April 13, 2024

Dr Gupta’s Haiti efforts raise ethical questions

Critics question celebrity physician’s motives

Just over two weeks ago, CNN’s celebrity
doctor and one-time dandidate for surgeon-general in the Obama administration, Dr
Sanjay Gupta, joined the flock of journalists converging upon Haiti. Upon arrival,
Dr Gupta examined a 12-year-old girl suffering from a head injury. The incident
was filmed and made into a four-minute clip that immediately became the lead
item on the CNN website.

Dr Gupta’s fame and popularity have caused
some to question his motives in filming this piece of medical work.

On his way to Haiti two weeks ago, Dr Gupta
clarified in a Twitter post that although journalistic aims drove his work in
Haiti, he would provide medical assistance if necessary. He said, “Many have
asked: of course, if needed, I will help people with my neurosurgical skills.
Yes, I am a reporter, but a doctor first.”

Bioethicists were not impressed. “The reporters who have
been practicing well-televised drive-by medical care in Haiti are demonstrating
an appalling abuse of medical and journalistic ethics,” said Dr Steve Miles, of
the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics. And Dr Carl Elliott, from the
same centre, was even more scathing. “It’s worse than self-promotion. It’s
exploiting the suffering of Haitians for the PR goals of their employers. They
should not be reporting on their own work. That’s a classic PR tactic: using
humanitarian aid as a public relations device, in order to drive up ratings for
their network.” ~ MinnPost,
Jan 22
; LA Times, Jan 14

Michael Cook