Like! Share! Done! As the internet is being fully integrated into our lives, a technological tool which not only amplifies but also reconfigures many attributes of the public sphere, we have become accustomed to the viral effect and mass circulation of images and videos, along with the ethical complications our (sometimes automated) acts of sharing and republishing entail. A recent example, a video showing Marta González, a ballet dancer in the 1960s who suffered from Alzheimer’s and died in March 2020, flooded social media platforms and enthused thousands of users with her overwhelming ‘performance’ as her embodied memory of steps from Swan Lake awakens when she listens to Tchaikovsky’s score.
Despite the empowering message of the video – which underlined the beneficial use of arts in cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, offering insight into the patient’s experience and also causing our empathic engagement – it was exactly this mediated account of the patient’s story that caused some critique. According to standard guidelines by medical associations, when a patient lacks the mental capacity to consent to the possible uses of such material, whoever has the power to act on behalf of that individual has to exercise this power in the best interest of the patient. Although we do not have access to the background of the story, knowing if such guidelines were respected, nor to a consistent narrative of her life as many details proved falsified, there’s an unresolved ethical conflict at the heart of this case: is the medical gaze the only possible way to relate to that individual? Could her story be told without disregarding the ethical complications of allowing it to unrestrictedly circulate online?