People utterly in need, trying desperately to get help, but being rejected at
the gates - doesn't that evoke memories of grim times, which we thought belonged
to the past?
It seems quite odd that Kantha Bopha Hospital, constructed at a cost of millions
of dollars and offering its much lauded health care of international standard, is,
according to its director, not able to give first aid to patients suffering from
Whereas in Europe (I guess also in Switzerland) in comparable cases every passer-by
would be obliged to try to give assistance according to his abilities, the director
of a haven of medical care claims that he and his staff were "too busy"
to provide help. Not a single physician, not a single nurse, not a single driver
could be dispatched to help victims bleeding to death a hundred meters away from
Kantha Bopha? It's hard to imagine that hospitalized children would have died of
Japanese encephalitis during the time that any emergency aid was given. And while
the last victims struggled with death in the burning sun, while ordinary moto-taxi
drivers tried to forward them to medical attention as best they could, the director
of the nearest hospital preferred to give a cello concert.
"Lack of professionalism", "insult", "nonsense-talking",
"sick of jealousy": these stereotypical responses are too often heard in
the face of criticism, and they reveal nothing more than a dangerous lack of judgment.
(The director's comment, by the way, that Kantha Bopha is "the only expatriate
NGO project in the health sector, which is really working ... without corruption"
is, of itself, insulting and surprising coming from someone of such tender sensibilities.)
Dr Richner likes to stress at every opportunity, appropriate or otherwise, that "white
faces" have no special rights. Correct! But what more than the exercise of a
very special right is expressed in the decision to refuse first aid to Cambodians
on the brink of death? That this decision is stubbornly bolstered with arguments
which seem to gravely lack an appropriate ethical approach, makes the course of events
even more questionable.
Students of medicine are, from the outset, made aware of ethical considerations and
that medical interventions, or the lack thereof, may have penal as well as professional
consequences. One would hope that similar consequences have application in Cambodia
and do not merely represent Western luxury.
- Christoph Bendick, M.D. Phnom Penh.