Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities Events

Drowning: The Limits of Rescue and the Ethics of Failure

John P. McGovern, M.D. Award Lecture in the Medical Humanities


Drowning: The Limits of Rescue and the Ethics of Failure

 

Catherine Belling, PhD
Associate Professor of Medical Education
(Bioethics and Medical Humanities)
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine


Thursday, February 24, 2022

12:00pm — 1:00pm


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In this lecture, we will think about drowning, both literally and metaphorically. Taking as 
starting point the very specific clinical and ethical challenges posed by the care of traumatized 
displaced migrant populations, I will draw on the representation of drowning or near-drowning 
as trauma in several recent films about people attempting to migrate by sea from Africa to 
Europe (and about those who aspire to help them): Fire at Sea (dir. Rose, 2016), Atlantique 
(Diop, 2019), His House (Weekes, 2020), and Styx (Fischer, 2018). We will then explore the 
metaphorical significance of drowning, both within these films and in their resonance for
health care, as a way to reimagine what it means to be overwhelmed. Who drowns?
Who lets another drown rather than rescue them? How might these films’ storytelling
“open up new routes,” as  Lisa Diedrich puts it in her work on an ethics of failure,
when doctors and patients “risk failure, risk relation”?


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Drowning: The Limits of Rescue and the Ethics of Failure
, 2022 - -
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