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CNN's Sanjay Gupta treats injured baby in Haiti [Updated]

Among the scores of journalists who have descended upon Haiti in the last two days, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta brought with him a unique skill set. As the associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Gupta regularly performs surgeries at Emory University and Grady hospitals. As he headed to Haiti on Wednesday, Gupta tweeted that he did not plan to set aside his role as a doctor, even though he was going into the field as a journalist.

“Many have asked: of course, if needed, I will help people with my neurosurgical skills. Yes, I am a reporter, but a doctor first,” he wrote on Twitter.

He quickly donned that hat. In a four-minute video that was the lead item on CNN.com this afternoon, Gupta examined a 15-day-old baby with a head injury whose mother had died in the quake. After placing the child on a wooden plank serving as a makeshift exam table, Gupta gently probed the baby’s skull for signs of a fracture. He concluded that she didn’t appear to have a fracture, and then he and a producer wrapped the infant’s head in gauze.

This wasn’t the first time Gupta has brought his medical skills to bear on assignment. In 2003, while embedded with the U.S. Navy’s "Devil Docs” medical unit in Iraq, he performed brain surgery five times.

His actions trouble some media ethicists, who said it’s problematic for Gupta to be toggling between the roles of reporter and a doctor.

“There definitely are cases where a journalist who is qualified can and should provide medical assistance when the need is immediate and profound,” said Bob Steele, journalism values scholar at The Poynter Institute and journalism professor at DePauw University. “The problem in Dr. Gupta’s case is that he has done this on a number of occasions in Iraq and now in Haiti. If it’s imperative that he intervene and help medically, then take him out of his journalistic role and do that. But don’t have him covering the same stories in which he’s a participant. It muddles the journalistic reporting. It clouds the lens in terms of the independent observation and reporting.”

Steele also questioned the prominence CNN gave the piece, which got significant play on the network and online. “Frankly, it isn’t much of a story,” Steele said. “You can’t help but look at this and worry there is a marketing element in it.”

CNN defended Gupta's work, saying his first priority is his responsibility as a physician. "As a doctor first, Sanjay has been offering medical support while on the ground in Haiti and will continue to do so," a spokeswoman said. "However, as he has done in Iraq, Pakistan, and post-tsunami Sri Lanka, he is also determined to raise awareness of the medical conditions by reporting on this enormous humanitarian crisis through his unique prism."

The network plans to continue to harness Gupta’s medical expertise for the story. On Saturday morning, he will host a live special about the medical relief efforts in Haiti.

Last year, Gupta was being considered by President Obama to be U.S. surgeon general, but withdrew his name as a candidate, saying he wanted to continue to practice medicine and focus on his family.

[Updated at 2:43 p.m.: In a conversation with Larry King last night, Gupta addressed how he juggles both roles. “It's a thin line sometimes between medicine and media and what I do,” he said. “But, as you know, Larry -- you and I have talked about this -- I'm a doctor first.”]

-- Matea Gold

 
Comments () | Archives (25)

Dr Gupta is a doctor, it would be expected that he would help others.


Wolf...please do not sensationalize more than is obvious to the viewer.

I'm not really seeing the ethical conflict (while I understand the question being raised). The cable news business ceased being solely about news a long time ago; it's competitive and profit-driven and unabashed about infusing drama, whether real or manufactured, into the news cycle. This natural disaster is a win-win for CNN: A real news story with built-in, real human drama, and they have a guy on the ground who has many more years of working under the Hippocratic Oath than on their payroll. I trust Gupta to act faithfully as a doctor, and (for once) I believe a corporate spokesperson who says that Dr. Gupta "is also determined to raise awareness of the medical conditions by reporting on this enormous humanitarian crisis through his unique prism."

(p.s. Hi Matea!)

BREASTFEEDING DISASTER RELIEF!

Why aren't there any outlets to get lactating mothers to disaster zones? I see newborn infants on the TV who need to be nursed and healed, yet there is no outlet to get lifesaving breastmilk to them. What happens when these children refuse bottles, or worse , when there is nothing to put into a bottle for them?

Your urgent response is most appreciated, sincerely,

Alison Wolf, Palm Coast, FL
386.864.2599

BREASTFEEDING DISASTER RELIEF!

Why aren't there any outlets to get lactating mothers to disaster zones? I see newborn infants on the TV who need to be nursed and healed, yet there is no outlet to get lifesaving breastmilk to them. What happens when these children refuse bottles, or worse , when there is nothing to put into a bottle for them?

Your urgent response is most appreciated, sincerely,

Alison Wolf, Palm Coast, FL
386.864.2599

Dr. Gupta brings a unique character or very rare character to the screen. I am impressed by it. I believe most people would be impressed and excited to watch a reporter who can do brain surgery. Most other media do not have this so there will be a lot of player haters out there. Don't be discouraged.

TWO POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS for HAITI DISASTER

Hi,
My name is John Bradley I am English but live in Portugal which has a similar population to Haiti. I would like to share a couple of ideas.

I heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta say that people are being buried without trace.

SOLUTION
Why not ask Canon HP and other Camera Manufaturers to donate digital camers. Volunteers could then take photos of all fatalities along side streets before burial. Armed with a black spray can, afterwards they could spray a small BLACK CROSS onto deceased chest to signify that the photo had been taken. The photos would help relatives later.

The other suggestion...
Instead of watching people die in next few days... Why not invite countries governments who wish to help... by each sending a plane with their aid plus doctors / nurses. Then airlift a plane load back to their own countries for treatment and help save lives.

Some would wish to return once able but others could be offered a new life.

But please act fast!

http://johnpbradley.com/blog/

I'm glad the baby does not have a head injury, other than the cut on her head.

Dr. Gupta says she'll be ok, but nothing is mentioned about the fact that the baby's mother has been killed. With the extreme shortage of the most basic needs there - water, food, shelter - how is the baby supposed to eat?

Dr. Gupta did nothing wrong. He was in his boundaries as a doctor first and then a reporter. It was good that this (his treatment of baby) was shown and reported on CNN. To make everyone aware of actually what is happening.

Sanjay Gupta reports from the bowels of hell, exposing himself to extreme
danger, not to mention lifelong trauma and pseudo-academic Bob Steele, along with the rest of the self-appointed, prawn-eating academics at the air conditioned Poynter Institute criticize him.
Well, like they say, those who can't, teach. (Those that can't teach, TEACH GYM.
Time to pass out the whistles.)

How about some of those "media ethicists" get on a flight to Haiti and start helping out?

Dr.Gupta "a doctor first"? He should have said, "a neurosurgeon first"! He has previously helped out in the sugical tent in Iraq when no neurosurgeon available.

Ergo, "a neurosugeon first" would be more aprapos!

If he had any real value as a journalist, I'd agree with Steele -- but since he's just another pretty face on CNN, I say go for it.

If Dr. Gupta insists that he is a doctor first, then why limited his offerings to neurosurgical services? In a disaster of this magnitude, why wouldn't his instincts be to jump in and help out wherever he could; bandages to brain surgery?

It was compelling, wrenching video. It ran on the CBS Evening News. It was N-E-W-S and it brought the story into my living room.

End of story.

My cousin would like adopting the injured Haitian baby. How that can be possible?

With people dying around him every minute as he should not waste a single minute serving as a reporter. He's a doctor and it seems unethical to me that he is not spending every waking moment of his time providing medical care to the thousands that desperately need it. Can't CNN find any other reporters and spare him for a few weeks so he can save some lives? I appreciate the fact that he helped that baby, but he could help SO many more if he would just put down his microphone.

Thank God. This Doctor did forget his Hipocratic Oath. All those he helps are living proof.

Thank God this Doctor did not forget his Oath. I am sure the people he helps will never forget. Everyone, no matter his position, is a witness to all that he/she sees. I guess we all are journalists in life.

I find it wonderful how a man who can be anyplace else in hospitals is there helping people in need and reporting for CNN. Sanjay should get a Noble Peace Price for his efforts as a doctor and reporter. There is no one else like him on the planet in the public eye. Thank you Sanjay for your wonderful ability and efforts all the time.

 
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