Too casual about casualties

One result of the constant stream of death and mayhem reported in our media is a numbing to the loss of human life. Real people become numbers and information, which represents a loss of dignity for those suffering.

A side-effect of this is that people quoted in the media make comments in the context of loss of life that, when we take a step back, can be seen to highlight the brutality of our thinking.Two examples in todays media:

  1. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that, “Australians in their 20s and 30s are killing themselves with the drug that euthanasia advocate, Dr Philip Nitschke, has promoted as the ‘peaceful pill”. The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine has found that 51 people in Australia have died from an overdose of Nembutal in the past 10 years.” In response to this, Nitschke is reported as saying: “While young people and those with mental illnesses could access Exit’s instructions, he said, that risk had to be weighed against the benefits for many others. ‘There will be some casualties – but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information,’ he said.  Some casualties?!!! When a person running a website has information on it that is linked to the unnecessary death of young people and those with a mental illness, surely a reference to “some casualties” is obscene and indicates a loss of insight to the pain caused by the loss of these lives. And that is regardless of your views on euthanasia
  2. There was widespread reporting of the US-led offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan which includes news that 12 Afghan civilians were accidentally killed by NATO missiles that missed their target. Unfortunately, several times on the ABC and elsewhere, the news of the casualties was followed immediately by this comment: “US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser James Jones said the offensive is going well after the first 24 hours of fighting.” 12 innocent people die in their home and then we hear “the offensive is going well“??!! In reality, there was clear remorse for the loss expressed and responsibility taken and yet the need to rush and compress news robs us of a moment to grieve and properly recognise the tragic loss of life.

Why do I bother highlighting things like this? Because I don’t want to lose the capacity to feel another’s pain and unless we think critically about what we hear and see in the media we are in danger of allowing dying people to become nothing more than consumer content. PH

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