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This Week’s Proof Poses an Interesting Ethical Question

The TNT series Proof will probably never give us any proof of an afterlife but this week’s episode did give us the kind of ethical and philosophical question that made it the best episode so far in my opinion. Spoilers ahead.

A tech guy named Ethan is recording his brain activity when he dies suddenly of a congenital heart problem. The machine keeps recording after he dies and collects exabytes of data (this may sound familiar). Since Ethan worked for the billionaire Turing and the equipment belonged to the company, Turing has possession of the data. The images from that data cover the dead man’s life and since he died while recording there may images of what he experienced after he died. Given the amount of data, it take years to sort through it all.


Ethan’s widow is horrified to find out that Turing and Carolyn are looking at his private memories. This brings up the ethical question of privacy. On one hand, Ethan was doing brain research for Turing and had consented to having his brain recorded. Is it unreasonable to use the data collected during and after his death for research purposes? On the other hand, the data is of Ethan’s private memories including things he may not want to have others looking at. He hadn’t anticipated dying while recording and his intentions on the subject are unknown. How much privacy is Ethan entitled to after his death?

Since this is Proof it’s not really a surprise when at the end Turing deletes the data. But was that the right call?

Meanwhile other stuff happens at Seattle Generic Hospital this week. Zed ditches the arranged marriage but now has to pay his medical school bill. Carolyn’s ex thinks Turing is putting the moves on her until Turing reveals that he’s dying (but it’s also clear that if Turing gets better he would put the moves on her). And Turing may be dying sooner than expected because he needs to stop his cancer treatment so he can have surgery to remove a brain tumor. Hey, it’s a Seattle hospital so there has to be drama.

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