We need more heroes like Dr. Kent Brantly
Dr. Kent Brantly* delivered the commencement address Saturday at his former alma mater, the Indiana University School of Medicine. As readers may recall, he was stricken with Ebola last year in Liberia while treating patients dying from Ebola. He probably would have died, but for being transported in a specially equipped Lear Jet to the hospital at Emory University in Atlanta. He said, in pertinent part
“Losing so many patients certainly was difficult, but it didn’t make me feel like a failure as a physician,” the Indianapolis native said at the commencement ceremony, “because I had learned that there was so much more to being a physician than curing illness. That’s not the most important thing we do. The most important thing we do is enter into the suffering of others.”
“We were able to hold the hands of people as they died, to offer dignity in the face of humiliating circumstances,” Brantly said. “You are going to share in the most intimate parts of your patients’ lives. You will share in their moments of tragedy. But you will also share in their moments of greatest joy. You will make a difference in people’s lives, and you will make a difference in the world.”
Brantly, who treated Ebola patients while working as a volunteer missionary doctor for Doctors Without Borders, decided to get involved in the relief effort despite the significant risk that he might become infected and die. I think his decision was heroic. His efforts to be of service to others in dire need of medical treatment were heroic. They remind us of the human capacity to perform heroic selfless acts to help others in need. I believe this is a defining characteristic of human behavior that enabled homo sapiens to adapt and survive the ice ages. I think it’s far more important to our long term survival as a species than the neoliberal notion that we will survive and prosper if bet all of our chips on promoting and facilitating human greed at the expense of everything and everyone else.
Nothing good can come from legitimizing greed and eliminating regulatory oversight.
We need more heroes like Dr. Kent Brantley.
*Dr. Brantly was among the ‘Ebola Fighters’ who were honored last year by TIME as the Person of the Year.