Bioethics Blogs

Fixing things: Moving image stories into case stories by Jenna Grant

During her pregnancy, Puthea went to a private maternity clinic for regular ultrasound exams. This clinic was one of the larger and more popular in Phnom Penh at the time (2010) and one that provided echo poar, color ultrasound services.[i] Puthea preferred color to black and white scans because she could see more detail. Following the doctor’s narration, she could recognize feet, legs, and face. Of course, she told me, every ultrasound, even color, has limits to its clarity. “You have to wait until delivery to see what the baby looks like.” Nonetheless, Puthea got one of her later exams at a public hospital, which offered only black and white scans. She did this so that she would be “in the system” there. Puthea could afford a private clinic—she worked in an upscale hotel and her salary, together with her husband’s, placed them in Cambodia’s growing middle class. Yet she chose the public hospital because it offered the best delivery services in Phnom Penh, and was able to handle emergency or complicated cases.

Puthea’s black and white ultrasound scans. The cat-like appearance can be seen in the top image.

As many women do, Puthea took a copy of her ultrasound report home with her, and showed the report and accompanying image to her auntie, Ming (see Figure 1). Ming was the matriarch of the family; she helped to raise Puthea and her brother, and owned a popular guesthouse near the riverfront. Puthea was telling me about her most recent experience with ultrasound imaging over dinner at my house, and at this point, she paused.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.