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Doctors and Nurses – Called To “Bear Witness!”

Posted on | June 26, 2018 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

Edmund Burke, a member of the British Parliament in 1787, stated “There are Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” Even lacking formal recognition by the political system, Burke was acknowledging the “indirect but significant influence on society” of the news media or press.

Two hundred and twenty years later, in United States vs. PFC Bradley E. Manning, one expert witness described the “4th Estate as a “set of practices, organizing models, and technologies that are associated with the free press and provide a public check on the branches of government.” But he also was quick to note that modern day non-traditional journalistic media and Wikileaks were challenging well-accepted norms.

Trump, with the help of Bannon and the Russian government, have seriously undermined our “4th Estate.” By confusion and obfuscation, they have successfully undermined public confidence in “the truth.” Of course, in unleashing these forces, unintended consequences redound to the perpetrators. For example, Americans question the number 2,300 for the number of missing immigrant children spread in the dead of night across the United States. Could it not as easily be 5,000 or 10,000 explaining why they had to be dispersed far and wide? After all, this is the same crowd that 10-fold understated casualties in last year’s Puerto Rican hurricane disaster.

Legitimate journalists are fighting hard to uncover the truth. But it’s an uphill battle as they follow the finger pointing from the DHS to ICE to HHS to the DOD. Is it incompetence, malevolence, intransigence? We don’t know.

What we do know is that our Executive Branch has been occupied and is on a tear to dismantle democratic institutions and expand autocratic control. Our legislature is feckless, and thus far unwilling to “check” the unbalanced. Our Judiciary is slow to catch up, awaiting perhaps a Muller-driven spark. And our “4th Estate” for the time being at least, has been at least partially neutered.

One reason for hope is the emergence of a “5th Estate” led by America’s doctors and nurses. Two decades ago, I had the benefit of serving as faculty at the Jefferson Medical College led by Paul Brucker, one of the early founders of the American Academy of Family Physicians. With his encouragement, our team identified the characteristics of 188 of the nation’s most proactive and empathetic health leaders. Their psychological profiles showed extraordinary scores in scales for Activity, Competence, Dutifulness, Trust, Assertiveness, and Altruism.

Last week, medical and nursing organizations, en masse, spoke out for the children and parents torn from each other. Trump appeared to acquiesce, but trusting his word without independent verification is quite pointless.

This week, the American Academy of Family Physicians followed up with this statement:

“The American Academy of Family Physicians continues to place high priority on the mental and physical health and safety of families separated during border crossings. The AAFP notes that an executive order purports to ensure that, going forward, migrating children will remain with their parents and/or caregivers during the detention process. We are deeply concerned that the order fails to address the previously separated families.

The children originally detained at the southern border remain held apart from their parents, some as far away as Michigan, New York and South Carolina. The administration is silent on its plans to reunite these families in an expeditious and humane manner. Further, while we assume the children’s physical needs are being met, with each passing day apart from their families, the mental and emotional toll taken on these children continues to mount.

Accordingly, we urge the following of the administration:

· Immediately place the highest priority on reuniting the previously separated families.

· Ensure the mental and physical health and safety of the families, in particular, by providing access to qualified medical professionals to assess and monitor the emotional well-being of the children in the custody of the U.S. government.”

“Bearing Witness” is a critical role for doctors and nurses serving at the crossroads of injustice and human cruelty, as Médecins Sans Frontières has so nobly revealed over many decades. But now it is our turn, on our own native soil.

Paul Brucker died one year ago at age 85. Were he here today, he might reflect on the emergence of doctors and nurses as the “5th Estate”, a final stopgap and protectorate who, by their actions not their words, have earned the titles of “doctor” and “nurse” by serving on the receiving end of our Statue of Liberty’s invitation to, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Now we must bear witness, and our “5th Estate” needs to organize and act. Here are three steps we should take together.

1. Activate doctors and nurses nationwide to help identify immigrant patients and detention centers of those in their care who appear to have been incarcerated, detained, and dispersed by the government.

2. Use the Propublica open source site (HERE) to list the names and locations of all illegal immigrant children you’ve cared for who have been incarcerated and dispersed throughout the U.S. since January 1, 2018.

3. Create a genomic database and philanthropic funding, under the guidance of  original human genome-decoders Francis Collins and Craig Venters, to test and match all separated illegal immigrants and children with a goal of reunification by August 1, 2018.

Comments

2 Responses to “Doctors and Nurses – Called To “Bear Witness!””

  1. Denise Link
    June 27th, 2018 @ 12:24 am

    This whole affair is a travesty – cruel, inhumane, callous, and just plain sinful. I could not agree more that, in the absence of a fully functioning democracy with the will to put this tyrant and his enablers in their place, members of the healing arts must step up and lead. Thank you, Mike Magee

  2. Mike Magee
    June 27th, 2018 @ 8:04 am

    Thank you, Denise!

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