Bioethics Blogs

Musings on the Materiality of Health Care by Cristina A. Pop

Nightstand in a psychiatry hospital from Alba-Iulia, Romania. The picture was taken by Odeta Catana in November 2014, as part of a project initiated by the Center for Legal Resources. Reproduced with permission.

In October of 2014, Romanian mass-media featured the local story of a few dozen citizens—most of them Orthodox nuns—refusing their newly issued state health insurance cards, on the grounds that the term card imprinted on the card would spell, when read backwards, drac—the Romanian word for “devil.” It seemed that the nuns, along with a few Orthodox priests and monks and other laymen, rejected the cards because they saw in them instruments of population control imbued with malefic powers. In their view, anyone who would accept the biometric chip-enabled health insurance card would bear the “mark of the beast,” as prophesied in the Christian Book of Revelation. “The beast” would be the computerized data system of global surveillance, whose ultimate aim is to strip humans of their God-bestowed freedom.

Upon reading this news, I was not necessarily astonished by the fact that a narrow demographic group would express such apocalyptically articulated anxieties when facing the biopolitical regimes of health care provision. In Romania, as elsewhere, fundamentalist Orthodox websites disavow various biomedical procedures—like vaccination—on similar grounds, by equating them with receiving “the mark” and by evoking the millennialist opening of the seals that precede the coming of the Antichrist. What did surprise me was the backwards reading of the word card as drac. Why would someone read anything backwards? And how does one get the idea of reading in reverse in the first place?

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.