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article imageOp-Ed: Haitian Earthquake Survivors on the Leaky Boat

By Carol Forsloff     Jan 23, 2010 in World
In a Tyrone Power film of yesteryear, the captain had to decide to rescue people on a leaky boat by letting some of the passengers die. The film poses a moral question that hopefully won't have to happen in Haiti.
The "leaky boat" implies many things. Some have to do with eonomic decisions made by the global community. Decisions need to be made about the utilization of world resources during wars, an economic downturn affecting the globe and the political issues within each country. President Barack Obama and other government leaders speak of a long-term assistance program. But what will that assistance be and will it be enough to help the Haitian boat stay afloat so survivors can eventually make it ashore intact for a good life ahead? One need only remember the pitiful plight of the Haitian boat people and how many were turned back even as they sought freedom in the United States from their country's despair under dictatorship.
In the context of the leaky boat there will be, and likely already have been, many instances where doctors and nurses and government personnel have made life-and-death decisions about who lives and who dies, who goes and who stays, who gets and who doesn't. The ethical decisions are the biggest part of helping a country like Haiti where there are so many victims, such a poor support system and so many complications from many directions.
In "Seven Waves Away" Tyrone Power played a captain who had to face judgment about his decision to let some people die and force others out of the boat so they were sure to drown. By leaving some people behind, did he do the right thing? Was he guilty of murder by putting people out to die just to save some others? The reviewer of the film said this was Powers bleakest film pointing out Powers dilemma. He is the only one who has to decide among the few survivors from a luxury oceanliner on the leaky rescue boat who should be kept and who should not based on age, physical condition and value to society. In some ways isn't that how decisions about nations are made? Will that be the case with Haiti?
There will instances of having to make difficult decisions like Powers captain on the leaky boat made, because that's what disasters bring. One only has to remember Hurricane Katrina and the doctors and nurses who made decisions about life and death and chose to let some patients die and help some others along. They too faced judgment, and although not found culpable for the deaths of patients, they had to face long and difficult scrutiny by the press and public officials. Still certain religious groups and those who believe in absolutes would find them guilty nonetheless. It will likely be like that in Haiti.
The leaky boat means some will die the good death and others the stupid one, as CNN's Anderson Cooper nightly describes. Some will die because there isn't enough aid or it doesn't come quickly enough. That's the stupid death, Cooper talks about in his editorials of the news. Then there are the bad deaths that come because some folks will not have medical care because a decision has been made they might not live anyway. Perhaps they are too old, too sick or there has to be a choice between one or another getting food, water or medical care when supplies are incomplete. Many will die alone without any support at all, which becomes both stupid and bad.
The worst part of the Haitian disaster is knowing and watching the leaky boat, directly shown or implied. How will the world judge those who had to make the decisions, in government and in medicine, will make a big difference in how disasters are managed again, how the country of Haiti recovers and how we will judge ourselves about what we did or didn't do.
"The Seven Waves Away" was just a movie, and the Haitian disaster needn't end that way. CNN reports there's progress on the ground and hope in many places. Perhaps that will keep as many people as possible in the leaking boat to safe places where we can all celebrate their lives and find comfort we helped save them.
CNN gives the following number to donate to Haiti's relief fund:: 1 877-99-HAITI
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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