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Dilemma of duty vs compassion

Having a background from the medical profession, it is not difficult to understand the dilemmas that erupt between professional ethics  and compassion, when they, at times, seem  to clash. Doctors are often accused of ‘compassion fatigue’ which I find is a completely misplaced myth.  However, at times, one’s hands are tied through requisites of an  ‘ethical’ behaviour.

This painful story also deals with the same conflict albeit in the life of a journalist.

This is a  Pulitzer Prize 1994,  winning photo taken by  Kevin Carter a South African photo journalist. The picture was clicked, in March 1993,  during a visit to the famine struck Sudan.

The picture depicts a famine stricken child being stalked by a vulture. The child is crawling towards a United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away.

He is said to have taken the picture because  it was his ‘job title’.

Soon after the picture was published in New York Times on March 26, 1993, hundreds of people from all over the globe started to inquire about the fate of the girl.

The newspaper reported: No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer who left the scene as soon as the photo was taken.

The photographer came under  fire for being insensitive and a publication wrote:

“The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.”

Kevin  later confided to friends that he wished he had intervened.

Journalists at the time were warned never to touch famine victims for fear of disease.

According to another photographer, Joao Silva, accompanying Kevin, they had only 30 minutes to take pictures before flying out of the area.  And according to him, Kevin was shocked to see the children of  famine for the first time and started taking pictures of the kids, as their parents were busy collecting food from the nearby food camp.

“He carefully came close to the child to take a picture of the baby with the vulture and then after taking a few shots chased away the vulture.”

Months later, and only weeks after being awarded with the Pulitzer Prize, Kevin Carter, 33, drove up to the place where he used to play as a kid, and  committed suicide.

Portions of Carter’s suicide note read:
“I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners…I have gone to join Ken [recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek] if I am that lucky.

His story was made into a documentary ” The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club ” which was nominated for the Academy Award in 1996.

A tribute to Kevin Carter : 

Comments on: "Dilemma of duty vs compassion" (2)

  1. Thought provoking, sad. sometimes ‘the pain outweighs the joy.’ How hard to witness the horrors of others damaged lives and feel powerless. So much misery in the world, it is sometimes overwhelming to think about, to be living it must be a hell.

  2. life is indeed complicated… if it isnt, that child isnt crawling to death.. and Kevin hadn’t hesitated in giving that child a lift or anything rather than just chasing that bird away.. yet a lot of people think how unlucky they are that they still don’t have an i pod.. i believe anyone able to read this site is lucky as well.. provided they had extra money for computer rent or internet bills.. including me.. 😦

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