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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.

 

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.

  • Chris Maukonen

    We need more people we can call heroes.

  • dubinsky

    thx Fred, for this

  • JamesJoyce

    “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.”

    “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.”

    This is a great post. Here we have a man who at greet risk to himself advances the human condition applying the scientific method and history to address human suffering. A true hero, compared to a man who misrepresented truth, lied while resorting to law and sword to achieve a policy goal. Protecting a modern monopolistic business model and energy delivery system, tantamount to involuntary servitude!

    Brantly vs Cheney!

    “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. ”

    Selflessness require empathy. This requires a higher functioning brain. Selfishness or myopic self interest is the total lack of any empathy and a lower functioning brain.

    Empathy is therefore the defining characteristic of human behavior which drives reason, adaptation and our evolution.

    http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/07/06/narcissists-lack-of-empathy-tied-to-less-gray-matter/56907.html

    “The left anterior insula region of the brain, generally thought to be involved with cognitive functioning and the regulation of emotion, has also been tied to compassion and empathy.”

    “This was already a region of interest for empathy, but for the first time, we were able to show that it is structurally correlated in the brain,” said Röpke.”

    “The researchers discovered that the degree to which a person was able to exhibit empathy was tied to the amount of gray matter in the brain, both in the healthy individuals as well as in those with narcissistic personality disorder.”

    Brantly vs Cheney! Scan and compare their brains for grey brain matter and empathy??

    Maybe we will learn something from the collection of this data to advance the human condition opposed to collecting data for some future empathy absent alcoholic like Joe McCarthy to exploit for partisan political reasons while paying homage to Mammon’s appendage?

    More heroes like Dr. Brantly (s) and fewer like Darth Cheney would be an improvement.