Friday, January 22, 2010

Wrong and right in Haiti

It is an old saying that disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. The idea makes sense: extreme events provoke extreme reactions. As far as 'the worst' goes, a disaster makes a country vulnerable, and creates opportunities for exploitation of the vulnerable. Take the news coverage of the earthquake's aftermath. A number of news agencies (notably, CNN) have sent in doctors who give emergency medical care and act as reporters while doing so. Bioethics experts throughout the US have been appalled by what they see as the lack of medical ethics on the part of these doctor/celebrities. The complaint is not about the classic themes, i.e. lack of informed consent or breaches of patient confidentiality. It is about exploitation of those that are poor, injured and dying. Since when is it acceptable for doctors, of all people, to help serve up the Haitian people as entertainment for those safely lounging on their sofas? That sort of behavior -- facilitating the consumation of the poor by the rich -- is what one expects of ... journalists. And it follows that the doctors involved invoke the usual journalistic justification: no, it is not at all about raising TV ratings, it is all about raising global awareness of the needs of the Haitian people.

On the bright side is the outpouring of donations to humanitarian organizations. There are organizations who are willing and able to help those in Haiti, even when a camera is not pointed in their direction. I would like to give a shout-out to one of them, International Medical Corps, a global non-profit organization of volunteer doctors and nurse who have boots on the ground in Haiti now.

Send something their way. Donating $10 is as easy as texting the word 'Haiti' to 85944. Click on this link to find out more.

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