You suggest that people with amnesia cannot understand the tests they are undergoing and that they cannot exercise the right to withdraw. But those suppositions seem to be false.
Individuals with episodic amnesia, at least, are capable of assessing risks and benefits and making rational judgments about their preferred actions (or at least judgments identical to those neurotypical individuals make).
Concerning the right to withdraw: We consent to surgeries (from which we will not be able to withdraw while under anesthesia) and to treatment of our bodies after death (when no memory is possible).
Surely one doesn’t have to constantly remember that one was recently reminded of a right to have the right, to know that one has it, or to exercise it.
In the effort to protect H.M. from mistreatment, I think we should be very careful not to infantilize him by imagining his deficits to be more far-reaching and severe than they, in fact, were. One can also be harmed by careless descriptions of one’s cognitive abilities and disabilities. To have amnesia is not to become globally incompetent.
“Of course, in the absence of witnesses, it’s impossible to know what Corkin did or did not do”
Absence of witnesses? He’s got your colleague on tape, describing her destruction of the data at length and in some detail. That’s a witness, isn’t it? Perhaps you meant “in the absence of witnesses that support the argument I’m trying to make”?
Another point came to me – the lead in statement does not accurately describe the circumstances. The lead in includes, “A journalist and MIT scientists square off over the legacy of Henry Molaison…” First of all, Mr. Mnookin is actually ‘squaring off’ with Mr. Dittrich because it is Dittrich’s claims Mnookin takes far more issue with. Second, this article has far less to do with Mr. Molaison’s legacy, than it does Dr. Corkin’s.
I know none of the people involved; I am not a scientist of any sort, just a person who is interested in how the brain works.
I have no background whatsoever to question or support either Mr. Dittritch’s account or Dr. Corkin’s research methods. However, I do question how Mr. Mnookin, who is associated with MIT, can be considered impartial in critiquing a challenge of work done by another MIT associate. Then there is the question of how many of those Mr. Mnookin references as supporting Dr. Corkin are also associated with MIT?
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