Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
What were the competing concerns that Moroccan physicians weighed when debating a medically necessary procedure that would rupture a young girl’s hymen? Why did midwives wonder aloud whether a middle-aged single woman seeking an IUD had “not lost hope yet?” How did doctors weigh what they described as the “strong presumption of fetal abnormality” against their reluctance to perform a therapeutic abortion for a woman undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for Hodgkin’s Disease? In the first two cases, providers worried about patients’ future marriage prospects, speculating through bodies to future, presumed conjugality. In the third case, physicians were reluctant to forecast fetal outcomes, instead arguing that there was always the potential that the patient could have a healthy baby. This paper puts three case studies into conversation in order to tease apart the temporal and moral dimensions of decisions about particularly thorny cases in a Moroccan maternity ward. Biomedical diagnostic technologies are widely touted as dispelling uncertainty and resolving doubts. And yet, when the medical “facts” of a case were in tension with social and moral understandings of what it means to have a promising future, biomedicine could only provide a partial picture. Medical practitioners struggled to manage competing temporalities and priorities as they treated patients. I reconsider biomedicine’s promissory dimensions as I focus on these moments of hesitation. By triangulating the medical, legal, and social logics that medical practitioners used, these cases help us understand potentiality as a double-edged sword, as much threat as promise.