Who’s at fault for Genie’s future? (Post 6)

Genie, in the hands of the well-educated, professional, caring, loving, and respectul group of researchers should’ve grown to the highest possible level of intelligence; however, let’s look at what happened and see who is to blame for the failure. When Genie was found she had been tormented, beaten and wittled down to nothing, but who’s responsible for this little girl after she was found. The court system should have stepped in and dedicated a ‘permeant’ foster care home, or a permeant facility to care for Genie until any or all court precedings were figured out and cleared. But, instead the court allowed these researchers to step in without any precautions for the care that Genie was about to recieve, and allowed the researched to dictate what would happen to her. In the years that Genie was tossed around from researcher to researcher who was the ‘outside’ person or team looking on Genie and ensuring that Genie’s privacy and well-being weren’t being invaded or destroyed.

Even the researchers that said they treated Genie as their own daughter seemed to still portray the interest in their own research rather that the well-being of Genie. So who is to blame for this? Is it the court for allowing all the changes, it is the team of researchers for treating her as a subject rather than a person, or is the review board that was suppose to be overseeing this research at fault?

The problems lies in the fact that when doing research with live human subjects, where does the ethical line lie and who decides when things need to stop because they’ve crossed the line? The lawsuit that was brought against the team stated by the attorneys is, “They should have had clues that they were going at things wrongly, because they were getting visits from NIMH, the National Institute of Mental Health, telling them, ‘Well, gee, yeah, you’ve got all these videos, but they’re not indexed, they’re not catalogued, they’re all thrown in a drawer. You’re doing tests that have no scientific purpose. You’re doing tests that you made up.’ (Wild Child)”

Although near the end of the research someone stepped in to file a lawsuit, the reasoning for this lawsuit was more for monetary gain rather than to help Genie. In the end it’s simply a sad and tragic story of researchers gone wrong and we can learn from them what NOT to do!

– Wild Child: NOVA- The Sercret of the Wild Child. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2112gchild.html

-Becky Knoblauch Smart


~ by Becky Knoblauch Smart on November 9, 2009.

4 Responses to “Who’s at fault for Genie’s future? (Post 6)”

  1. Becky –

    I agree with everything you said, but I especially liked the part about research with human subjects. It is very difficult to draw the line between ethical and non-ethical, especially when your human subject can neither talk or show appropriate signs of emotion. I strongly believe that the researchers are at fault for Genie’s future (after her father, of course). They may have been caring and loving, but they were not smart! I think Genie would have greatly benefitted from being assigned to a permanent home and caregiver.

    Marissa Hayes

  2. I agree to the extent that genie’s case was handled poorly, but we must also keep in mind that it’s not just the researchers who are at fault for Genie’s exploitation. The caretaker and special ed. teacher Jean Butler played a tremendous amount of politics in mucking up an already hotly debated issue (that issue being what to do for Genie’s future among other things). Butler is mostly responsible for the lawsuit as she played a Dick Cheney role to a George Bush-like figurehead – Genie’s mother.

    Then there is all of the politics involved with John Miner, the researcher’s lead attorney who eventually gained control over Genie’s welfare after the mother, Irene, was deemed unfit to care for Genie near Genie’s 18th birthday or so.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that the issue goes far deeper than simply the researchers when it comes to blaming people. In reality, no one was innocent in this case – except for Genie that is. Everyone meant well, they did the best they could because we must also keep in mind that Genie’s case was unprecedented. Nobody knew how to handle this case effectively because it never happened before.

    After reading “Genie: A Scientific Tragedy” I personally agreed most with Jay Shurley – especially when he said “everyone viewed Genie as a child views feces – first as treasure, then as shit.” He also recommended that Genie be kept in an environment similar to her captivity and she would be introduced to the world gradually so as to prevent a sensory overload (which I think is also a huge catalyst for fits in autistic kids – which may explain why Genie was at first mistaken for being autistic when she was found).

    The unfortunately really frustrating thing about this case, which is why just about everyone was bitter about the case, was the complexity of the politics surrounding Genie. It’s one thing to say that one person or a group of people are to blame, but that is almost just a surface analysis. These people were all very human, except for Butler – she was crazy, who made very human mistakes of getting too involved. Part of it was the research, but another, and I think much more powerful reason, was the fantasy of helping someone in need that Genie was obviously a prime case.

    Even I, a person born 2 years after the lawsuit was settled, still wish I could nurture Genie when she was found into a healthy and happy person. It’s the damsel in distress syndrome that is also very influential in Genie. She never meant to do it but she exuded it like an aura – an aura that says “help me.”

    The thing that I think most people realize and don’t realize is that these are fantasies and don’t apply to reality. Reality is much harsher, and I think everyone was filled with a little hope for Genie’s success that was at least partially fueled by this desire to help as much as possible.

    Those are just some of my thoughts. Sorry for taking up so much space, but thanks fro reading none the less.

  3. Edit: I said “which is why just about everyone was bitter about the case, was the complexity of the politics surrounding Genie.” and actually I am wrong about this to a certain extent. The politics and the research destroyed the treatment, which then destroyed the research, to paraphrase Shurley a little.

  4. Edit: I said “which is why just about everyone was bitter about the case, was the complexity of the politics surrounding Genie.” and actually I am wrong about this to a certain extent. The politics and the research destroyed the treatment, which then destroyed the research, to paraphrase Shurley a little.

    I took that initial quote from Shurley, and his point that the bitterness is from the fact that everyone exploited Genie, and no one could go back fix things, to try to help Genie improve – the damage was already done.

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