Patient abuse: Sharing content must be an act of conscience

2019-07-05 10:40

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The appalling abuse of a patient that was supposed to be receiving medical treatment in a Durban hospital has been brought to the fore in the form of a video first circulated on social media and then on news’ agencies digital platforms.

Swift government action is necessary as the Health MEC Calls for probe into Durban  hospital after patient found with maggots in his mouth.

While the release of the video puts under the spotlight the unacceptable level of medical treatment within the greater public health sphere, it is frowned upon because it infringes on the patient’s basic human rights.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All humans are equal in dignity”. The manner in which the video shows the condition of the patient is not dignified. The patient is entitled to dignity in the sense that the video shows him in his hospital bed within the ward. Being hospitalised and in a hospital bed, patients deserve their dignity. Any illness should never strip a person of his dignity.

The privacy of the patient was not protected. Every patient is to have his privacy, honour and reputation sustained throughout a disease, doctor’s visit, hospital stay or even post-operatively. The identity of the patient and name should have been withheld. Ideally the patient’s face should have been blurred or blocked to protect his identity.

It is extremely easy, taking a mere split-second to share a video, but pre-sharing it, it is the duty and responsibility of the sharer to ethically deem whether the to-be shared content is an infringement on the basic privacy rights of the subject within the video. Sharing content must be a conscience act.

Article 5 of the Declaration states that “No one is shall be subjected to inhuman treatment”. To be within a highly established and well-equipped medical institution – RK Khan Hospital – and having to experience one of the worst inhuman treatments is totally unacceptable.

It is unimaginable for a patient to be in a medical setting for medical care yet there are clusters of living organisms within a patient’s mouth. This horrible and horrendous experience must bring untold trauma to the family of the patient. No human let alone a patient under medical supervision should ever be subject to abuse like that.

The hospital where this incident has taken place is notoriously known for unacceptable medical care. It cannot continue like this or be business as usual. Something must be done urgently.

The family of the – now sadly deceased – patient must exercise Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “to an effective remedy by competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted by the constitution or by law”.

The courts and the Human Rights Commission must act on this painfully shocking and dreadfully disturbing violation of the patient’s basic human rights.

Vedhan Singh, a human rights activist, is a senior member within the ranks of Africa Unite in KwaZulu-Natal.

The views expressed are his own.

Vedhan Singh


Read more on:    human rights

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