by Laurie Elit
Members of the Humanitarian Health Ethics group have varied motivations for their involvement in low resource settings. Some people travel to these settings for academic reasons trying to study the situation in order to improve things. Some travel to provide health care for people who would otherwise not be able to access such services. I was asked to comment on the motivation that has kept me involved in short-term missions. My first out-of-Canada low resource mission was a 5-month stint as a medical student in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Over the years I have found myself in various contexts such as medical educator (Guyana), surgeon (Kenya, Nepal, Haiti, Bangladesh, Pakistan), researcher (Brazil) and implementer of a national cervical screening program (Mongolia). It was in Mongolia that I was asked the same question that Humanitarian Health Ethics asked me to comment on here.
I have learned that we can look at our world from various vantage points (or worldviews). Worldviews change over time and across societies. There are worldviews particular to oral (tribal), peasant (low hot flat coastal areas/high rugged mountains), modern (first global culture or rationalist), post-modern (advanced capitalist, glocal) societies. Biblical refers to the human understanding of the world from God’s perspective as given in scripture. As a physician, I have been trained under the assumptions put forward in the modern and late modern perspective. As a Christian, I continually have to reckon this with the biblical worldview.
by John Pringle
(version français à la suite)
“Every ship is unsinkable, until it sinks” (Crawley, 2010). So it is with human rights: inviolable until they are denied. The right to protection from war, the right to maritime rescue, the right to seek asylum, the right to life’s necessities, the right to health care, and the right to be treated humanely and with dignity: the words are failing the very people they were written to protect. Who would have thought, that in the 21st century, we would have to argue defensively for pulling drowning people from the sea. The humanity principle – that people are entitled to assistance and to be treated humanely simply by virtue of being human – is not and never has been a given. Lives are not valued equally, some not at all.
That human lives are undervalued may come as a shock. Unless you are an aid worker. As an aid worker, you may have seen a child die for lack of a ten cent measles vaccine – measles kills about 400 children every day (WHO, 2015). You may have seen a patient suffer for lack of an available treatment – diseases of poverty are invisible to pharmaceutical companies (Access Campaign, 2015). As an aid worker, you will have witnessed how the global economic system values people for their wealth. And it values profit. Apart from that, it sees nothing of value (Patel, 2010).
The Global Refugee Crisis is a stark reminder that we live in a world of disparity. The old mantra, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, argues that what is good for the economy is good for everybody. But in the context of a Mediterranean graveyard, the rising tide cliché is not just ironic but grotesque. After decades of neoliberal economic policies, the tide has lifted only luxury yachts and military patrol vessels.
by Lauren Wallace
Two weeks ago Stephen Harper kicked off the election campaign. But it wasn’t clear if many Canadians were paying attention. Because the killing of Cecil the celebrity lion had already broken the Internet.
In case you missed it, in late July, Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, beheaded Cecil, a lion living in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Within days of news of the murder breaking, the public’s violent backlash sent Mr. Palmer into hiding. Major airlines, including Air Canada, banned shipments of hunting trophies from Africa; a global petition demanding justice accumulated over 300,00 signatures; PETA called for the killer to be hanged to death; and, donations were made to erect a life size bronze statue of the martyr lion.
Elysée Nouvet and Lisa Schwartz co-authored a blog post for ALNAP on July 10, 2015 entitled:
Is palliative care in humanitarian crises a luxury?
If there is one thing the Ebola crisis has generated these past 18 months, it is widespread recognition that globally we could be better prepared for responding swiftly and ethically to complex pandemics. Ethical issues that surfaced in the panicked first months of the last Ebola crisis have ranged from debates on whether or not healthcare workers in non-Ebola affected countries have a duty to respond and assist their colleagues in other affected countries, to the absence of a standard of care for treatment of affected patients. As members of the Humanitarian Healthcare Ethics Group, we were surprised that another big question was not, and still is not, receiving the deliberation it merits: What are the responsibilities of humanitarian healthcare teams, if any, vis a vis the palliative needs of patients?
Visit the ALNAP blog to find the full post.
by John Pringle
I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to West Africa sooner. The Ebola epidemic was at its peak in the fall of 2014, the same time that I was preparing for my doctoral defence. I watched “Ebola Frontline” which conveyed tragedy and urgency. The documentary followed Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) doctor Javid Abdelmoneim as he cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. It was graphic and raw, something out of Dafoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. That people had to be turned away from Ebola treatment centres was profoundly inhumane. That traumatized aid workers had to turn people away because treatment centres were overrun, to watch helplessly as people died agonizing deaths in cars or on the ground—was yet another searing reminder of our collective failure, that there is no shared responsibility for global health, and that our notion of ‘international community’ is more dream than reality.
by Larissa Fast
Cross-posted with Political Violence @ a Glance
This week marks the first anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. A healthcare worker infected with Ebola while volunteering in Sierra Leone arrived in the US earlier this month. Another ten of this unnamed health worker’s colleagues were also evacuated to the US for monitoring after exposure to the virus.
The muted media reaction to this latest Ebola case is vastly different than last fall, when the outbreak was at its peak and the first case of Ebola arrived on North American shores. Hysteria mounted, tweets mentioning Ebola skyrocketed, and pictures of people in clinics and in western airports wearing various types of protective gear appeared in the media.
by Kacper Niburski, HumEthNet contributor
Health can bridge the political. At its core, it is a fundamental cry of the humanity in all of us. Disease does not discriminate nor does sickness pledge partisanships. Only we do.
The sixty-seventh World Health Assembly, housed by the WHO and the United Nations Foundation, focused on this mutual, worldwide aspiration for health as both a governmental tool and an individual right. Attended by delegates from all WHO member states, the conference housed technical briefings, debates, and discussions surrounding global health issues like nutrition, universal health coverage, patient’s rights, and non-communicable diseases.
On the 4th and 5th of November 2013, Paul Bouvier of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Nicolas Tavaglione of the University of Geneva hosted a symposium called “From humanity to complicity? Ethical duties and dilemmas of humanitarian action in wars and armed conflicts” at the Fondation Brocher, in Hermance, Geneva, Switzerland. Those gathered included philosophers and legal scholars, and members of the ICRC and MSF. It was a productive mix of scholars, practitioners and policy makers that created a welcome space for discussion of ethical theories of complicity in humanitarian healthcare practice.