View Full Version : Medical Reporter Performs Surgery in Iraq

04-03-03, 08:51 PM
Apr 3, 9:32 PM EST

Medical Reporter Performs Surgery in Iraq

AP Television Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- While reporting on a U.S. Navy medical team in Iraq on Thursday, CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta unexpectedly became part of the story when asked to perform emergency brain surgery. The 2-year-old Iraqi boy did not survive.

As the only neurosurgeon available to treat a patient with a severe brain injury, Gupta said it was his moral duty to help. But it raised questions about the blurring of roles between doctor and journalist.

Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon at Emory University in Atlanta, has been traveling with the Navy's "devil docs" unit. Dr. Bob Arnot, a nonpracticing internist, has spent time with the Marines for NBC News and reported on a harrowing firefight early Thursday.

The boy treated by Gupta was in a taxi that drove through a U.S. Marine checkpoint south of Baghdad. When the taxi didn't stop, Marines opened fire, according to CNN. Two others in the taxi died.

Suffering from multiple wounds, the child was seen as having only minutes to live before Gupta was called upon. He operated to relieve pressure on the child's brain.

"Medically and morally, I thought it was absolutely the right thing to do," Gupta said. "It was a heroic - it was not an elective operation, it was a heroic attempt to try to save the child's life."

CNN said Gupta made the right decision and the network is "extremely proud" of him.

"There's a certain discomfort when journalists step from their journalistic role to become part of a story," said Bob Steele, director of the ethics program for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. "That said, there are those rare instances when help is needed and only a journalist can provide it."

He compared it to a photographer happening upon a burning building. Trying to save someone trapped inside takes precedence over pictures, he said.

Arnot has not been called upon to treat a patient, although he may have helped hold an IV bag when an extra hand was needed, NBC said.

Assigning a doctor to report from these medical units brings the same sort of expertise as assigning a lawyer to report from the Justice Department, said Marvin Kalb, of the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press and Politics at Harvard University.

"If an emergency situation did turn up and help was needed, (Arnot) would certainly help out," said Bill Wheatley, vice president of NBC News. "But his first priority is he's there to be a journalist."

Steele said Gupta faced "difficult territory" in stepping back from the story and reporting on himself.

Gupta filed at least two live reports by satellite phone on the surgery on CNN Thursday. The network showed pictures of him scrubbing his hands before surgery and working at the operating table.

In his first report, Gupta began an interview with the unit's commander, Rob Hinks, before mentioning his own role.

"We were very lucky to have Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon extraordinaire, present to help us operate, as he graciously did, as a humanitarian gesture," Hinks said to Gupta. "Unfortunately, the child died, but without his help, there would have been no chance."

Gupta said he appreciated that.

"And we welcome you as an honorary member of the `devil docs,'" Hinks said.




04-03-03, 09:40 PM
I have a problem with this, from top to bottom. Perhaps my idealism is showing.

I believe that a doctor's hippocratic oath takes precedence over the job description "journalist".

Perhaps it's because I remember my father's daily gripes. He was a shipfitter/welder in a heavily unionized industry. If there was debris in an area he was supposed to work in, he had to wait. Only carpenters were permitted to pick up wood scraps, only electricians were permitted to pick up strands of wire, only pipefitters and plumbers were allowed to pick of discarded ends of pipe and tubing. On some days, he was required to wait for six hours, before he could begin his work, and work for two hours before the whistle blew. Sometimes that was only enough time to mark off and "layout" the project he was working on.

The whistle blew, the next day when he reported for work to complete his project, leftover scraps from the nightshift carpenters, plumbers, and electricians would have littered the area, and he would have to wait again.

As a Marine, I have carried 4 MOS's, 2533, 2539, 8411, 9999.
Like ALL Marines, (ok, so 20 years gave me more opportunities), I have probably performed functions that were the perview of 40-50 different MOS's, (job descriptions).

"It needs to be done NOW. Can you do it?"

"Tha's not ma yob" was NEVER an acceptable answer.

Having two different employers (paymasters) may have to be taken into consideration. But in the present instance, a "reporter" who files one or two stories every 24 hours should be allowed an hour or two "off the job" to do something constructive.

I don't see what the big deal, was or is.

IF, as a reporter, he was merely asked to drive the child, (because he knew how to drive) to the nearest hospital, would it have created the same observer/participant dilemma?

There are some things I just don't understand.

And I hope to hell I never do.