It’s very evident that judging others is a part of human nature. We all have done it. Transamerica is a movie that deals with a man by the name of Stanley who faces many obstacles on his journey as a transsexual. The movie specifically shows how much difficulty a person who is interested in getting a male-to-female sexual reassignment surgery faces. Not only this, there are many medical ethics related concepts that go hand in hand with this particular movie.
Let’s start with our first concept known as truth telling. According to http://missinglink.uscf.edu, truth telling is defined as “the avoidance of lying, deception, misrepresentation, and non-disclosure in interactions with patients or relevant to patient care”. Transamerica had a lot of scenes that violated this concept. For example, in the beginning of the movie Stanly (also later known as Bree) has a conversation with his therapist who asks him about his family. He replied “I don’t have family, they are dead”. In this scene he was lying because he was not close to his parents due to the fact that he was not sure if they would accept his sexual orientation. There were other scenes as well where Stanley could not help but lie to his son about who he really was. His son assumed he was a female by the name of Bree…but this only lasted for so long until he found out the truth. All these scenes violated the medical ethics concept known as truth telling in my opinion.
The next concept I noticed in the movie is paternalism. According to ascensionhealth.org, paternalism is defined as “the context of healthcare is constituted by any action, decision, rule, or policy made by a physician or other care-giver, or a government, that dictated what is best of the patient(s) without considering the patient’s own belief and value system and does not respect patient autonomy. In this movie there was a scene where Stanley hands his consent form asking his therapist for a signature. His therapist, Margret, would not sign it. In fact she said “I want you to be ready for this surgery”…” I don’t want you to go through with this surgery only to realize you have something left incomplete in your life”. Margret showed her paternal side in this scene because she wanted what she felt is best for Stanley. This particular scene also goes well with the concept beneficence. Beneficence is defined as “the doing of active goodness, kindness, or charity, including all actions intended to benefit others” (According to medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com). By advising Stanley, Margret clearly was not gaining anything. She simply wanted what was best for Stanley. She did not want Stanley to regret his decision therefore she was looking out for him. In other words, she wanted him to do the only thing she knew that would benefit him.
Battery is the next concept that played a part in this movie. Battery is defined as “intentional and wrongful physical contact with a person without his or her consent that entails some injury and offensive touching” (according to the Book-Medical Ethics and Humanities). In Transamerica, Stanley brings his son to meet his step father, whose character he was not fully aware of. Toby (stanley’s son) was repeatedly molested by his step father during his childhood. Toby was approached by his step father who wanted to hug him. Toby, in anger, punches his step dad knocking him out completely. This scene is an example of battery. You cannot hit a person just because you feel like it. Toby’s action caused his stepfather to be injured and at the same time obviously his stepfather did not give consent to be hit therefore this scene, again, goes perfectly with the concept known as battery.
The next concept I noticed in this movie is Quid Pro Quo. Websites like phrases.org.uk/meanings, investopedia.com/terms, and a book by the name of “Business Ethics” written by: William H. Shaw define Quid Pro Quo as “giving something in return for something else”, in other words “something for something.” There is a scene in the movie where Toby is at a restaurant where he meets a older stranger. At this point in time, Toby and Bree are all out of money. Toby goes with the stranger to a car and get involved in sexual behavior for money in return. Toby got what he wanted which is money, and the older gentlemen also got what he wanted, which is sex. Quid Pro Quo means something for something. Each of them got something in return for their act therefore this scene goes hand in hand with this concept.
Kantian Deontology is the next concept that was displayed in this movie. Kantian deontology (according to the textbook) “every person by virtue of his or her humanity has an inherent dignity. All person, as rational creatures, are entitled to respect, not only from others but from themselves as well.” in the Kantian system, among the most notable of our perfect duties to others are (1) the duty not to kill an innocent person, (2) the duty not to lie, and (3) the duty to keep promises”. In Transamerica, Toby is a rebellious teenager. He uses abusive language throughout the movie. There is a scene where he says to Bree “I said I was going to go with you in this car, not carry a f****ing conversation!” Also in another scene when he found out the truth about Bree he says “you’re a f****ing lying freak!!!” He also uses the word “F U” a lot. His language is very rude and offensive. Kant’s theory basically talks about giving all people respect regardless of who they are. It also talks about noticing that everyone has an inherent dignity that we should be aware of. Toby did not respect his elders and used abusive words as mentioned above whenever he felt like it therefore I believe he was violating the concept known as Kantian Deontology.
Let’s move on to the next concept which is known Confidentiality (also known as Sphere of Privacy). According to our textbook, confidentiality is defined as “a person enjoys privacy when other individuals do not without permission invade what may be called his or her “sphere of privacy”. In the movie there is a scene when Stanley tells his mother that she had him followed by investigators only because she wanted to have him committed for both wanting and trying to kill himself. You cannot simply have an individual followed without them knowing. By doing so, you are violating their sphere of privacy or confidentiality.
In Transamerica, Stanley’s mom’s role displayed the concept known as Ethical Egoism. According to http://caae.phil.cmu.edu, ethical egoism is defined as “a normative theory that states that our actions ought to be done from the perspective of self-interest”. When Stanley’s mom finds out that he wants to become a female, she makes comments such as “I can’t look at you like this!!” and “come inside before someone see’s you”. She also says “We can’t respect you”. I felt that her comments go along with the concept known as ethical egoism because she only cared about her image and what society would think of her if they found out she raised kids that did not follow along with the norms. This is a very egocentric way of thinking which is why I believe Stanley’s mom’s character in the movie goes along with this particular concept.
Autonomy is another medical ethics concept I discovered that was violated in this movie. According to standford.edu, “Autonomy requires patients to have autonomy of thought, intention, and action when making decisions regarding health care procedures. Therefore the decision-making process must be free of coercion or coaxing”. There is a scene where Bree and her son Toby and another stranger are by the water. Both Toby and the stranger randomly took off their clothes and went skinny dipping in the water. They were violating Bree’s autonomy because there was no need for her to see them nude in the public like that. You must be aware of your surroundings and careful when it comes to presenting yourself in such a way in public. Because both Toby and the stranger did not care, I felt they were violating Bree’s autonomy.
Last but not least, I felt informed consent played a major role in this movie. According to the American Medical Association “informed consent is more than simply getting a patient to sign a written consent form. It is a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo specific medical intervention. A physician should discuss the patient’s diagnosis, if known of course. He/she should also mention the nature and purpose of a proposed treatment, the risks and benefits of a procedure, and also the risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a treatment or procedure”.
Towards the beginning of this movie, Stanley was going through a lot trying to get his consent form signed by various doctors and therapists so he can undergo the male-to-female sexual reassignment surgery. He was also asked to have sessions with a therapist. Stanley had to get psychologically evaluated as well. He was well aware of all the consequences of this surgery and how it would change his life. He was also informed of the complications and any risks he could face once surgery is completed. All this is a part of the process for this particular surgery. This process can also be considered as informed consent because Stanley is being notified about everything that is important when it comes to undergoing this major surgery. For this reason I believe informed consent is a term that played a big role in this movie.
In conclusion this movie was very entertaining. It was much different than the usual movies we watch in class. I felt it was a pretty intense and graphic film but overall I enjoyed watching it.