Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Culture Clash

Yesterday and today a few of our volunteers went to the local pediatric hospital. Aside from the average cases of fevers, one case particularly affected the foreigners at the hospital. A couple came to the baby nursery to check on their baby: A few days back, the child was born, and ever since he had been living in the hospital. The doctor explained to the family that the child's esophagus was not connected to his his stomach, so whenever the child ate, he would simply regurgitate his food. At the nursery, the child was supported by IV to sustain himself. The doctor and family agreed that he could not live on an IV support for the rest of his life, and the family must make a decision about the matter. Describing a surgery which would correct the connection between the boy's esophagus and stomach, the doctor attempted to convince the parents about the best option. The family inquired if the surgery would be 100% effective, and the doctor discussed that such a surgery is not 100% effective, but without the surgery, there is a 100% chance that their son would die. The family came from a lower class background, and the couple decided to take their child home. The next day (today), the family did not return to the hospital, and the son never received any treatment. The doctor explained to the volunteers a few aspects about the conditions in India that would justify how the family could act in such a manner: Firstly, Indian people of lower incomes tend to be extremely conservative, especially in financial affairs. Hearing that the surgery was not 100% effective, the family decided that spending unavailable funds on the newborn was too high of a risk for them to make. Also, these families don't understand the value of a human life: The family probably considered that they could just have another baby after this baby dies. Even though the baby was a boy, a circumstance of fortune and high status among the uneducated in India, the family still did not value his life enough to give him a chance to survive. The volunteers were very sad to see the entire case develop as such, but they have matured and see the situations that affect the poor in India. We all hope that through our interactions with the local people, we can teach awareness about many valuable ideals and ethics. Though we cannot ever force our principles on anyone, it is best to simply interact and have discussions with such local people, which can help promote these virtues in an effective yet acceptable way: without imposing on a foreign culture.

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