Eugene Cho

compassion versus indifference

I was deeply saddened and disturbed when I read the following story of Esmin Green – a 49 year old woman who collapsed and died on the floor of a waiting room at a New York psychiatricl hospital.  After she collapses landing face down on the floor, no one attends to her.  No one – for over an hour until it’s too late.

Compassion is what makes us uniquely human; another manner in which we were created in the image of God [imago dei].  If we lose our heart or sense of compassion, we become less human…less than what God calls us to be.  Apathy and indifference is the antithesis of what we were intended to embody.  Thoughts?

We might not be able to “fix” the world, but we can demontrate care, kindness, and compassionate – one person at a time.

[July , New York] A sad death in New York City. Surveillance cameras at a city-run psychiatric hospital emergency room in Brooklyn capture a woman falling from a chair, writhing on the floor and dying. Hospital staff and other patients watch and do nothing for more than an hour. One guard doesn’t even leave his chair, rolling it around the corner to stare at the body. The New York Civil Liberties Union sued the facility, Kings County Hospital Center, last year over the way it treats psychiatric patients. [Donna Lieberman, NY Civil Liberties Union] “A chamber of filth, decay, indifference and danger and seeks an end to the culture of abuse and neglect where patients are regularly ignored and those that dare advocate for themselves are punished with forcible injections of psychotropic drugs.”The city’s medical examiner has yet to determine why the woman, 49-year old Esmin green, died on June 20th. She had been waiting in the emergency room for nearly 24 hours. [Rob Cohen, Lawyer Suing Hospital] “There is a culture of indifference to patients that permeates every aspect of KCHC’s psychiatric care.” The city-run agency that runs the hospital released a statement, saying: “We are shocked and distressed by the situation. It is clear that some of our employees failed to act based on our compassionate standards of care. (The hospital has) directed the suspension and termination of those involved.” —- Alan Aviles, Kings County Hospital Center The surveillance video eventually shows a member of the medical staff attending to Green. But it’s too late, she had already died.

Ted Shaffrey, The Associated Press

Filed under: health, religion,

16 Responses

  1. Sue says:

    I read the story as well. I was disgusted. It’s unfortunate that she has no family to speak of in NY and I’m curious how her church is responding to this injustice.

  2. joanne says:

    God bless the people who silently suffer in order to open other peoples eyes! what a sad story. but in no way not the only one of its kind! this is a major problem in our country. not just in mental health care facilities but nursing homes, adult family homes and re-hab facilities that are supposed to be compassionately caring for our loved ones. our family owns an adult family home that has in its 2+ yrs of being open has seen its share of people comming to us in extremely bad and neglected conditions. i know that a huge problem with caring for the “mentally dissabled” residents is that many people dont want to take them into thier homes because many of them are on “state insurrance” and the state does not pay as much as a private company or well-off family would. so many people end up falling through the cracks and being placed in homes that are not in it for all the right reasons.
    another thing that really bothers me is that i dont see this happening in any other country or culture. thier elders are cared for with out question and treated with the utmost respect no matter what the financial sitution. we really need to reevaluate how we treat and view our elderly in the u.s. it seems that many times they are viewed as burdans rather than people:(
    that reminds me of an article i read last year…it was about how india is offering to “outsource your parents”-send your parents to india and they will be able to live in thier own home and afford a live-in around the clock care giver for fractions of the cost of care in the states….
    anyway-headed out the door to quest p.e.-hope you guys are having a blast! church isnt the same without you all:)

  3. Dan W says:

    I couldn’t help but compare that with the story in the P-I about the guy who intervened to stop the beating of a puppy, and was himself beaten up.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/369736_puppy05.html

    How is it that random passers-by can show more compassion than health professionals? I wonder if somehow seeing it as a “job” depersonalizes it?

  4. masha says:

    it’s amazing how numb people can be. what is at the root of it? everyday there is a story about about people “minding their own business’ while someone else is suffering. what can be going on in the life of the person walking by or being an observer that has them choose to leave another helpless? what is the suffering that they bear?

  5. Di says:

    We must reclaim and nurture our humanity. We are not this indiferent breed of people that we are pretending to be. We must wake up to our true sense of compassion, caring for others even if they don’t look like us. Those girls beating each other, or kids killing kids, the indiference shown here, that is not humanity.
    We are all the children of GOD, what ever we choose to call Him/Her.

  6. Sue Ann Edwards says:

    In all Integrity, in order to call myself a Humanitarian, I must have learned how to embrace own Humanity. For genuine Humility is recognizing whatever is within another, is within me. Wisdom dictates we address our issues and mistakes in an understanding and compassionate way, instead of judging and condemning.

    Mistakes were made. BIG mistakes. but are we compassionate for those who made those mistakes? Or are we focused upon our fear of death?

    For if we fear death, then we truly do not believe we are children of God, for dust will return to dust and the Spirit of Life that moves within us all will return to Spirit.

    Besides, what does ‘child of God’ grow up to be? And how long and by what means does the maturing process occur?

  7. Hi Eugene,
    BTW great name you have got.

    We so easily become indifferent. Here in South Africa there are beggars at almost every traffic light and after a while it is so easy to ignore them. I say this in head hanging shame…

    We so easily build up walls around us for our own comfort while choosing to ignore the plight of those around us. Check out this post.

  8. lwayswright says:

    I read that story and it broke my heart. God forbid it should be me laying there dying, just waiting for anyone to pass by and help. It’s sort of a good samaritan story gone wrong! I have lupus and I always worry that I may get sick or pass out or something and, because of the way the world is, no one will step up to help me. these are scary times we live in!

  9. Aaron says:

    Rather than pointing fingers, as obviously things went terribly wrong, I would like to pose a question.

    For those of us who work in an environment of constant tragedy, we tend to become less sympathetic. It is a way to cope, to not allow the pain of someone elses situation to permeate our lives. Although we truly want to help others, if we dwelled on their situations we would be eaten alive by the tragedy.

    (Some examples, EMS and emergency room staff, law enforcement, mental health workers, military personnel).

    I am not speaking about those who are totally indifferent, rather just those who are hardened/calloused/ less sympathetic. (Obviously if you reach the point where you would ignore someone laying unresponsive on the floor, you should have quit a long time ago)

    What would you say to people who truly want to help others, but find themselves overwhelmed by the tragedy?

  10. yamin111 says:

    Very tragic incidence is there any NGO which is fighting for her ?

  11. ronsiojo says:

    Human life, animal life, insect life, aquatic life and even worms and maggots life, where can one finds compassion and care to a mother and her brood? Yes we can see that, a hen covers all her chicks by her wings to protect them when the eagle starts encircling the sky looking for prey, this is natural. To the animal kingdom “Survival to the fittest” is only rule in life but after i viewed the King County Hospital Center youtube and watched its foreign news at my tv set, the compassion on humanity is almost gone or blown away. The essence of thoughtfulness completely vanish…..”Human life is meant for thoughtfulness”
    This is how human must lived cause without this we are just like the animals way of life, a dog eat dog society.

  12. People say that the Western world is suffering from moral decay, and they choose to cite homosexuality as an example? Surely this is the true sign of moral decay! (no matter what you think of homosexuality).

    I believe that this is in large part the result of the professionalisation of so many roles in society. We need not intervene in a medical emergency, because we have health professionals, we need not intervene in a domestic row about to turn violent, because that’s what the police are around for. This results in hardness of heart from ourselves, and hardness of heart from those who then face these events daily, if not hourly. If instead we all did the basics, we could share this burden.

    We should refuse to abdicate these roles to the state, because in doing so, we make them into professions, removed from the human level of interaction. This isn’t to say we should get rid of professionals, but we shouldn’t be relying on them. Instead, we should be forever opening our eyes to that which is going on around us.

    Whilst I’ve struggled to get myself first aid trained, a situation like this is a reminder that we should all be trying to learn how to help each other. Learn Conflict Resolution (groups like CPT will at least point you towards training), learn 1st Aid, learn about mental health issues (though be careful from where you learn).

  13. chenster22 says:

    sadly the bystander effect comes into play here. a diffusion of responsibility. i really wonder though, how i would act. i think i’d be shocked and try to tell at least someone instead of just staring and sitting there. is it apathy? desensitization? just tragic.

  14. Wisdom Moon says:

    That is very sad. I can’t believe we as people can have such hardened hearts.

  15. Aaron says:

    @yamin111: good question. what i would add to that, who is fighting for all mental health patients?? the system is terribly terribly broken and the patients are the ones who truly pay the price.

    those who are depressed or downtrodden because of difficult circumstances and are unable to cope are placed in the same wards with psychotic patients or are incoherent. ultimately they are given minimal counseling and a prescription or two.

    can you imagine, you are having trouble coping so you seek help. they tell you that you are “crazy” to one degree or another and then lock you up for 3 days with people who are psychotic. then you get a few hours of counseling and a prescription. drugs!! hypnotics, sedatives, antipsychotics, and antidepressants!! but the problem is not chemical or drug related. its a band-aid, but the drugs have nasty side effects and the whole process of being labeled as “crazy” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    the system is broken, and i am not sure who the advocates are.

    @graham: as one who works in EMS, I do not think the answer is everyone going out and learning how to respond to emergencies (or other situations). Ultimately EMS will handle the situation better than you will with your first aid cert. Cops will handle crimes better. Psychiatrists will handle mental health issues better.

    Although awareness is only beneficial, I think the key is to question the situation, question authority, and be aware of what is going on. Do not be afraid to stand up for what is right!!

    We all say we would not let this happen, but ultimately how many of us would think “she is probably just asleep. i dont want to wake her up, then she will think i am a jerk and i will feel bad and look stupid”……. I have been to situations where someone has fallen in public and is ignored by many many people…. its crazy! so, ultimately I think on the note of learning to help each other, I would say JUST HELP… you really do not need to know too much to be an advocate for others.

  16. […] Eugene Cho on compassion versus indifference. […]

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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love.  No...you don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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