Zenfolio | Maulshree Gangwar | Synchronicity of 'a Life' and 'her Research'

Synchronicity of 'a Life' and 'her Research'

January 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

My academic journey  from Engineering (Biotechnology) to Natural Sciences to finally Social Sciences has been an exciting one. This post is inspired by a Qualitative research methods class I am taking this semester. Research in pure Sciences is mostly Quantitative for reasons that I do not want to tread upon here. Having read so many research articles based on qualitative analysis, the 'number-reliant' part of me is finding it difficult to understand how a conclusion can be made without using numbers. And then again, the other part (budding non-number reliant) wonders if every research should have a conclusion.

I just finished reading an article by Marianne A. Paget titled 'Life Mirrors Work Mirrors Text Mirrors Life...'. Such an interesting title which I did not understand until I read it. It is a heart rending account of Dr. Paget's research on 'medical mistakes' i.e. the erroneous medical diagnosis made by doctors that can sometimes even cause death of a patient. She calls it 'uncanny coincidence' because her research on medical mistakes and the erroneously undiagnosed cancer, were synchronous and happening simultaneously. The severe pain in her back was understood to be caused by physical strain and she lived with it for several years, until it was un-mistakenly diagnosed as cancer. She would have still died because of the disease but having it diagnosed in the early stages would have extended her life by several years. 

In her book 'Unity of Mistakes' she writes "The journey of error, the dynamic experience of going wrong, is crucial in understanding medical mistakes. They are rarely simple events like errors in addition. Rather they are complex activities and cognitions that unfold in time." This reflects her constant struggle to deal with her back pain which kept becoming worse, to a point that no amount of pain-killers would help abate it. All this while she was living with the cancer but did not know about it because of the 'mistake' of physicians. For the patient living with the illness it is a 'mistake' that is going to cost her life, and not negligence, malpractice or misdiagnosis as put forth in technical terms by lawyers and medical practitioners. In the end, she gave credit to her research that helped her face the issue of negligence in her medical care. The physicians who committed the error had accepted their mistakes.  To her, what mattered most was that she was able to come to terms with the reason of her impending death, hence getting her a closure. 

From this brief purview of Dr. Paget's research and how her 'research mirrored her life' or her 'life mirrored her research', I would say that I really was not looking for a conclusion, or a hypothesis to be proven right or wrong. It was the poignant account of an entire life through one research article. It was very personal and touched me in ways that no amount of numbers can. 


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