." It is often our memories that make us who we are, so is it ethical to change people this way? Though this drug has the possibility of helping those with traumatic memories, I don't think that the method is ethical.

Breonna Roberts said...

I am a psychology major so this was a very interesting thing for me to read. I, however, do not think this medicine would really be beneficial. I am a firm believer that in order to properly heal from trauma and grow as a person you must deal with the pain it brings. There are healthy ways to deal with the pain that can help someone who has gone through a traumatic experience. In some extreme cases, the medicine might be beneficial though. I know some people have gone through so many traumatic experiences in their life they cannot deal with it at all, it should be could be used in small doses to ease them into it.

Brianna Pickens said...

I believe that the drug would be ethical if it were only used to help those who have undergone a traumatic memory loss. People with memory loss now have to relive their traumatic experience every day in order to understand why the date is different, why their clothes have changed, and even why the time has changed. It is something that is very difficult to go through, and if this drug could help, I believe it is worth trying. Although, on page 253 Spector states that their drug has is limited on time. So, there is no guarantee that it would be able to help for long. While I believe that this could potentially be helpful, I do not believe that it would be worth the effort if it will not last.
-Brianna Pickens

Ronnie Akpan said...

In the story "Partial Recall", around pages 255-257, there is a dispute on whether or not using a new kind of medicine to cure PTSD is deemed unethical or not. As any other living thing in life, it is not perfect. In conjunction to the concept about whether or not using this medicine would be detrimental, I would be all for it. To back up my main claim, any and every type of medicine is going to have some sort of side effect to it, more than likely negative. As long as the drug does not have any severe deadly side effects to it, I would definitely be all for it.

TOMIKA COLLINS said...

After reading Michael Spencer's article "Partial Recall" I feel that the drug is not only ethical but necessary. On page 256, there is a very powerful statement "We are nothing without our memories.." By definition memories are the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information, but also something that helps us remember things from the past or a recollection. Without memories we would be empty souls with compromised personalities. If the drugs are going to help the person that they are administered to, then I fell it is a go.



Tyla Lucas said...

I feel like it would only be ethical to give people who suffered from trauma to the point of being unable to function. “You cannot be addicted to a desire you cannot remember” (257) applies to trauma as well. If we could give people the information of their memories without the emotions many people can heal and function once again in their lives. The problem would only be when people would want to start abusing a drug like this

Samontriona P said...

In the article "Partial Recall" by Michael Specter, there were many interesting aspects. What stuck out to me the most was the fact that they said you would still have the memory of the traumatic experience, but the overwhelming fear would not be attached to it. This stuck out to me because they just make it to where it is easier for people to live with the traumatic memory. I feel as though the drug is unethical because it's not very often when people actually want to go through a traumatic experience even if it doesn't scare them.

Devin Ellis-Martin said...

In this section, I think it would be ethical to tamper with memories of people. Memories are sometimes “faked” as the mind’s way of making logical connections, which is why things can get confused and argued about past events with people, so tampering with memories would be the same thing.

Christen King said...

In regard to the article "Partial Recall" by Michael Specter, I do not believe erasing the traumatic memories in someones brain is unethical. It is interesting how they will allow you to still have the memory of the situation, but somehow take away the emotions felt with that situation. So, technically they are not truly erasing the memory, but erasing the pain associated with the memory. I find this to be on the same debate, or discussion, of assisted suicide; both i believe are ethical and up to the person being affected by the pain. The quote "We are nothing without our memories..." on page 256 stuck out to me because while I believe this quote is correct, I also believe that for the people being affected by certain trauma can feel like nothing because of the said memory.

Kobi Phillips said...

I believe that this would actually be an ethical drug. I like how she added that she "wants to disentangle painful emotion from the memory it is associated with," (246) she later adds that her idea is to keep the memories intact while simply disabling the overwhelming fears that come along with the memory. The drug definitely has potential to be unethical if used incorrectly, however the way that Specter describes seems to be a very ethical way to go about this.

Kiana S said...

This topic is a tough one at hand. This is very serious in the sense that it is the brain and traumatic experiences can affect people in the worst ways. I also believe that for big results you have to take big risks. Saying something is "ethical" can mean different things to different people. Some people believe that it is ethical if it is in the best interest of society, others believe it's whatever is in the best interest of the environment. I think that if people are fully aware of this drug and are willing to risk everything to move past whatever traumatic experience they are going through, then it is ethical. All drugs on the market come with warnings and risks. People choose to deal with those if they want to.

James Beverly said...

This reading was quite interesting. I think this mentioned drug is not only ethical but it’s a necessity. We are no one without our memories and this drug can help us retain them. Also the FDA would have to have the side effects of the drug so people can choose to use it at their own risk. Therefore, this drug is a necessity.

Isaiah Johnson said...

In "Partial Recall," by Michael Spector, I learned about a potential drug that could alter and erase trauamatic memories. I have heard about this before, and originally believed it to be ethical, as it heals someone on trauma, by drawing out and changing the traumatic memories without the patient reliving the trauma. When Spector writes on how everyday, schools, businesses, and so on are altering our memory, sometimes malevolently, it suports how ethical altering ones memory in order to heal them is.

Alishiana Ivy said...

Michael Specters article, Partial recall, talks about a treatment drug for those who had traumatic experiences. When I first begun to read the article, it seemed a little unethical since they are messing with people's memory and minds. After reading the whole article my perspective changed. My overall opinion on the drug is that it is ethical. I don't feel that it is harming the patients in anyway if our memories are changing with or without the drug. On page 259 it states that “ When you change the story you created, you change your life”. I feel that if the drug helps them deal with the trama so they can move on with their life instead of being traumatized forever.

Qcadwell said...

Relating to the ethicality of the drug, I believe that the medication is not only ethical but is life changing. During a traumatic episode such as war or surviving the holocaust, it is common for victims to develop amnesia as a defense mechanism. This would help these people because not only the painful event would be forgotten but other elements of life as well. This drug would help these victims bring their lives together.

Anonymous said...

"Partial Recall" talks about using a drug to rewrite a persons memories, and at first, I believe it is unethical. After reading it, I still believe it is unethical. On page 257, there is discussion about how everything in your life, every event, advertisement, therapy session, or day in school is done in an effort to modify memory. Written on page 257 is "If we take a more realistic view of just how much we mess with memory, the dampening of memories that produce emotional responses in traumatized individuals might be less malevolent." I don't agree with that discussion. Creating memories is different than tampering with them. When I experience something for the first time, it is embedded into my head how it happened. I would not want a drug going into my body and changing memories. Even if they're bad memories, they're still authentic. Therapy sessions are not meant to help you cope with what you have been through, not change it. I know of people that have been through traumatic events, I am one of those people. I am able to live my day to day life, but some people are not. Those people need coping mechanisms, not to have their brain tampered with.

Anonymous said...

This was a intriguing read, mainly due to the topic being discussed. I believe this medicine is both ethical and practical to use. This could be used for many legal and personal reasons, and help many people either gain closure for those traumatic experiences and even help them in legal court.

Anonymous said...

^Kevin Cox

Anonymous said...

Sheri Fink’s “Life, Death and Grim routine Fill the Day at Liberian Ebola Clinic” stood out to me a lot due to the gruesome images she discusses from the herrendous disease. This article showcased how desperate times really do call for desperate measures. It made me think about things that really didn’t cross my mind. For example it lead me to realize that the most important thing people seek in life is comfort, love. This article really made me think about how privileged we are in America and how we take things for granted. After reading about people losing there lives and dealing with a disease so harsh like Ebola it showed me that there are terrible things happening and that everybody should come together and help everyone out. - Dejanee G.

Dayejah Coates said...

I feel that this drug would be very much ethical because as stated on page 256 it is for those whose thoughts are so traumatic that they are unable to function. Our memory is changed by many things anyway whether it be just it deteriorating over time or other factors. I honestly don't see how it could be deemed unethical. As a person who has experienced traumatic memories, I fully support the idea.

Jonathan Sanchez said...

I feel as though the drug is not ethical. On page 257, the author argues that we create memories everyday by outside means so messing with them is perfectly fine. I don't believe that the argument really can be supported by me because when we create memories, we can learn from them and become stronger. Yes, trauma is a whole new level and as someone who has never really experienced it, I cannot speak to in depth on it. I do feel, however, that drugs are not the solution to everything. In this day and age, we have medicinal drugs for virtually anything and these drugs cost quite a bit depending on what you are trying to treat. I think that we should try to find other ways to cope with trauma that involve a more "human touch", or something with some connection.