Shark Dreams

Last night I dreamed that I was in school again.  Perhaps like many of those seemingly anxiety-related dreams where you find yourself back in school.  For me, it is often not in the same buildings, in fact, most often different than the ones I actually attended.  Those dreams where I go to a class, it is almost finals, everyone thinks I really know the shit, but I don’t even know the freaking class title.  Some of you know exactly what I mean.

But this morning’s dream was not about law school.  And I’m not certain yet whether it was anxiety-related or just my brain-at-rest bringing me new ideas.  That’s also something some of you recognize.  Some of your ideas do come to you during brain “down-time,” when you aren’t actually trying to think new thoughts.

So this morning’s dream.  I was in a class, or more precisely, on a field trip where we were studying sharks.  The shark we were observing was a captive one.  In a pool.  And the instructor was proceeding to place wax on its skin for some reason.  I immediately began to doubt whether the research had any real merit, other than to support the notion that we could perform that particular experiment.  Put wax on a shark’s skin.

As the instructor proceeded and the students watched, the shark was being visibly affected by the experiment.

White Shark reef informed consent

White Shark, Photo by Dr. Dwayne Meadows

The shark’s shape began to be impacted.  Its spine became the slightest bit deformed.  The shark began to exhibit symptoms a bit like scoliosis.

I objected to the experiment and inquired, what was the purpose of the experiment?  The instructor replied that I and the other students had signed an “Informed Consent” prior to entering the class, the pool.  It seemed an odd response to an inquiry about the purpose of the study.

The instructor explained that the “Informed Consent” that I had signed was not just my agreeing that, were I harmed during the exercise, I would hold the institution harmless; that I was taking responsibility for my own safety in this research endeavor.  No, the “Informed Consent” that I had signed went further than that.  In it, I also agreed that there may not be any benefit to be derived from the experiment, and that I accepted that as a premise before entering the pool.

This came as a surprise, as it would to most, since this “lack of benefit” clause is not typical of the “Informed Consents” that I had previously signed.  At least as far as I knew.  But I also reflected that I, as many others, rarely read those before signing, especially after the first paragraph or two.

In the dream, I returned to the shark, removed the wax, and went underwater to look at him face-to-face.  We touched noses.  He knew.  I awoke.

So this morning, I find myself thinking about “Informed Consents.”  More to follow.  I hope it will be interesting.  I know it will to some.

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