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kenmorefield

Three Identical Strangers (2018)

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Major Plot Spoilers to Follow in this Thread. 

This documentary was easy enough to follow, but I realized about a 1/3 of the way through that I wasn't tracking with it. 

Specifically, I didn't have the knee-jerk reaction of shock or outrage when the underlying study was revealed. This attitude was summed up by the brief interview with the guy who did some of the interviews for the study who said, "It was undoubtedly ethically wrong?"

Was it? I'm more than ready to agree that it was, but I'm curious what, say, Joel (as an adopted kid) or Andrew (psychological professional) have to say. 

At times, what was portrayed as wrong -- separating the kids, not telling the adoptive parents about siblings -- comes across as no more than standard practice at the time. While it seems misguided by today's standards, that's a bit different than knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway. I guess misrepresenting the study to the adoptive parents was wrong, since consent should be informed.

The film's thesis appears to be that nurture makes a difference and it implies from that conclusion that the one triplet's suicide could have been prevented had he been placed in a loving home...is that much different than blaming the death of a cancer patient on a study that gave him the placebo rather the treatment that proved to be more beneficial? (That is not even taking into account the fact that it is hard to take the anecdotal outcome of one participant and draw a confident conclusion from it. ) 

But again, I don't want to argue that there was nothing wrong with the study so much as understand whether my own response was an anomaly. On the level of a human interest story, it worked for me. As an expose, it was less successful. I get the frustration of not being able to see the results, but then at the end we get a postscript saying that they were allowed to see the results and...no conclusions.

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Yeah, the lack of consent and outright deceit involved in the children's placement and the ongoing study posit this firmly in the unambiguously unethical category.  As a mental health professional, I found this reveal appalling.  Institutional review boards (IRBs) now routinely review study designs at the university or hospital level, and there's no way this study would pass muster nowadays.

In my ethics class in med school, we learned about past horrors like the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.  I wouldn't be surprised if this study finds its way into such classes.

As a documentary, however, I found this film unimpressive.  About 1/3 of it felt repetitive, and the film's structure after the first 30 min or so was amateurish.  I'm surprised it has such a high numbers on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. 

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